Essay and Sketch by Mary Reddy
Recently, events in my life have heightened my awareness of the preciousness of Now—this moment. How many ordinary moments do we string together to make a life? I awoke this morning thinking about the quote, “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.” Though I understand the intended meaning, I’m aware that it still frames each moment in terms of a destination. In this metaphor of life as a journey, we are admonished to stop and smell the roses. Yet the overriding message is that we are on our way somewhere else.
During the sixties cultural revolution, the renowned American spiritual leader, Ram Dass, wrote a pivotal book titled Be Here Now. “Early in the journey,” he noted, “you wonder how long the journey will take and whether you will make it in this lifetime. Later you will see that where you are going is HERE and you will arrive NOW...so you stop asking.”
What a shift in our zeitgeist—at least in the West—and what a re-wiring this called for. Drop the feverish planning ahead, the listing of way stations to pass before we arrive “there.” In more religious eras in history, “there” was universally acknowledged as Heaven. A daunting journey to heaven, described in the 17th century Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress especially frightened me as a child. The traveling pilgrim falls into the Slough of Despond—a swamp of despair and guilt over his sinfulness. Getting “there,” I thought, might be too terrifying a journey to undertake.
These days, “there” might be attainment of enlightenment or a more mundane destination such as career success, financial security, a longer list of accomplishments, a more fit body. Despite the power contained in the be-here-now message, I believe we all struggle to maintain full presence in the moment. The cultural pressure is on measuring time and moving through the scheduled clock of our days and nights, marching inexorably toward even more planned activities. We are pushed to exhibit continual improvement.
How does this affect me? I live responsibly in my modern Western culture. I understand the importance of each step along the road, keeping appointments, planning ahead. I imagine where I want to be next and work to manifest my dreams. But I also feel the tug in the opposite direction. Right now, here, I am all right. I am sufficient.
During times when it’s difficult to see ahead, I’ve discovered fully resting in the present moment calms me and opens my heart. And having practiced that shift in awareness pays off when the going gets tough. Two principles of Incarnational Spirituality, Self Light and Emergence, solve the paradox of being fully present in the moment while continuing to live in a stream of events.
Self Light is the spiritual radiance generated by the act of being a unique self, an individuation of sacredness. The light I hold as an incarnated self reminds me that I am, as I am here now, an emanation of the Sacred—whatever my strengths and weaknesses may be. Self light is not a thing I have to earn or journey toward. I entered the world on a wave of love. The light originates in my loving intent to be here, in this Now.
Emergence acknowledges the journey as well as the moment. It acknowledges change. It’s about the growth and newness arising out of my presence and interaction with all that surrounds me. Emergence reminds me to honor my mediated experience of time, where I engage with change, evolution, and growth. Because I am here, in this moment, something new may manifest which could not have occurred without me.
Feeling into these qualities, I land in a both/and space. Time breathes in and out of my human life. And the Eternal resides in the pause between intake and out. I am, have, always will be here in this time, feeling this deep pain or stretching beyond grief into this bright joy, loving this flower, enjoying this bite of fresh food, or smiling into this loved one’s blue eyes. Lately, when I struggle to rise out of my own slough of despond, I recognize that it’s me, in that place, who can infuse the moment with love, intentionally interlacing my own sacred breathe with that of all beings around me, whether they be dark and muddy or warm and sunlit. Just as light can behave as wave or particle, my human self can pulse between time and eternity, moment to moment.
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