Reality Wants You

I woke up early one day this week to do Important Things, e.g., pack a lunch, before leaving for work. Instead I spent a good amount of time patting Tux, my cat.

I said to him, “Looks like it’s going to be a Tux kind of day.” That simple statement opened up in me a sense that the day had a direction of its own independent of my plans. I saw the possibility of tuning into that movement rather than trying to lock each hour tightly into a pre-imagined form, like when you hold something squishy in your hands and it inevitably manages to squeeze through the spaces between your fingers.

Then a little tendril of terror crept in. To trust the universe to reveal itself and our place in it sounds noble in theory, but in practice it involves getting up close and personal with our lack of control.

Right before the terror, though, a feeling of aliveness prevailed. I believe it came from experiencing the reality of the newness of each moment. All creation really is coming into being each nanosecond, including us. “The sky gathered again/ And the sun grew round that very day,” as Dylan Thomas writes in “Fern Hill.”

This could be cause for great celebration, for dancing in the streets and on the rooftops.

I’m not saying that whatever we’re struggling with will be magically erased, but what could be more exciting than to consciously participate in the unfolding of existence? An unfolding that is now, as it was in the beginning, good. An unfolding that is bigger than our plans and moves in time beyond our understanding.

The world will surely be a different place when we go to bed than when we woke up. We may only recognize the wonder of its evolution if we step into the current that is already flowing toward Love.

Still Life with Jello

I often ask my cat, Tux, questions he must be completely uninterested in, such as, what did I do with my keys? Others he may be tired of hearing, particularly, do you think I’ll ever get there?

“There” of course doesn’t mean to his food bowl; it means to that mythical place where I’ll have everything spiritually figured out. These days I ask it less often as I’m more and more aware that there doesn’t exist, but still, wouldn’t it be nice…

That question and I entered a new phase of our relationship this week. Intellectually I’ve understood for a little while that it’s not a useful question because “there’s no there there,” but in practice, I had just substituted “here” for “there.” Why not? Only one small letter apart.

I’ve been telling myself, if I could get really present, I would experience everything I associate with there—an uninterrupted state of peace, infinite reserves of compassion, an end to resistance, a better attitude toward the existence of jello. So being present came to mean being those ways. It became another there.

But that’s not it at all. There’s nowhere to go, period, and it doesn’t matter whether we get there, not even a tiny bit. On first blush, this sounds like a reason to eat a lot of jello, lime jello. Throw in the mini marshmallows and the pineapple bits. If it’s not getting any better than this, why not?

Considered in another way, though, it means that this moment is sacred, this one, right here, the one in which I am beating myself up or feeling annoyed or have just acted in a way that can’t quite be described as charitable. When the bathroom is dirty, when work isn’t going well, when failure or separation or despair threaten to engulf us.

That’s the miracle and mystery of it all. We are no further from God and God’s love at those times than when we are standing on the podium of life at our most shining and impressive. That’s the reason to be present—because our Life is here, right here.

Where I Am

I experienced a few moments of simply walking across the floor last week. You may not think that’s up there with, say, receiving an Oscar or eating a really good piece of chocolate cake—which for my money is more rare than an Oscar—but I was pretty excited.

Or more exactly, I wasn’t excited, as in, I was not in some self-inflicted state of heightened energy around one thing or the other. Here’s the play by play: I needed to close the curtains because it was dark. I was walking across the floor to close the curtains when all of a sudden, closing the curtains became unimportant.

This is why contemplation is not a spectator sport, not even with a good announcer. She’s walking across the floor, folks. It’s hard to tell whether she’s fully present in the moment or completely distracted by the task she thinks she needs to accomplish. Hold on to your seats. As soon as those windows are covered, we’ll be going courtside for an in-depth interview that will answer the question once and for all.

I spend almost my entire life focused on the thing that comes next—or several nexts down the road—and while I’ve become an expert anxiety creator, I have yet to succeed at being where I am not. Those few steps, on the other hand, were remarkably tranquil. I had no doubt I’d get to the curtains, and at the same time, it didn’t matter whether I made it or not—the moment was sufficient unto itself.

We’ve all had these times of waking up to discover now: new parents marveling over the perfection of their infant’s fingers, awe at the complexity of a flower or the particular electric orange of a sunset. It’s more difficult to see it in the everyday, so I’ve been reminding myself, “The purpose of driving to work is driving,” not getting there and finishing ten projects. “The purpose of washing this spoon is washing this spoon,” not finishing the dishes so I can go upstairs and write a blog and go to bed.

I forget this practice more often than I remember it, and that sense of presence hasn’t returned. But it might.

Holy Expletives and Everything Else

Thursday surprised me. There are a lot of ways to be surprised by a day, I suppose. The one I experience most often is “Holy expletive, Thursday is over and I still have so much to do.” (Isn’t it nice that expletives can be holy? They remind me of Robin: “Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods, Batman!”)

You could be surprised by the beauty of a day or the quietness of it or by something that happens during it, like a friend bringing you a giant hot fudge sundae for no reason at all. (This has not happened to me…yet; I like nuts on my sundaes if you ever get the inclination.) But I was surprised by the 6:13 p.m., October 9, 2014-ness of it.

I was driving past the In ‘n Out near my vanpool’s park and ride when an awareness arrived that this moment in time existed and I existed as part of it. It seems odd to be surprised that we exist, but I spend very little time in the here and now, which, as a lot of people have said before me, is the only place and time in which we do exist.

So when the here and now reached out and got in touch with me, it was different. It was also immediately and obviously the place I’d prefer to spend all my time because it was alive and beautiful and nothing was missing. For lack of a better word, I’d call it holy, no expletive necessary.

Perhaps the surprise came only after I lost contact with the present moment, which was approximately a nanosecond after it arrived. I started thinking, ooh, this would make a good blog post, thus catapulting myself several hours into an imagined future. But I remember that feeling of awareness, and I’m looking forward to our next meeting.

Note: This idea of presence is old and can be found in a lot of places. I want to give credit to my most recent encounter of it in someone else’s writing, which was a mention of John Duns Scotus’s term “thisness” in Richard Rohr’s daily meditation.