At my work, we recently had a training on mindfulness. Now, before you roll your eyes, it was maybe my favorite work training I’ve ever done. It was engaging, practical, and participatory like few trainings are.
Anyway, “mindfulness” is the fancy word used to describe a “non-judgmental awareness of the present”. It’s heightening your senses and calming yourself in order to fully inhabit the present without analyzing it, mulling it, or needing to evaluate it. For those of us with anxiety issues, it really is an amazing way of centering and calming oneself, as well as separating oneself from the internal busyness–at least for a moment.
Another way of putting it is that it is radical present-ness. It is letting this very moment not be merely something you’re passing through as a bridge from the moment that has passed and into the moment that is not yet here. It is to fully inhabit the moment you find yourself in, and let the future come to you rather than anxiously trying to run towards it.
Not gonna lie. It was very spiritual to me. I felt more in tune to God and it got me thinking about how we mystically experience Him in our everyday lives.
When an Atheist talks about this hard-wired human sense to feel the “Numinous”, it often carries with it the sense that it rises from within us. When a lot of Christians talk about meeting the Divine, it often sounds like a presence that comes pointedly at us from outside of us. I’m starting to think that neither of these is right.
These Divine Numinous experiences are always, I would argue, moments of intense mindfulness–radical present-ness–where all other things fade away and there’s only this particular moment. Our moments of greatest awe, ecstasy, and mysticism are all experienced as singular moments that are being experienced right then.
This is why, no matter how intense the experience, thinking about it years later doesn’t produce the same high. Also, anticipating how some future experience or moment might feel always has a completely different quality from what the experience is actually like when you have it.
Here’s my point: the Divine is always found, felt, and known most fully in the present.
Now don’t misread that statement. I did not say that the Divine meets us in this place called “The Present”. I said that the Divine is in the present–not as a person in a room, but rather as a soul in a body, or Divinity in the human Christ, or the True Presence in Eucharistic bread.
Experiencing the Divine is not like a fire that rises up inside of us, or a Holy Spirit “arrow” we hope and pray God decides to shoot at us. Rather, the Divine is the very substance of the Present that we need only inhabit.
Too often, Christians have based their entire mystical relationship with God on the past or future. On one hand, many dwell exclusively on the Cross, the Bible, and the past works of God, thinking that these are the doorways into God’s presence. This is way too cognitive. Or, they think so much about where things are going and how God might be leading them in the future, hoping that it’s in their obedient pursuit of what’s to come that God will be known. This is far too mechanical and manipulative towards God.
It’s no surprise, then, that in modern Evangelicalism, God isn’t often experienced tangibly and personally.
Jesus was God’s future breaking into the Present. He was, as Paul calls him, “the firstfruits of the New Creation”. He ushered in a process by which the World to Come–God’s Future–is always flooding our Present to ever-increasing degrees.
By the time you finish this sentence, the Divine will have filled the Present more than when you began it. There is no holier moment than this one.
And this one.
And this one.
I struggle a lot with what I have perceived as the inexplicable “hiddenness” of God. But I’m wondering if it’s less the case that he is oddly removed from the world as much as it’s me that is removed from where he very much is: the Present.
What if knowing God was not a matter of obedience, drumming up emotions, reading your Bible like you “should”, or running yourself ragged to be or do something that you are not?
What if it was simply letting yourself non-judgmentally inhabit who you are and where you are in time and space? What if experiencing God was about being more human in all it’s glorious splendor instead of trying to be super-human? What if it was less about detaching yourself from your embodiment, your world, your space, and your mind and more about inhabiting those things all the more fully?
As bad as a Sunday school cliche as this is, it might be helpful. The Spirit is like radio waves. Everywhere, all around us, and easy to miss. But experiencing it is not a process of reading the broadcast transcripts or trying to get yourself into the studio. It’s simply by tuning oneself to the proper frequency and listening.
So put the Bible down, stop talking, take three deep breaths, and just be.
And I bet the Divine will be there as well.