Becoming present is central to the practice of meditation. Being present is to let go of the past and future to dwell in the eternal now — the only moment that truly exists.
The sages tell us it’s in the present moment that we are to find God. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “We are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.” What is this “knowing” Yogananda speaks of? How can we know now that we are one with God?
Imagine that you are walking down the street carrying a laundry basket full of dirty clothes on your way to the laundromat. Your plan is to get to the laundromat as quickly as possible but, as you approach, something catches your eye across the street. It is an aura of light. A brilliant glow surrounds a beautiful presence. A thrill rushes through your whole being as you realize it is the Divine Mother Herself, smiling at you in loving welcome! She beckons you to cross the street.
Just before you rush across the street, you look down at the basket of laundry in your arms. What do you do? Should you carry the laundry across the street and carefully give her a sideways one-armed hug while holding onto the basket? OR, do you cast the laundry aside and race across the street with open arms to embrace Her?
The laundry basket is essentially full of the karma you still need to work out. It contains the worn and stained clothing of your worries, longings, regrets, fears, and attachments. It holds your past — both the good and the bad — as well as your future: your hopes, desires, and all of your plans. Your life, your story, and journey thus far — all of this is in the basket.
The Divine embrace is a primary objective of meditation practice. The time we give to meditation is the time we set aside to attend entirely to God. Do we release the past and future when we enter the meditation room? Do we cast aside our story and rest in the consciousness of who we truly are — children of God? If so, we are destined to find, sooner than later, the divine presents that God has always held out to us.
“Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”
This is probably difficult for most of us. How many of us can live fully in the now, giving our full focus and attention to God? It’s challenging even after receiving the most effective tools, tried and proven by the Great Masters themselves. Even if we have the incentive to practice and the will to be consistent, it is ultimately through receptivity and to the grace of God that we succeed.
That grace is accessible now, not waiting in an imagined future nor lost in a cloudy past of our habitual wanderings. The great guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, advises us, “Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”
“Making a spiritual effort now” means being here in this moment — 100% with God, reverently attentive to His presence within and all around us. It means loving Him now, in the very circumstances we find ourselves today, joyfully serving Him in every person, working hard to build His work on earth, while knowing it’s His energy alone that vitalizes and flows through us.
“Making a spiritual effort now” means giving to meditation what we can of our time and efforts. The techniques — when practiced in the right spirit of devotion and self-offering — bring us to a point of stillness, where we can know that ALL is God. He’s here in this moment. He is here as this moment! As you!
There is an animated movie, Kung–Fu Panda, in which the guru-disciple relationship is interestingly depicted. The guru is an old turtle named Master Oogway. The disciple is a panda known as Po.
The guru has told Po that he is the Chosen One, the prophesied Dragon Warrior, whose destiny is to defeat the demon of darkness who is terrorizing the land. Po is only a pudgy, untrained, teenage panda who loves Kung-Fu. He, therefore, has much anxiety about the task ahead of him.
The guru, at a pivotal turning point in the story, can see that Po is deeply worried. The panda is beginning to think that maybe his master has lost his mind in sending him into this hopeless battle with the demon. At this point, Master Oogway says something that brings Po into a calm, zen-like state:
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That is why it is called the Present!” Shortly after sharing his counsel, the guru passes on to oneness with the cosmos, disappearing ceremoniously on a cliffside into a gust of wind-blown leaves.
Ultimately, through attunement and faith in his guru, the panda defeats the powerful demon and frees the land of his evil rule. His victory is guaranteed once he learns to dwell completely in the moment and feel the flow of Spirit at his own calm center — THE PRESENT! Realizing that fear, anxiety, and self-doubt had only blocked this flow, Po begins to offer himself fearlessly into the power of Spirit.
For each one of us as well, the guarantee of our ultimate spiritual victory lies in fearless self-offering into the Spirit. If we want to receive the presents of God, we must realize that they are available to us now — in this very moment, beyond the distractions of the egoic mind. When with determination and perseverance we cast aside our worries and doubts and affirm the truth of who we really are, we begin to feel and receive His presence… God’s presents!
The eight aspects of God spoken of in the scriptures are Joy, Wisdom, Light, Love, Calmness, Peace, Power, and Sound (AUM). These are the qualities that come to us and through us when we place ourselves, with attentive faith, into His presence. The saints tell us that we are made of His Love — that when we act with love we open ourselves to the Infinite Presence and He will then be able to guide us to a life of fulfillment and freedom.
The great saint Anandamoyi Ma gave a short discourse to a group of her ashram disciples, explaining, “God’s absence too, is just another one of His manifestations.” Do not let His manifestation as absence fool you! Give Him love all the same and He cannot remain absent much longer. Much like the beautiful chant written by Paramhansa Yogananda:
Mother, I give you my soul call.
Give my Mother a soul call,
She can’t remain hidden anymore.
Come out of the silent sky, come out of the mountain glen,
Come out of my secret soul, Mother!
Come out of my cave of silence!
(See this chant, “I Give You My Soul Call,” performed by the Gurubhakti Bros)
The next time you sit to meditate, remember that Divine Mother is with you and eager to receive your love, even if She at first appears to be absent.
Casting aside the soiled clothing of our histories and future mysteries, let us offer ourselves into Her sacred presence, which is the very source of our existence. When we learn to offer our love with full attention into God’s presence within, regardless of our karmic situation in this world, we are purified. Our vision becomes clearer and in time our love becomes like God’s love — unconditional.
Thus, we begin to discover the glorious present hidden within our being. We come to know the great secret: It is God alone in which we move, breathe, and have our very being! God’s present, the priceless gift of the universe to itself, is Sat Chit Ananda—Ever Existing, Ever Conscious, Ever New Bliss!
In His Joy,