February 20, 2020

Can You Be Present In This Wilderness?

Many of you are arriving at the end of this summer feeling weary, and wondering how you can continue to be present while things go from bad to worse. It might be stuff in your personal life, or it could be facing the daily horrors of our world. We wander in the wilderness of all that is happening right now.

When I am in this place, I look to core stories that hold wisdom. Lately, I’ve been remembering the story of Moses and his transformational encounter in the desert. You may remember that he comes upon a fiery bush that is burning but not consumed. After noting this awesome sight, Moses hears a voice that calls to him from inside the bush.*

God (The Great-Mystery-That-Is-Impossible-to-Name) calls to Moses by name. And Moses replies:

“Hineni. Here I am.”

Hineni הִנֵּנִי in Hebrew means much more than “I am physically here” – it means that one is all in – entirely present in the now. You know, those instants when everything fades away and you are in the present moment.

To which God responds:

“Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.”

What? You can imagine Moses thinking – wait, this is scary. Maybe I should run. But he does not. He stays. Feet firmly planted.

I interpret this scene in several ways:

1) When we bring our full selves to whatever moment we are in, this itself is a holy action. It’s not easy, but when we sink into exactly where we are, no matter what, there is a doorway to the sacred.

2) Any ordinary place can be a holy place – when we are fully present.

The transformation from an ordinary place to a holy place is presence.

Truly, we cannot be anywhere other than where we are. We can try to avoid facing the present, distract ourselves, or deny the pain. We might preoccupy ourselves with the past or the future. But all that does is keep our attention off the only place it can be, which is the present.

When we do, we get a glimpse into eternity. We discover the sacred in the everyday. We give ourselves the opportunity to see the silver linings in even the most difficult times.

In the last week, several people have said to me – I am unable to listen to the news because I’m in too much pain about it or I have lost hope. Or perhaps you are scared about a recent diagnosis. Maybe you are grieving a loss.

To all of it: You are where you are. Please do not judge yourself. We are all grownups here. Berating or judging where you are does nothing.

The first step in any place is to simply acknowledge:  I am here right now.  I am sad or scared.  I feel scattered.

And just let that be OK. I will be writing about the steps that come after I AM HERE over the next few months.

Take your shoes off in whateverplace you are in. For you are standing on holy ground. Even in the wilderness of now.

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* Exodus 3:1-6

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