Extending the Present Moment
Within us both heaven and hell exist as choices. At any given moment, through an act of our own consciousness, we can choose our reality. We can also choose whether our brush with heaven will be fleeting and ephemeral or lasting and eternal.
Hell is presented to us in many facets. It comes via the trials and tribulations of earthly existence. The problems of modern human life are real and cannot be denied. Difficulties regularly arise in the arenas of health, home, finances, and relationships, and these can seem overwhelming at times. Expending inordinate amounts of time and energy, we chip away at solving these outward problems, and sometimes we gain the upper hand. But then, lo and behold, to our great consternation, after finally getting our outward circumstances under some semblance of control, we discover that we have another entire world of problems inside of us. This is because until we have done the inner work of making our unconscious thoughts and emotions conscious and thereby unseating our conditioned mind, we essentially carry the outside world, with its endless parade of problems, inside of us.
We tend to approach the solving of our external problems by applying external remedies. We use our minds and bodies and depend upon such human attributes as strength, persistence, and cleverness. But our inward problems are different. They do not respond to human muscling, but require a different, more spiritual approach. They respond to the light of conscious awareness. This awareness draws them out of the shadows of our psyche, where they have been hiding, and exposes them. Then this same powerful inward dynamic goes on to de fang and banish them. That is why meditation or mindfulness is such an important practice for our times. Never has human conditioning been as extensive and debilitating as it is now. Therefore never has the need to counter this brand of inertia been more pressing.
It is no coincidence that the more dedicated we become to the practice of mindfulness, the freer we feel. Through this practice we not only deal effectively with the problems caused by our conditioned mind and bring that mind into greater submission; we also begin to tap in to the heavenly state of consciousness, wherein all conditioned reflexes cease and we are reintegrated and made whole as a result. That is why it can be compared to heaven. It is a state of consciousness, in which fear, anxiety, dread, and insecurity can’t touch us.
All of us that have been seriously practicing mindfulness for a while can testify to the existence of this benign transcendent state of consciousness. We have encountered it, touched it, and felt the wondrous peace and sense of healing it brings. But for many of us this tends to be a short-lived, haphazard experience—one that we are at a loss to recreate at will. It is like a blissful interlude that breaks in upon our mundane consciousness for a brief moment and then evaporates.
Despite their fleeting ephemeral quality, however, these encounters are valuable and important. This is because when we touch that heavenly chord within us, even if only for a second, we feel changed and renewed. There seems to be a mysterious disproportionate power emanating from this source. As we realize this, our task then becomes two-fold. First, we must learn how to enter this state at will, and second, we ,must gain the mastery that will enable us to extend this blissful interlude outward into time and space.
Neither of these tasks is as difficult as we tend to believe. All that we need to do in order to enter this state at will is to pay better attention the next time it presents itself to us. Then based on these perceptions we simply try to recreate the conditions surrounding its manifestation. The principle behind this approach is that the blissful interlude is not a haphazard event but rather is scientifically activated and predictable. All we need to do is to create the right conditions in our psyche and be patient. It is the same principle referred to in the baseball movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” If we build the right conditions, the heavenly state will surely descend upon us.
This is a wonderful discovery to be sure, but it is even more exalting to discover that not only can we recreate this blissful interlude at will; we can extend it. We can cause its ripple effects to flow out over the waters of our psyche, until they reach the furthest shore.
The key to accomplishing this task of extension is to gain a full understanding of the nature of the heavenly encounter. We know that it feels good. We can readily acknowledge the sense of peace and relaxation it brings. We can watch as our problems take a backseat for a while and feel the relief that comes with this. What else? Yes, that’s it. We can sense its timeless quality. True, we enter that state through or in time, but the actual quality of our encounter is timeless. It is otherworldly or eternal.
We say that time has three tenses: the present, the past, and the future. But when we really think about it, we find that the present moment is different. It is not actually a temporal tense. Rather time exists only as a past or future phenomenon. In those tenses time is synonymous with movement. It has a beginning and an end. But in the present moment all movement is suspended. There is no beginning and no end. There is only being.
It is important to realize this because it is when we begin to view our heavenly interlude as eternal and outside of time that magical things start to happen for us. We discover a powerful tool for dealing authoritatively with just about every undesirable aspect of our human experience.
