One of the central features of any meditation tradition is “present mindedness,” or the ability to inhabit the present moment without being burdened by preoccupations of the past or future. The usual busyness of everyday makes this a bit of a challenge, but there are techniques we can use to break the one-track-monotony of the day to refresh ourselves and crown each new moment with clarity. Simply developing a habit of pausing from hour to hour to recollect your thoughts with a conscious breath is a very effective and simple way to create a golden moment of being here now as Ram Dass would put it.
The present moment can also take on several distinctly different colors that form a rainbow of perspective through which to view the moments of our lives.
As I am wont to do, I like to play with words and think about how they can have more than one meaning. Those different meanings help me to think about how to embody the state of mind that those words define. Take the English word “present” for instance. Present and its cousin “presence” have varied Latin roots. Depending on the context in which we use them, they may mean being alert to circumstances in this moment as distinguished from the past or future. By using a long “e” sound and placing the accent on the second syllable it means to introduce to the public in a formal way, as in “may I present to you the art and science of meditation.” Finally, a present is a gift that is sometimes given in surprise.
The slightly different “presence” may refer to the manner in which one carries oneself, the aura surrounding a great personage, or having a supernatural influence that can be felt by others.
When we pause in recognition of the present moment, we also instantly become silent and motionless. A quote ascribed to Benjamin Disraeli shines a bright light on the importance of silence. “Silence,” he said, “is the mother of truth.” Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Teton Sioux, reflecting on Disraeli added, “a silent man was ever to be trusted, while the man ever ready with speech was never taken seriously.”
Practicing present-mindedness immediately opens the door for us to connect with our deepest truth. Nothing dignifies our humanity more than being present in the primordial truths that inspire us to think, speak and behave with integrity.
As we develop our practice of fully making our homes in each present moment we dwell in the integral truths that guide us to transparently “present” (long “e” accent second syllable) who we are to the world without shame or regret. When we see such people we know that we are well-met with those who can earn our trust and help us create the relationships that will make the world flourish in the peace and freedom for which we all so deeply yearn.
This kind of attention to our lives will cause us to shine with the aura of transfiguration that Jesus underwent in Mathew 17:2: “his face shone like the sun and his garments became as white as light.” This is the presence that being present can cultivate within each one of us. In our moments of being utterly present, truth shines from us for others to see. Though the light others see may not be the dazzling physical blaze portrayed by the gospel, each of us will be able to recognize, respect and affirm the god-likeness that resides in each one of us when we are present with our basic innate truth.
Rather than being some pie-in-the-sky, New Age, fairyland idealism, the practice of being present will endow us with the super-normal power to live the lives of which we are capable. So, let us touch the golden present with the consciously breathing silence that gives birth to integrity, friendliness and a future of unbounded wonder and humane accomplishment.