“The longing for presence may in fact be
The most basic human desire.”
~David Benner, Presence and Encounter, p. 11
Morning contemplation has changed my life. Changed the quality of my life, and many moments of it. I have my friend Dave Player to thank for that. I still have a note he sent me on July 22, 2013 about “Breathing”. I looked at it this morning to remind myself of the guidance he shared with me. It carried the authority of a practice that had meant, and still means, so much to Dave.
I looked at it to remind me, because lately I’ve felt the need to re-plumb. To re-center.
Each morning since July 22, 2013, and actually a few mornings before that when I didn’t have a realistic clue about what I was supposed to be doing, it has been my intention to breathe for twenty minutes. Call this breathing contemplation, prayer, meditation, whatever, it has been life changing for me. My purpose with these quiet, daily periods is to calm my mind, to empty it, so that I can experience what De Caussade has called “the sacrament of the present moment”. Just lately, I’ve extended this morning time to thirty minutes.
Intentions are not always fulfilled, of course, but this has become an integral part of my day and of who I am.
Lest I ever think I have mastered this practice, here are a few items that crossed my mind just this morning when I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about anything:
- With the advent of gene editing, the thousands-of-years-long process of natural selection and human evolution might be short circuited. What we call “human nature” today could possibly be changed by human engineers in a generation or less. Humans playing at being gods. When has that ever worked? Scary.
- I thought of a haiku. The first phrase popped into my head. I couldn’t let it go and I finally stopped and took a couple minutes to write out today’s haiku. (I just started reading a great book called The Art of Pausing. Each morning I now try to write a haiku, as the book encourages.) This is what I wrote:
Danger awaits me
So they say, in every way
But I am here now
- Will Tom Brady take the Patriots to another Superbowl next year?
- I am slumping. Lana told me a few days ago that I slump when I walk, and stick my chin out. So I had vowed – in the name of forgoing years of future pain – to improve my posture.
I straightened up.
- Savings. Paying bills.
- I love being home with the family. (Smile…)
- Our pups, Tink and Shelby. (That made me smile again.)
- With the snow, does it make sense to work from home today?
There are more I’ve forgotten.
Those are a few thoughts that spun in and then out of my mind this morning. Even those were far, far fewer than the cacophony that filled my head all the time years ago.
I’m reading a thoughtful book by David Benner, Presence and Encounter, and finish this with a thought of his:
“Some things can be known by thought, but the most important things can be known only contemplatively. Think, for example, of knowing love. Thoughts about love are a poor substitute for knowing love, but if you allow yourself to be present to it, you can know love more deeply than would ever be possible by means of the mind.” (p. 40)
Pausing for a few minutes each morning to be as deeply present in those moments as possible makes the rest of the day better. At least for me.
Even though I keep thinking about those Patriots.
Benner, D. G. (2014). Presence and encounter: the sacramental possibilities of everyday life. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Brazos Press.
Caussade, J. P. d. (1982). The sacrament of the present moment. San Francisco, Harper & Row.
Valente, J., et al. (2013). The art of pausing: meditations for the overworked and overwhelmed. Chicago, IL, ACTA Publications.