Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creating Your Life Through Presence

Stop and freeze? How did you get to this moment right here? At the Park Avenue United Methodist Church, specifically at Space for Grace, sitting in whatever pew you’re sitting in, thinking about whatever you’re thinking about, looking how you look, working where you work, dating who you’re dating…

It’s a combination of things that brought you to where you are and who you are in this moment – it’s biological, part of it is genetic. It’s circumstantial; part of it has to do with the people who have been in your world and the things that have happened to you. It’s self-created; part of it has been entirely because of the choices you make.

And today, I want to talk about this self-created aspect of our lives. Now, not everything is because of our choosing. I don’t think people choose to get cancer, for example. It is true however those things people choose to do can lead to cancer. I don’t think, for example, a woman chooses to marry an abusive spouse. It is true however that some men show signs of being abusive long before a woman marries him, and she chose not to see those signs.

We don’t have control over every aspect of our lives, but that’s all the more reason we should exercise control over that which we can. And there’s a simple way to do this: some call it mindfulness, some call it presence, some call it awareness, some call it the power of now. Call it what you will, the important thing is that it works.

One of the simplest definitions of this idea that I’ve heard of is paying attention to the present moment, to fully be in the here and now.

It’s important to be in each moment because moments are the building blocks of life. The present moment creates your future moments. Take the example of something scientific and easy to prove – weight. If in the present moment I choose to eat a filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes, and then for desert, follow it up with cheesecake, I know that I’ve eaten a large portion of my daily caloric intake in one meal. If I’m trying to lose weight, this choice has taken me away from my goal. If the next day, I work out and eat only yogurt and salad, I’m back on track.

Now an example that is a little more complex might deal with human relationships. If in the present moment I chose to tell you how I disagree with the way you are handling a situation, and I know you don’t respond well to criticism, then chances are, by choosing to make that comment, I’m choosing to get in a fight with you. If however, I don’t want my future to be filled with fighting, I can simply choose not to make the comment.

All of our power lies in the present moment. Just like a tree that is good bears good fruit and a tree that is bad bears bad fruit, so too does a person with presence live a life of his or her own making. What you are is what comes forth. Christians often talk about being “wise stewards” of the earth’s resources, of financial resources, even of how we spend our time. Let us also consider that we must be wise stewards of our moments.

How do we do this? It’s as simple and as difficult as it can possibly be. We do this by staying awake in the here and now, by being present to what is.

In the meditation that follows, we will first pay attention to our breathing because it is the most basic entry point into this current moment. Then, we will pay attention to our thoughts so we can gain some understanding as to what is consuming our minds. Then, we will listen to music and also watch a slideshow. With each exercise, just try to stay focused on what is happening. As we learn to do this, we assume power over our lives and help to create the existence that we truly want.

Sit with your feet flat on the floor and close your eyes.

Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
In the very here and now,
We touch the source of life itself.
We come near to God.

Breathing in, I know that I am here.
Breathing out, I know that it is now.

Breathing in, I feel the flow of air entering my body.
Breathing out, I feel the flow of air leaving my body.

Breathing in, I feel myself sitting up straight.
Breathing out, I release all tension and anxiety.


Now, let us turn our attention to our thoughts and feelings. Be present as the watcher of your mind, because whenever you are able to observe you mind, you are no longer trapped in it. You are the witnessing presence established in the here and now.

In the coming silence, just listen to your internal voice. Watch your mind as though it were a video. Don’t get caught up in the thinking, but watch yourself as you think.


Breathing in, I see my thoughts.
Breathing out, I feel my emotions.

Breathing in, I know where I am.
Breathing out, I am happy to be here.

Breathing in, I relax into the present moment.
Breathing out, I open myself to life.

And now, let the music and the images on the screen take us further into the present moment.

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