You Can't Force Awareness
I've been thinking a lot lately about the way we, as human beings, perceive time.
We think of time as linear---moving from point A to point B. We believe that we look back on the past and look forward to the future. They appear to us as clearly defined points.
But time is bendy. Space travel has proved that time moves differently when free from gravity. When we fall asleep, we perceive time as moving quickly, only to awaken and realize merely a few moments have passed.
Our memories of the past are filtered and edited, often leaving out important details and generally not as reliable as we imagine them. In other words, our past isn't as real as we think.
Not to mention that the future is completely unknown to us and filled with infinite possibilities that cannot be predicted with any certainty.
All we can know is the present---what Fr. Richard Rohr calls the "naked now."
And yet, most of us live either looking back in the past with regret or longing and looking to the future with either longing or dread.
We spend our lives wishing the past could have been different than we remember it and fretting or hoping that the future will somehow be better than the past.
Jesus tried to teach his disciples to let go of the past and surrender the outcomes of the future. He told them that they should be fully present in the present and to stop worrying over things they could not control.
Jesus had little to say about what happens when we die and spent most of his ministry teaching people how to live.
He taught what it meant to practice awareness of the Spirit of God in the world and within us. He taught that there is more on the other side of what we perceive and that eternity can be found right where we are.
This is one of the many reasons I choose to follow Jesus as best I can.
I believe that if we work to practice the kind of awareness that Jesus both taught and demonstrated, we will discover that our ability to be more present can be magnified in ways we never thought possible.
It's not an easy thing to practice awareness in the world we currently inhabit. We are surrounded by distractions, and sometimes, we succumb to the tyranny of the urgent when it comes to life's many challenges.
We can begin to believe that if we just work harder at it, we'll find the ability to be more aware, to experience God's presence, and to find peace. Then, when we ultimately fail, we fall back into our old habits of worry and longing.
I read a wonderful line from Rick Rubin's book The Creative Act that I think speaks to this very notion:
Awareness is not a state you force. There is little effort involved, though persistence is the key. It's something you actively allow to happen. It is a presence with, and acceptance of, what is happening in the eternal now.
Spend some time today practicing awareness of the world around you. Find a quiet spot to let your mind rest and wander a bit. Pray the kinds of prayers that come to you. Let yourself see, hear, smell, and touch without hurry or the urge to do instead of be.
Then do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day. Make space to listen to the voice of the Source of all things. Be persistent.
May the eyes of your heart be opened. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.