When you stand on the edge of the ocean and listen to the waves rhythmically pounding the shore as the setting sun touches the water and turns the clouds into a brilliantly painted red sky, do you stand in stillness and awe of the beauty before you, and allow the moment to fully enter your consciousness, or do you reach for your camera to take a picture?
If your impulse is to take a picture, you are probably not fully present to the moment. Your body is there, but your mind is focused on the future thinking about what a great picture you will have for your photo album. Your heart is there, but it is not fully open and present to the moment. You are lacking presence.
Presence is the spiritual ability to be fully in the “now“.
A healthy spirituality means you have learned to embrace life with an open heart and a consciousness is fully present to the experience of “thin-places” in life.
Stated simply, when you are spiritually present and embracing the “now” with an open heart, you are able to experience those “thin-places” where the veil between this world and the world of spirit is thin and transparent.
The only authentic response in those thin-place moments is the spiritual impulse to “be”; to create poetry, to dance, or to simply stand in the stillness of the moment.
Developing a healthy spirituality is one of the greatest joys that life offers, but it is often difficult to find in the theological beliefs of institutional religions.
A healthy spirituality is born when we have the courage to look inside; the courage to shine the light of our consciousness into the shadows of our psyche’s dark nature; the courage to become intentionally self-aware
Until we do, the unconscious fears and heart wounds of childhood trauma will keep our hearts closed and our minds obsessing about the past or worried about the future. The wounded heart has little to no interest in what is happening in the “now” of the present moment.
As children we are essentially born as heart. We were fully open to the awe and wonder of the world. We played and behaved without self-consciousness. We didn’t worry about how others would judge us or whether we looked cool or not. We played with abandon in the present moment.
As we grew we used the relationships we had with others to determine who we were and how we “should” behave. We began to create the “self” we thought others wanted to see.
We rejected our true self and began to create a false self.
Each time we put our true self away and strengthened our false self, we increasingly closed down the heart and spirit of our essential self. We began to embrace fear; the bedrock of all prejudice, judgmentalism, and rejection.
The fear that who we were was not enough. The fear of failure. The fear of loss. We began to feel shame; the sense that we were somehow flawed.
As we created our false sense of self, we hid our “true self” behind an unconscious wall of shame.
We became self-critical and self-judgmental. We found it more and more difficult to belong, to fit in with others. We began to isolate ourselves. We put our feelings away.
We learned to feel good about ourselves by judging others. We were good. They were not.
Over time our spirituality, our sense of awe, and our ability to live in the moment with full presence and full authenticity was also put away.
Our world grew very small, mundane, and often painful. We spent most of our time dreaming about achieving happiness in the future.
Fortunately, the skill required to attain happiness, spiritual growth, and the ability to live in the “now” is simple.
It only requires the courage to begin the inner journey; the journey into self-awareness. Self-awareness can only be experienced in the “now“. It’s the spiritual practice that allows us to discover the beams in our own eye; the beams that our ego would like so much to project into someone else’s eye.
The spiritual practice of deep self-awareness can be a powerful tool for self-growth and self-understanding whenever we find ourselves being judgmental or rejecting of others. It allows us to explore the unconscious beliefs and assumptions we have about ourselves.
Self-awareness allows us to search for the beliefs hidden in the shadows of our psyche that create the negative energy of judgment and rejection. Self-awareness is the spiritual practice of intentionally looking for those beliefs.
Looking into the shadows where our dark nature is hiding can be challenging. But when we have the courage to do that work, we are often amazed to discover that much of the energy and passion for life we enjoyed in childhood has been quietly hiding the shadows of our psyche.
We were afraid to look into that terrible darkness because the childhood feelings of fear, inadequacy, and shame were also hiding there. We preferred to project the shadows of our dark nature onto others.
When we project our unwanted shadow beliefs and traits onto others, we tend to judge others very harshly and our ability to manifest compassion and empathy becomes very limited.
Until we find the courage to look into the dark nature of our own psyche and face our own shadows, we will continue to see those traits in others. The world around us will remain a painful reflection of the world inside of us.
When we learn to pay attention; to shine the light of conscious awareness into the shadows of our psyche whenever we find ourselves judgmental or rejecting of others, we will soon discover that every person we meet has the potential to be a teacher that reflects back to us the contents of our own mind.
The greatest of those teachers will be those people who drive us crazy; those people we can’t stand to be around; those people that we are so much better than.
I like to describe our best spiritual teachers as “spiritual gremlins”. They, more than any others, have the power to help us shine light of our consciousness into the shadows of our own dark nature; to illuminate the shadow material that we have spent a lifetime projecting onto others.
It is only through self-awareness that we will learn to see the thin-places that life continually offers us. It is only through self-awareness that we will find the wisdom to put the camera away and stand in silence, stillness, and awe with full presence when we encounter spirit in the “now“, the only place spirit can be found.
When do you have trouble staying in the moment? Comment below and share your insights.