Living in The Presence:
A Sample Spiritual Direction Dialogue
“What does it mean to live more spiritually?” Asked one of my former church members who had come in for her regular spiritual direction session with me. … Most often, she has arrived with a million things on her mind- all the usual list of duties or concerns- children, work, marriage, friends, church, etc., but today, it was different… I could sense that she was more pensive, introspective… Ready.
Once settled in her chair, she asked me the question again, “what does it mean to live more spiritually?” I paused for a moment, to listen… To discern and to make myself receptive to receiving a heartfelt reply. As I try to recall it, this is what I said:
“To live more spiritually is to be open to learning more about how best we can live in the Presence. ‘ She looked at me with a bit of a puzzled look, and offered a polite correction. “You mean to live in the present, right?” “No” I replied. I am sure that I did not get the two words confused.
After some silence, she asked, “What does living in the Presence mean?” I then offered an explanation:
“First we have to define and separate out what I mean from a lot of the New Age jargon. There is plenty of advice on the market today that urges us to live in the present moment- to avoid lingering over any regrets or not to be apprehensive about any future possibilities with their anticipatory anxieties. Over all, this is good advice… As far as it goes…
However, it still misses the mark, because it remains on the psychological level or the it only addresses the ego need for assurance and confirmation. To live spiritually, needs to have a transcendent dimension, and it requires an intimacy that often escapes our everyday awareness, or even the best of psychological advice. To incorporate, literally to enflesh the holy, asks us to be not only mindful, but also to realize our connection, our relationship to that which is larger and greater than oneself. Life and time cannot be reduced down to the feelings we need to affirm or the fears we need to avoid. Instead, consciousness, or the dimensions of the soul, are better understood as what kinds of connections we can make, what kinds of intimacy we can share, what ways life both transcends and includes the ordinary.”
She nodded cautiously, as if to agree while having her doubts…
She spoke to me about how she gets the basic idea, but is unsure about the connections I am referring to or how we can be connected to life on a deeper and larger scale. I tried to explain further:
“To be a spiritual person, is to know and be aware that there is a much larger reality that what either our culture or even our creative media proclaims. Being spiritual is , at its essence, being a warrior or being courageous enough to face one’s own darkness and welcome what those aspects of ourselves can teach us. Through our awareness we become personal alchemists- turning our personal lead into the gold of refined awareness, virtue, and values that promote compassionate connections to nature, to the world around us, to one another, and with ourselves. Being spiritual is a lifelong quest to follow the light of consciousness, to experience healing, and to foster a sustained sense of hope for the future.
It asks us to live beyond our discontents, and then live and breathe into new definitions of relational, being wise, being free yet responsible for the consequences of our lives- how we participate with others, how we function in culture, who we trust, how we love, and in what ways can we find the sacred dimension that exists in all that we say, touch, and do.
She responded with both delight and amazement.” Wow, that means whatever I call God is with me always!” “Yes!” I agreed. “But its also quite important that you do not unnecessarily limit what you mean by God, or restrict yourself to only a few ways that what is holy or divine can be known or understood. Some people will call this idea of God as Author or Source, Some prefer more classical language such as being Christ like, Krishna consciousness, Buddha nature, Holy Wisdom or Sophia. Whatever words you chose, they become the expression of your higher and deeper reality.
Whatever you desire to call it, this Love-Intelligence, is something real- a presence or a power, an energy or an effect that exists in you, around you, and can be felt when you are with others- be it your children, your lover, a close friend, or in a true spiritual community. Personally, I call this presence The Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of divine guidance and a Holy love.
(more dialogue ensues, and she speaks of a time when there was an intimacy with nature, when she experience a protective empathy or connection with the trees and fields around her childhood home…
” Yes, it often can come to us through an experience in nature, and yet, what is necessary is to realize that it is omnipresent, and that it is an omnipresence- always close at hand, IF we are willing and open to perceive it, invite it, welcome its presence within and among us. I am convinced that this is the way we humans come to experience whatever is holy or sacred in our relationships, and how it is that we can receive healing, assurance and peace.”
We ended our session shortly after this, taking some time in silence to retain what we have said, and how our words have affected us and how new ideas and realities have penetrated our awareness. She promised herself to take in these ideas more wholeheartedly, and to continue to aspire towards being open, inviting, and willingly receptive to these glimpses of grace…
As she walked out the door, my last words, as I have tried to recall them were these: “Living in the presence is not easy, but it is necessary for our spiritual and personal growth.”
After reading this sample session, I now invite you to reflect on these wise words from the Creation mystic, Meister Eckhart, who wrote:
“Spirituality is not found by taking flight from the world,
not by running away from things or feelings, but by running
into them, and running through them.
We must learn to connect ourselves to the Presence there,
no matter where we are or with whom. We must learn to
penetrate our layers of darkness in order to find our core,
our true selves. In order to find God to find peace and love,