There is an awakeness that comes from a clear mind, unobscured by wandering thoughts and preoccupations, and there is an awakeness that comes from a clear heart, willing to engage with life as gift and as an ever-unfolding revelation of the purpose of Creation.
Such an awakened heart cannot respond indifferently to life because it sees the outstretched hand of the Creator at every turn and in every particle of experience. It cannot turn away from feeling, no matter what feelings may occur, because it perceives emotional depth as the great gift of individualized consciousness. This gift stirs the response of individualized life to the Source of life as it displays Itself in all living things.
To be awake and present is to take responsibility for noticing - for maintaining an intimate connection between the self that IS, and the rest of the world that IS. It is to know that within the domain of this relationship lies a profound revelation of the Source of all within every gesture, every interaction, and every experience that takes place. It is to perceive the sacred in every moment.
In today's overscheduled world, being continuously busy is sometimes a necessity but often a choice based on the drive for outer success, wealth, and the symbols of what is often taken to be a 'life worth living'. Being busy, as opposed to having time 'on one's hands', is perceived by many as a testimony to a life that has merit, purpose, and meaning.
By contrast, idle hands hands that remain receptive rather than active in relation to time, suggest that time is being wasted - that one could do more, achieve more, accomplish more. No matter if these hands are connected with one's heart and with the heart of the world. For many, it is only the visible 'doing' of things that creates a sense of security and lets us know that time has meaning. The existence of a space of silence in which awareness can broaden is often not considered a gain. Nor is simply being here, responsive to the very air we breathe, considered a virtue.
Is it any wonder, then, that we, as a collective humanity, have forgotten the sacred art of being present, that we have placed 'noticing' on the back burner of experiential values. And what would we notice if we took the time to do so?
In order to answer this question, it is helpful to sit in one place, breathing quietly, eyes somewhat unfocused, listening, seeing, sensing. Though one can do this profitably in a bare room, it is easier, at first, to sit in an environment where there is just a little movement present. Now, close the eyes and pay attention to the other senses. Feel the comforting fabric of surrounding life as if it were an envelope or cocoon, gently cradling one's essential self. Notice everything without discrimination, without opinion. Try to feel the intimacy of connection with what IS.
Spending time for a few minutes each day being awake and noticing is a good way to begin the practice of being present. It is a good way to begin to expand one's idea of what constitutes a meaningful life. And yet more than this is needed if one is to truly embrace what IS, and to be 'present in the present'. What is needed is the greater opening of the heart to the one Self that exists within all.
This perception of Unity and Oneness has an opportunity to grow at any moment in which we interact with another soul. It is nourished by an absence of judgment and by a willingness to be open to the deeper levels of who that other might be. Such openness comes from a state of innocence and of childlike grace. It comes from knowing that the 'other' is part of the same 'ALL THAT IS' as oneself, therefore of one Heart, one Breath, one Life.
The gift of being present as it applies to relationships is that it brings love to every interaction, no matter how small or insignificant. It brings the Divine into every perception, no matter how ordinary. And it brings gratitude into each moment as it unfolds.
As a sense of being present deepens and one's capacity to 'notice' flowers, the deep richness of life and of love can be found everywhere and separation nowhere. In this state, one senses only the One who lives within all. One feels the Essence within every other. Here, consciousness can only affirm the greater life of which it is a part:
I Am and You Are. We are both of the stars and of the dust of the earth. We are both of the rocks and of the sandy shores. We are water and we are sky; we are earth, and we are air. We are the Breath that life breathes through Itself, in a single and continuous song of Creation.
(For Part 2 of this article please see The Art of Being Present - Part 2)