Let’s set the context first before I dive into this subject. I am not a spiritual teacher. I don’t help people “raise their vibration,” whatever that means.
Every day I wake up and I have good days and bad days. When I have good days I feel positive.
When I have bad days I’m lazy, unmotivated and even feel hopeless about the path I’m on. I fear disappointments of the future if I don’t achieve my goals. I fall victim to vice sometimes.
I let emotions get the best of me. It just happened to me in Italy last week. By being emotional and irrational, I did not help a situation involving people I really care about.
Yet, despite all that, I read. I learn. I become more aware.
So who am I, and what am I doing?
I’m a messenger of sorts, at least while you are reading this. I’m simply “playing telephone” with you.
You remember that game: “telephone” – each whisper from kid to kid would always be mistranslated or even changed entirely (we all know that one goofy friend that would make a joke and pass along a brand new phrase).
Where am I going with this…
As I’m rereading, Eckhart’s Tolle’s Power of Now, I’m couldn’t help but “play telephone” with you about his book. I’m pointing you to something that’s helped me become more aware, more conscious. You can translate it anyway you’d like.
Let’s talk about time and God.
When I refer to time, I refer to past and future.
When I refer to God, I refer to presence (Yup, the telephone link has already been muffled. The word God is translated in a million different ways, I know).
I was just in Rome last week, The Vatican. I walked into the Sistine Chapel and looked up at Michelangelo’s God touching Adam. That’s Michelangelo “playing telephone” with me about God. That white-bearded, broad-shouldered, cross-fit version of God has lasted the game of telephone with the world for the last 500 years since Michelangelo painted it.
I have digressed. Back to my own game of “telephone.”
Again, God equals presence, God equals “the now.”
I thought about school. When was the last time there was a 50-minute class on “mindfulness” or “being present” or “conscious living?” Certainly not while I was going to school from 1990 through college until 2006.
The underlying structure of schooling is based on past performance (report cards, grade point average from 1-4 years ago, disciplinary actions from 1-4 years ago) and future expectations – diplomas, degrees, get into good colleges which leads to getting good jobs, which leads to getting a good, secure life.
How about church? Now I will admit I haven’t gone to church in many years, but I don’t remember specific lessons in the Catholic church when I was young on how to be present. I just remember messages and stories.
I realize now that many of those stories in the bible are beautiful. They have a deeper meaning about God in our daily lives, about being present. But for a child, for a teenager, for anyone, those messages and metaphors are not easy to understand and apply in everyday life.
In fact, all too often the reverse happens. Most people take the majority of the stories in the bible literal and miss the deeper meaning.
I laughed the other day when I saw the spiritual comedian, JP Sears post on Instagram during heavy rain, “It’s raining so hard, I think I’m going to build a big boat and put two of every animal on it because that seems possible.”
Then, he added in jest, “The surest path to enlightenment is trying to take every metaphor literally.”
I have digressed again.
Back to my point on “future emphasis” our society puts on school and career and in life. It’s all based on this sense of “becoming.” I read a quote on a piece of art from Jim Carey in a beautiful video on his painting and what it does for him: (stop reading and watch this six minute video of Jim Carey – it’s that good).
Ok, you’re back. You’re welcome 😉 … Here’s the quote from that video on a piece of art:
“…and in that moment he was freed from the prison of becoming.”
When we learn how to just be (in the present), we are freed from becoming, from the rat race of chasing some “future thing.” Whatever thing it might be; some goal, status, money, reward, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc, etc.
I find myself “lost in becoming” all the time.
So I remind myself to try to just be; in God.
Now, I don’t want to get all “anarchy and doomsday” on you, with a pitchfork and sign that says “BURN DOWN THE SYSTEM!!!” I’m also not trying to convince you we all need to find our “third eye” and sing kumbaya with our neighbors.
There is nothing wrong with the modes of functionality our schools and society have. The future expectations around diplomas, degrees and careers are all noble and worthy things to achieve.
The point I want to bring to light is that by society engraining this mode of living onto us, we’ve become fixated with past and future in our minds.
We’ve lost sight of the present moment. The present for most people is just a means to an end, an end that never really ends. We just keep chasing it.
The present moment has become a vehicle to get us to the next destination. That vehicle has been neglected, used and abused (like that rickety used car an 18-year-old uses to deliver pizza). The vehicle’s only intention is continuing the long drive as it sputters to that future destination we are desperately grasping at.
And what’s happens? Our car (our life) get’s rusted out. It corrodes. Because we haven’t been paying attention to the present moment. We miss out on the present moment.
But we’ve never been taught this in society.
Living in the present moment is a mystery for most people. It still is for me. It’s puzzle. A riddle. It sounds wise or trendy to talk about; on an Instagram photo headline over a picture of nature or a Facebook status (I’m guilty as charged on both accounts). I’m sorry, that will not help me or someone else become more mindful or present.
