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This Magic Moment
by Michael Maciel

We decry the physical senses for the way they limit our consciousness, and we extol the present moment for the heightened awareness it brings, but sometimes we mistakenly blend the two together when we attempt to define the now. "Being here now" somehow winds up being wherever and whenever we are physically. This, to me, is a contradiction.

Know, O Israel, that the Lord our 
God is One

There is no doubt that right mindfullness practiced throughout the day is more spiritual than wishing we were someplace else doing something different. But this, while immanently practical in a spiritual sense, is nonetheless limited to this here and now, the physical, and not the universal Presence. I'm not saying that the universal Presence cannot be experienced within the circle of everyday life, because the physical is part of the universal, so we can't leave it out of the Whole. But if we cling to it, or pretend that it is where we have to be, then we miss out on the wider range of our soul's capabilities. If there are other planes of existence, other worlds that can be visited in the spirit, then we won't know it, because we believe that this world is the only legitimate field of action. Real spiritual adeptship recognizes that to be "at play in the fields of the Lord" means much more than dancing in a physical meadow out beyond the highway rest stop.

No body knows
We often hear that we are not our physical body, and sometimes we actually know it. We might even have an understanding that we are not our mind either, but when it comes to practicing being in the present moment, we tend to focus our attention in those two places. It can be a difficult distinction to make, but we need to be able to tell the difference between consciousness and Being.

Consciousness is a much-overrated word in the spiritual literature, and in our understanding of reality. It is like a mirror - in order to be conscious, we have to be conscious of something, and this immediately separates us from it. We have to stand back from the thing we are being conscious of in order to "see" it. True spiritual perception, also known as direct knowing, happens when we become one with the object of our awareness. We accomplish this by becoming that which we are seeking, not by "going" after it. It is to realize that we are already in possession of it and that we need only to become that. Jesus understood this completely when he said, "Believe that you have, and you will have."

Spiritual exercises
Training our awareness is not much different than training our body for a sport or for dancing. An integral part of any training program are the exercises we do to strengthen our muscles and endurance. These exercises may not have anything to do with the activity we are training for, but without them, we will not be able to perform at our best. There are spiritual exercises that can prepare us for a variety of activities outside of the physical range that seem similarly irrelevant. These are the exercises of concentration, meditation, and contemplation. Simplest among these, and perhaps the quickest way to short circuit the mind's obsession with the physical senses, is to turn one's awareness back upon itself. This is not easy, but it can be perfected with practice. The easiest way to approach this is to become aware of the energy in the spine.

But before giving you the exercise, let me preface it with this: Satguru Subramuniyaswami, former guru of the Himalayan Academy in Hawaii and Ceylon, made the stunningly obvious observation that energy, will, and awareness are all one and the same thing. This makes immanent sense and shows us how the universe with its unceasing activities is entirely orchestrated by the universal Will to Be. It explains in more rational terms the vague, theological notions of omnipresence and omnipotence: energy is aware, and it wills itself into manifestation. There is an 'upward' force in the universe. Science calls it evolution; religion calls it grace. Whatever you call it, matter has within itself an unstoppable drive toward greater and greater levels of organization and complexity. It wants to know itself, to explore the full range of its possibilty, and to wholly integrate the dynamic polarity of its being.

The Light
Now the exercise: as you sit upright, pretend that there is a fluorescent light bulb running the length of your spine an inch or so away from your skin. There is nothing to "do" - just be aware of it. As much as possible, suspend any desire to accomplish anything with it. This is where "desirelessness" comes into play. Just allow your awareness to be filled with the light of your spine. Don't try to focus the light in any one area, or try to change its color. See it as a neutral white radiation extending the full length of your spine. The trick is to merge your awareness with this light, but not as though you have to "do" it. In reality, your awareness, you, and the light are all the same "thing".

This begs the question, "what does light look like to itself?" The ancient mystics spoke of this as the Radiant Darkness, the Ain Soph Aur ( no-limit light) of the Cabala, and the Unknowable. This word unknowable does not mean that we can't experience it, however. This is the great secret that scholars and intellectuals cannot comprehend. To understand something, we have to hold it at arm's length; to become it, or rather to realize our oneness with it, is a different matter altogether. It cannot be done by trying or by reaching, but only through letting go in perfect peace to the column of light running up your back.

There is such a thing as "true vertical". Carl Jung spoke of it in his book Aion. C.S. Lewis also described it in his science fiction trilogy: while out in space, he observed a beam of light that was almost, but not quite, straight up and down. axis mundi The longer he looked at it, however, the more he realized that it was he that was "off" and not it. Others have also observed this spiritual/cosmological phenomenon. It shows up popularly as the belief that heaven is "up there" somewhere.

Exercises such as this have a distinct impersonalness to them, so much so that they tend to leave the more devotional person out in the cold. The mystic wants to immerse him or herself in the Living Presence, not some beam of light. Part of the problem with this is that our current scientific worldview has corrupted our understanding of light, reducing it to a "thing", like electricity.

The ancients had no such problem. They understood that light, life, and love are the three primary aspects of the Godhead. They did not separate them except to work with the many harmonies inherent within them. This is why religious scholars think that the ancients worshipped the sun. It is nearly impossible for them to conceive of what was actually going on back then, given the effects that a limited understanding of science has had on their thinking.

The Sun/Son of God

All One
all-one). Jesus illustrated this on the cross when he said, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" To enter the purity of awareness without any thing to be aware of can be terrifying to the ego. Awareness aware of itself - there is nothing familiar or mundane about that. So while it might be difficult and strange, this exercise conditions us for higher (and deeper) forays into the world of Spirit. This is the "training" that will enable us to actually get close to God.

In summary, we have to get clear of the physical body, the "physical" mind, and all of its associations in order to practice true right-mindfullness. The mind has to stand down and allow the User of the mind to experience Itself directly. This is the rapture, the bliss, the high heaven. This is Oneness. When we return to our daily lives after having had this experience, the world becomes a beautiful place, and our natural response to it is love.