I’m taking on a new challenge this week: to stop every time I get in my car and be fully present for the next 30 seconds. The goal is simply to encourage being present to the moment. Kris Kile, the blogger who posted the challenge, writes about using practices like silence, meditation, being in nature, and so on, to “tame the brain,” as he puts it. “Taming the Brain disciplines,” he says, “are a means to an end. The end is more balance, harmony, integrity, connection, peace, awareness, and effectiveness. Yet, they run completely counter to the drift of the culture we live in.” So true, Kris. Thanks for the exercise.
So how did it go for me? The first time I got in the car this week it was to drive my daughter to work, and she was running late. In my haste to get her there, I forgot all about the challenge of pausing. The next time, though, I remembered. I took time to pay attention to my breathing, to invite God’s presence into the moment. I noticed beside the car one solitary tree branch, dancing in the wind. I let it become a metaphor for allowing myself to be moved by the breath of the Spirit. I felt his peace. I felt centered. And then it was done. As I reflected, I noticed I my earlier tendency to hurry, that it seemed critical to get on my way and be efficient. I now felt more patient. I felt how nice it was to be freed from the habit of hurry, and from any thought about myself or my “to do” list, even for a moment. I felt like my True Self. Living out of that place is one way of living out the resurrection, as Rohr says.
This relates to the fifth suggestion Rohr lists in twelve ways to live out the resurrection: “Choose your True Self – your radical union with God – as often as possible throughout the day.”
What is our True Self? It is who we have been from the beginning, before our first breath or thought. It is who we were created to be. We do not earn or work for it, yet we feel its truth. It is who we are when we are centered and at peace, conscious only of the present moment. That surrendered, resting state is where God has uninhibited access to all that we are, the place he calls “union with God.” It’s where he calls us by name. It is a place of rest, and also of transformation. For we do not walk away unchanged from an encounter with the living God.
How do we choose this? As a first step, slowing down and being still help us remember that we have a choice. So much of what we do is largely unconscious. Mindful practices like this exercise of being present help us pay attention. They help us notice how much our thoughts rule our actions and our reactions. They help us become conscious, which is the only way we can choose love.
For Christians, this quiet center is a means of being “hidden in Christ,” as it says in Colossians 3. It allows us to experience the death of the ego, if even for a moment, and trust in his presence, his goodness and his rest as we let God be God with our whole being. Body, mind and spirit are his.
We’ve talked often about how the habits, attitudes and thoughts we accumulate in our lifetime revolve around our identity, our ego, or our False Self. As much as we’ve been dominated by this False Self most of our lives, that is not who we are. The False Self is largely self-referenced and self-protective. It thrives on activity to feel important, so much so that we don’t even notice many unconscious habits. Slowing down our habitual, ego-based thoughts frees us to experience and chose our True Self.
As Rohr says, “Religion has only one job description: how to make one out of two. For Christians, that is “the Christ mystery”, whereby we believe God overcame the gap from God’s side. God does all the work, the heavy lifting, and always initiates the longing. The deepest human need and longing is to overcome the separateness, the distance from what always seems “over there” and “beyond me,” like a perfect lover, a moment of perfection in art, music or dance, and surely a transcendent God.”
And we can choose it, every time we pause and answer his invitation to rest.
It is slow work, this deep transformation, but it happens just the same. At some point we might notice we’ve become more peaceful, more patient, more accepting of others, less determined to be right or in control or to have our way. But noticing our selves isn’t really our concern any more. When we have surrendered to our True Self, we know we did nothing to work for it or earn it, so ego isn’t in the picture. We are truly free. At least until the ego wakes again and intervenes, and we begin again. But now we have a frame of reference for what it feels like to be free.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:18-30
Practice: Try the exercise I mentioned from Kris Kile, of pausing throughout your day to be present. His blog, Transformation.Institute, is listed below.