More telephone: A brief history (in quotes) from a few masters on the dangers of time, or more directly put, the dangers of attachment to time. Also, a brief history (in quotes) on the liberation of living in God:
“The whole essence of Zen consists in walking along the razor’s edge of now. To be so utterly, so completely present that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence can survive in you. In the now, in the absent of time, all your problems dissolve. Suffering needs time. It cannot survive in the now.” – Eckhart Tolle
“Time is what keeps the light from reaching us, there is no greater obstacle to God than time.” – Master Eckhart, 13th century Christian mystic.
“Past and future veil God from our sight. Burn up both of them with fire.” – Rumi, 13th century Sufi (Islamic-sect) poet.
“The Sufi is the son of time present” – Sufi (Islamic-sect) saying
“What at this moment is lacking?” – The Zen master Rinzai
“If not now, when? – Zen question
How about the words of Jesus and the bible:
“Take no thought for the morrow. For the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” – Matthew 6:34
“Nobody who puts his hands to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62
“Be STILL, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. – Matthew: 13-14
My “telephone” translation: I think the narrow gate is “the now,” is presence. The narrow gate is God – it’s hard to find. The present moment slips through our fingertips because our minds natural tendency puts so much weight on past regret and future worry; the wide gate – where most people drudge through.
Eckhart said, “Since ancient times, spiritual masters have pointed to the now as the key to reach the spiritual dimension. Despite this, it seems to have remained a secret.”
I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, great Joe, lots of nice spiritual quotes, but how do we get present?”
For me, it’s practice: Watching my thoughts. Observing my mind.
Yes I know, easier said than done.
Eckhart makes this simple, and for me, this is the first step to living in God: “The moment you realize you are not present, you’ve become present.”
It’s all about little tidbits of present moment awareness from our fast-thinking, unconscious mind to conscious awareness. Like anything else it’s a habit and you dance back and forth between your thoughts to awareness of your thoughts.
What helps – outside actions I can take that assist me in observing my thoughts:
-Going for a walk or run without my cell phone.
-Looking at the stars, lying on the grass, looking at the clouds floating past the blue sky.
-Being in nature. Looking at the trees sway back and forth with the wind.
-Meditating, listening to and feeling my breath.
Now, there’s another practical approach. This is much different from mind observation, but I believe it can be easier than meditation and mind observation:
When you are doing something you love. When you are following your bliss.
The brilliant author on mythologies, Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss and doors will open for you that you never thought possible.”
I used to solely interpret “doors will open for you” as opportunities, connections and money as a result of following your bliss. This can be very well true. I still believe this. We’ve all heard the saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow.”
But I just realized a few days ago there is a deeper, purer meaning of what happens when “the doors open.”
I believe when you follow your bliss, you enter into another dimension, a more potent dimension: Presence. The dimension of God.
It’s what Tolle likes to call “the joy of being.” This is where the path leads when those doors open as you are doing what you love.
Think about it: When you are doing something you love or with people you love, “clock time” flies. You are not thinking about time. Time is irrelevant. Time becomes eternal. You are simply living in God, in love.
Then think about how slow “clock time” goes when you are at a job you can’t stand. You are begrudgingly waiting for 5pm to strike. Time becomes painful.
Artists will paint and sketch and create for days and days. Entrepreneurs will work on their business they love around the clock. Jim Carey said in that amazing video I recommended, when he got into painting, he was obsessed. Paintings became part of the furniture. He was eating on them. He and his vocation immersed and merged into one, in presence.
You eat, sleep and breathe your bliss. You no longer think of time. You are in a timeless state, a timeless dimension. You are God inside of God working on God. You are infinite and eternal. You are the ever-present “I AM.”
When you’re here, does anything else matter? Does past and future matter?
No and no.
So the universal question that all self-helpers and self-help gurus try to answer:
How do I find what I’m passionate about? How do I follow my bliss?
Simple answer: Do what you like.
Don’t make it complicated. You don’t have to have a bliss that serves other people (although most things do serve in one way or another, at the very least it should not hurt anyone).
It just needs to be YOUR BLISS. It doesn’t have to be a noble cause. It doesn’t have to save nations. It just has to be what YOU like to do.
If your bliss is to hit golf balls, work at a driving range. Hit golf balls every day before and after work. Talk with people about hitting golf balls. I’m serious, more blessings and power to you. You are doing what you love.
If it won’t provide the income to sustain your lifestyle, than do one of two things:
Lower your needs/wants/expectations/cost of living, so you can work at a driving range.
Or keeping working where you are working, accept it, stop fighting the fact and enjoy hitting golf balls on your time off. Consider working at the driving range one day per week or part time. If you follow it truly, fully you’ll be able to create a sustainable lifestyle around it. Hey, you might even own your own driving range one day.
Maybe that’s not the best example, but this is telephone, remember (and maybe I’m that goofy kid making a joke or changing up the message with that example).
To close on this rant of a blog, I heard a quote in a very good Christian book I just read, Wild At Heart, “Don’t do something because the world needs it. Do something because it makes you come alive. What the world needs, is more people to come alive.”
By coming alive, you light up the world.
By coming alive, you’ve found God, you are God. You’re present.