I can't help but notice how the most significant moments in my interior life are so relatively quiet. Not silent. Commonly neither clamorous or especially still. The more powerful my sense of the Present, the more it seems to be strung indifferently between peaks of comparable noteworthiness -- like a hammock perfectly and equidistantly suspended from moments strong enough or tall enough to sustain its weight. The state of power and grace is found between events and eventfulness.
Presence hangs -- creaking, groaning -- when we cocoon ourselves within its net. It rocks with the motion of our coming or going, but the oldest deep-rooted trees, or the poles driven into concrete-reinforced holes, barely shudder to show when we are within it.
Whether or not we are aware that we are in the Present, the Present can't be said to care.
Swaybacked split-rail fence of linear time, across the flattest desert, touching both ends of the biggest sky...
Moments of existential challenge There is a moment, well after the arguments and negotiations, long before you feel necessarily single again, when you sign the divorce papers.
There is a moment, well after the results of the blood test, long before the side effects, when the chemotherapy first drips, when you swallow the first pill.
There is a moment, well after the shock of the news and the pageantry of the funeral, still long before it seems real that someone you love will not walk through the door, when it feels like it hasn't happened, even as you know that it has.
or moments of conscious joy There is also a moment after you've discovered that you're pregnant, but you haven't yet begun to show. There is that moment when you know you are in love, but you are in between the last time you saw her, or the next time you will see him seeing you again… There is that moment when you hold a book in your hands that bears your name along its spine, when you accept the award, when you deposit that enormous sum of money.
There is that moment when you wake in a new city, in a new room, with your new life still trapped in the transition of boxes… You are aware of all the life around for which this place is entirely ordinary -- how can that be so? But it is.
These are not the moments when you first react, when you call someone to witness your reality, or when you even cry alone. These are not the moments of heated arguments or the later conversations and reflection. These are not the moments furiously released in your diary.
These are not even the moments when you pray. These are not the scenes of intense drama or rare delight…
The Present may disappoint you in its ordinariness. Perhaps you find yourself looking in the mirror for some evidence of profound change… but it's just you there, pretty much like always, no matter what different details course through your veins.
Shouldn't there be a soundtrack? A sound effect? On a day this tragic, shouldn't the Universe magically supply you with rain? On a day this memorably wonderful shouldn't virtual strangers on the street break into musical theater dance routines, to broadcast and backup your private glee? Can it really be that the refrigerator hums like it always does, that there is always a bird making a racket somewhere if you listen, and kids playing or people fighting in accordance with their own scripts, regardless of what you know to be true?
Wouldn't it be appropriate now to find the color has leaked from the world, or that God has washed over everything with a new filter of sparkles, of lens flares, of slow-motion blur…
If this were a film of your life, this would be your close-up. This would be your cue to cry and collapse gracefully to the floor. This would be the scene when the ghost in the machine "randomly" selects your favorite track and you crank it up to dance around like a fool in your underwear, and if anyone saw you they would have to smile…
Don't misunderstand me, there is tremendous grace and power here, of another kind -- because this is a Now when you get to realize that the Universe is not watching you. You are the one paying attention. Attaching emotion, directing drama, dragging decoration into the scenes to reflect the meaning that might otherwise go unwritten.
It may indeed be one of the most important moments of your life, one you will always refer back to… You may glorify, embellish it, weave it into your Story in the Later Telling of it. But in the moment that you live it, that it happens to you, it can be so relatively quiet. Not silent. Indifferent. Preternaturally Calm. Detached.
There are no triple-digit numbers on the clock face, no other magical signs that the external world accompanies you. It seems that if there were any moment when your spirit guides and guardian angels would speak to you clearly, this should be it... but they are only here, present, attending you and keeping your private company in the manner of dozing beloved pets. There are moments when no course of action must be decided, but when directions are simply followed through -- when you step into and through the inevitable; when you go one moment more, and by doing so, prove to yourself that you can.
There is tremendous power and grace here, in a moment that needs nothing else to be significant -- hold it, bookmark it, so that you may return to it. The truth that you are looking out at an infinite marching succession of Now, as if through a mask, a space suit, a window.
There is a part of you that only observes. There is a part of you that retreats into detached safety and works from curious, non-reactive awareness. This is when you know the eternal part of you that is not your body, is separate from your Story, is untouched by emotional reactions, is unchanged by events.
It's not particularly dramatic. It may not be especially magical.
It is infinitely powerful.
Image by Simon Pais via Creative Commons on Flickr