The Spiritual Posture of Present-Moment Awareness

Once we have become aware of our dysfunctional ego, we can begin to look at each moment of our lives differently. The awareness developed to see our own dysfunctional ego can now be turned outward to the world around us. Each moment of life can now be viewed with fresh perspective. This is another of the spiritual postures – present moment awareness.

The present moment is that little bit of time and space that exists between the past and the future. It’s what is happening right now at this very moment. The present moment isn’t as long as a day, an hour, or even a minute. It’s a continuous flow of very short time segments through the space around you, within your field of awareness.

Consider any action, such as walking. As you walk, think of every single step you take as being the present moment. The last step you took is already in the past, and the next step you take is still in the future, even though it’s just moments away. The most important step you take is the one you are taking right now, this very moment.

“Time is measured by a threefold division, past, present and future… If you consider the present, it is through Him [God] that you live; you, however, are master only of the present.” (Gregory of Nyssa, The Lord’s Prayer)

The challenge we face with each moment is that although our bodies and souls live in the present moment, our egos thrive on the past and the future. Egos cannot survive in the present moment. They cannot survive in the light of awareness and truth. They thrive on the pain of the past and the worries of the future. This is what gives them their identity.

Consider the walk we are taking. We may see an obstacle ahead of us which may generate concern or fear, or we may remember how we stepped on someone else’s toes a few steps ago (carrying from the past guilt or the shame of our clumsiness). Both the warning of the danger ahead and the memory of the past event become part of our ego’s identity in the present moment. The ego uses these events to affirm its illusions about life and the necessity for it to maintain control. How we deal with these past and future images in the present moment makes them either debilitating baggage or benevolent gifts. They will either block our sense of the present moment and our connection with God (thereby feeding the ego), or they will be used to develop a better understanding of ourselves and others (thereby reestablishing our connection with God).

The present moment is the only period of time when we’re truly conscious. If we’re thinking about the past or the future, then we’re not truly conscious to life. The connection we make with God and to His kingdom only happens now, in each moment. As Anthony de Mello writes:

“To find the Kingdom is the easiest thing in the world, but it is also the most difficult. It is easy because the Kingdom is all around you, and within you, and all you have to do is reach out and take possession of it. It is difficult because if you wish to possess it you may possess nothing else.”

Present moment awareness holds the key to enlightenment, to releasing us from the grasp of the dysfunctional ego. Spiritual consciousness brings us this light of awareness; consciousness is only possible in each moment – not in the past or the future.

Present moment awareness is the key to living a full life. It’s the essence of being. Everything real that happens to us happens in the present moment. Our connection with God only occurs in the present. Our connection with others and with the earth only occurs in the present. Our presence in the present moment links us into the field of all possibilities; it’s where we connect into the spiritual Internet, allowing our prayer power to flow out to others, and where we receive the flow of love and blessings. We will begin to see things differently, and think about things differently, and behave differently. The interconnectedness of all life splashes brilliant colors of love throughout our awareness.

Living in the present moment does not mean we forget the past or ignore the future. What it means is that we use these other two time frames in the proper way. Our past experiences are great teachers, and we must learn from them. But we avoid dwelling on them to the point that they interfere with our present moment. Planning for the future is important, too, but the steps to get to the future all happen in the present moment, one at a time. Now is when the future is made.

How can we live in the present moment? The first of two techniques is to practice the spiritual posture of ego awareness; to become the observer of our thoughts and how we’re spending our time. This will alert us to when we’re not in the present moment. By catching our self dwelling on the past or the future, we immediately return to the present moment. The ego shrinks and our true self is able to function more freely.

The other key technique involves becoming more aware of the physical world around us. It’s using our five senses with intentionality. We go slowly through each moment of life with the curiosity of a child, noticing things around us. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) This awareness includes paying attention to our own breathing, or feeling the movement of our limbs as we walk, or watching the flight of a bird, or seeing all the shades of a color where before we thought we saw only one. Listen for the voice of God in the wind, and in the words of another person. Feel the grass or the leaf of a plant. Treat objects as sacred gifts of God. Look at people as temples of God. Consider each of your movements as a sacrament to God.

This all takes practice, but is well worth the effort. Ego awareness and present moment awareness go hand-in-hand. A third spiritual posture will then come in to play, the Practice of the Presence of God which we shall discuss in another article.

(c) 2010 Daniel D. Schroeder All Rights Reserved