The importance of the present moment is talked about so much these days that sometimes I fear it is simply becoming a buzz word - that some see it as an aspect of “new age” spirituality or a thing only recently thought of. In fact it can be found at the heart of every religious tradition. It is almost as though at the present moment time stops and eternity can be glimpsed.
The following is an old Celtic prayer for the start of each day. I like it for its sense of gratitude, the gentleness of its message and the way in which it includes the notions of warmth and sunshine This day is your gift to me, This dawn I take it from your hands. Make me busy in your service throughout its hours, Yet not so busy I cannot sing a happy song.
The man was shown into an old garden. It was overgrown with weeds and the plants had long since died away. The ground was hard and dry and as they moved through the tangled weeds his companion pointed out something practically hidden in the undergrowth. As they drew closer the man realised the ground around the structure was a little damp, and the grass around the base was greener than elsewhere.
How truly lovely it is, even when carrying out commonplace tasks, that the small birds are starting to be heard again - spring must be on its way! I realise how little I know of these small creatures that offer up their calls and songs so generously. I know they sing for each other rather than me yet I gladly take the gift they offer - a gift that brightens the day and focusses our attention on the present - an auditory version of a field of wild flowers.
I happened to find myself in church a couple of weeks ago and the speaker was talking about how she used to play hide and seek with her children. Rather than hiding completely she always made sure that she left a foot or piece of clothing visible or made a small sound so the children wouldn’t have too much difficulty finding her. Her point was that God does the same thing with us - he wants us to seek him out but won’t make it impossible for us to find him - he wants to share in our joy when we do.
Last night I had a dream. I must have been in a car and passed what I knew was an abattoir. A dark and deep foreboding possessed me and shortly after driving past I saw a livestock lorry up ahead. I didn’t want to look at the lorry in case I saw the animals but felt compelled to do so. I was relieved that even though I could see in the back of the lorry no animals were visible.
Every so often you come across some words that really pull you up short and make you think. The following, often attributed to the Lakota people made me do just that: Let everything you do be your religion and everything you say be your prayer. I don’t know if the saying actually originated with the Lakota (please let me know if you do) but I can think of no greater challenge for anyone trying to lead a good life and no stronger admonishment for those whose actions belie their beliefs.
I went to Mary’s funeral on Monday. The priest said that it was a ‘good funeral,’ a funeral where the life of the person shone through and inspired those who attended. It certainly felt like that to me. In the last two weeks of her life Mary went to live with her sister and in her eulogy she said that she wanted to pass on the importance of two things - make sure you tell people you love that you do love them - and remember to smile.
The more I read, and the more I try to lead a better life, the more convinced I become that our journey to God (or however you might want to describe it) is not one of going to something, but rather discovering what is already there. It’s as though what we are seeking is already present in every blade of grass, in the wind, in a drop of water, in the warmth of our soul.