This tool is actually a familiar one. It is the tool of mental reasoning or logic, but what makes this usage of our minds uniquely powerful is the combination of rational thought and the spiritual revelation of the timeless quality of the present moment. This is because the present moment has its own basis of truth. In other words, there are things about the present moment that are uniquely true. This gives our reasoning processes a greater authority when dealing with unwanted conditioned thoughts and emotions.
For example, let us suppose we are being assailed by financial problems, which, in turn, is causing our conditioned mind to run wild, replete with highly toxic thoughts and emotions, such as worry, fear, and foreboding. What is the solution? First, we go into meditation; then we activate our heavenly state of consciousness; then we focus on the timeless aspect of our heavenly interlude; then lastly, we deliver the knockout punch by consciously rehearsing a potent truth about the present moment, as it pertains to finances—a truth that is uniquely irrefutable. We might say, “In this present moment I have no financial problems.” This is not just a robotic affirmation or wishful thinking. It is really true. What are we doing in the timeless present moment? We are sitting in meditation. Where are our financial worries? They are in time—in the past or the future, even if that past or future timeframe was only two minutes ago or will be only two minutes hence. The fact is that the present moment is unaffected; it is clean, pure, and holy. And nothing can ever change that. The present moment will always be that way. In the present moment money is inconsequential. It carries no weight and has no value. In the present moment man does not live on bread alone but rather on every impulse of spiritual life emanating from within.
These irrefutable truths about the present moment are authoritative because they speak right to our conditioned mind. They almost act as commands. “Be still,” they infer. “My financial problems cannot come here.” Thus we are afforded a break from all such pressing issues. How do we make it more than just a break? We learn to extend the present moment indefinitely. We learn to abide fulltime in the present moment, no matter where we are or what we are doing. And little by little we learn to rest and trust. This completely disarms the conditioned mind because that mind is utterly faithless and insists that any real solutions to our problems must come via our own human problem solving energies. That is why we carry so much worry and fear around with us. The conditioned mind insists that the entire burden for making things right is on our shoulders.
As another example, let us say that you are feeling a little sick. But your actual illness is not your biggest problem. Your biggest problem is the worry and fear it is generating in your thoughts and emotions. Your biggest problem is, as usual, your conditioned mind. The solution to this predicament is the same as we employed when dealing with financial difficulties, but the truth we bring forth will be unique to this circumstance. This time the truth about the present moment pertains directly to our health and body. Our conditioned mind is running wild, telling us we better do something or our situation could worsen. We had better go see a doctor, get some medication, etc., because if our sickness gets worse we will really suffer on its account. “Stop!” we command. “The truth of the present moment is that my body is now in healing mode. It has entered that relaxed state of effortless function ability, according to its created blueprint. Therefore I am not sick. I am, in fact, perfectly well.” Again, this is not just wishful thinking; it is the truth about the present moment. In that moment of heightened spiritual consciousness our bodies automatically go into healing mode. And if we can stay in that mode long enough by extending the present moment, our symptoms will soon disappear.
Some might feel that this challenge of extending the present moment is unrealistic in today’s world. They will cite the fact that they cannot stay in a meditative state all day. They have things to do, errands to run, work, social obligations, etc. But remember that accessing the present moment is primarily a state of consciousness and, as such, is not dependent upon sitting in meditation or any other spiritual discipline or practice. True, most of us need the structure of disciplines and practices at this point in our development. But this does not hold true of the spiritual masters who have lived among us. Like us, these may have begun with a dependency on practices such as meditation, but eventually they attained the state of consciousness, wherein practices were no longer needed. They learned to extend the mystical present moment endlessly. They came to abide in the heavenly interlude fulltime. That is how they became masters, and that is why we need them. We need their example to know what is possible for us. We need to always keep our sights on what we are aspiring to.
Can we ever come to realize the fullness of spiritual life that the masters have demonstrated? Of course we can. All we have to do is to stay with it. That was why Jesus told his disciples, “Seek and you will find.” He did not say, “You need to keep seeking, but I’ll tell you right now, you’re never going to find.” There does come a point of finding in the spiritual life, and that point is scientifically predictable. Therefore it applies to each and every one of us. It is the same as when a woman is pregnant and ready to give birth. Scientifically speaking, the point of delivery is a sure thing. And just as nothing can hinder a baby from being born once its time has come, nothing can stop us from laying hold of the fullness of spiritual life once we have grown and developed our spiritual consciousness to the ultimate degree of self-realization.