Stillness and Presence

One thing about the present moment is its fullness – which is also a kind of emptiness. Everything is there and nothing is there. There is only thing in the present moment and it has no name and yet everyone knows what it is.

chains in the barn awaiting use

You can’t carry anything into the present. It is fascinating to observe this: if you give your attention wholly to the present, to what is here and now, then you have to let go of everything.

So our anger has to be put aside, and our grievances, and our hopes and dreams. Everything. We can pick them back up if we want – they won’t leave us – but we can’t take them into the present.

The present is still and clear and pristine. It is like the center of the potter’s wheel – the very center – which is still and does not move, and yet its stillness is integral to the whole project (the tool, the materials, the craft, the product).

From the still clear center, the whole emerges in this or that form.

What is being described here isn’t about a religion or a spiritual practice, though it most often shows up in those contexts.

It is just a fact. Attention is a fact: it is here. And it is responsive. You can give it to anything you like – another body, a piece of cake, a book, a song. And you can also give it wholly to the present.

You can bring attention right into the present moment: right into the stillness: right into the silence: into the fullness that is utterly empty.

My practice of giving attention – which a few years ago became a sort of de facto ACIM practice, largely supplanting the lessons – has really become the simple act of being present.

Attention yearns for the present. The more it is allowed to rest there, the more it naturally *is there.

Present moment awareness – what A Course in Miracles refers to as the Holy Instant – is the space in which a natural clarification occurs. We see the way in which our so-called problems – collectively, the ego – are simply constructs that arise in thought.

They only have affects because we give consent to them. They are easily discarded.

It’s true that they are easily picked up again but that’s okay. We can put them down again, too.

And slowly, we begin to acclimate to life in which these constructs are seen for what they are: mere idols for our wandering attentiveness. They are differences enshrined in psychological and spiritual language and so believed. They are ideals by which we hold truth and reality at bay.

They come and go – no more, no less. Therefore we evoke the Introduction to the course:

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists (In.2:2-3).

The Holy Instant is the experience of knowing this as a fact: not as an idea to be explicated or analyzed. Not as an experience to be hoarded as evidence of our spiritual progress or specialness.

It is simply the simple truth, and the present moment – the Holy Instant – is where we see it most clearly and helpfully.

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