“OUR discovery of God is, in a way, God’s discovery of us.” (Thomas Merton)
The contemplatives and the mystics (which are really the same thing) talk about “living in the present moment.” Actually there are many traditions that have discovered the divine power of living in the present moment. This can be a difficult concept to really grasp so I wanted to share a picture. Let’s call it “The Lego Moment.”
When you were young, you probably played with toys. I had my G.I. Joe and my Hot Wheels. I loved to play pretend in the backyard. I would carve out roads in the grass (not sure if my Dad liked that) and create cities and highways for my Hot Wheels. I could go hours with G.I. Joe in a story that was better than any action packed cinematic extravaganza. Yeah, we have all done that, right?
Remember Lincoln Logs? How about Tinker Toys? If you are old enough to read this post then you know about Legos. I love those kinds of toys. You get out the box of Legos and sit on your bedroom floor and prepare for the greatest adventure ever. You pour out the Legos and sort them out (if you are a little OCD like me) and begin to create. You are preparing to enter the present moment.
In most traditions meditation is a fundamental discipline. Meditation is a tool to find ourselves in the present moment. The mystics, like Merton in the opening quote, would say that we find God when we find our innermost self. Or when we find God we find our innermost self. Since we are the divine manifestation on the earth, then the center of us, our true self, is of the divine. I’ll go so far as to say that we are God (in a very tiny form) waking up from a dream in which we forgot who we were (Allan Watts) and this life is the awakening from that dream. As we come to know our true self and get rid of the false self and find healing for the broken self…lots of selfs…we are whole. Jesus would say we are saved. When we look within we find Heaven in us as our innermost being. Jesus said that too.
In meditation we come to rest and find peace and listen to our innermost self. The contemplatives would say that then we pass through our “knowing self” into a deeper and more mysterious cloud of unknowing. OK, that sounds pretty heady, but really God is bigger than we can know. Like an infinite ocean, we are a wave that is trying to discover the nature of the ocean but the ocean is too big. So we enter into the realm of God where we just can’t intellectually grasp what we can’t intellectually comprehend. Too much?
Back to Legos….
When we begin with the Legos, we are stepping into meditation. At first the Legos are toys. Very soon the Legos are a backdrop for a grand adventure. At some point (as a kid) we pass from observer to creator to being part of the story. We are consumed by the moment. We have passed into the moment. We aren’t watching, we are participating. This is mediation in an active form and brings us to contemplation.
OK, this is where Merton cautions trying to teach contemplation, so I’ll leave it to the experts, but we reach a point where our active meditation comes to an end and we move into a passive contemplation. The story takes over and brings us beyond the story into the realm that precedes the story. Again, pretty heady stuff but we “get lost” in the moment.
Why do we care about any of this? It is everything. That is a pretty strong statement, but when we live in the present moment and are participating in the present moment and are completely immersed in the present moment, we transcend past and future for eternity. Wow, I am being pretty deep today but hold on for a moment (ha ha). When we can rest in this moment and enjoy this moment, we are free of the past and the future. The past is just memories that bring us to this moment. When we live in the past, especially in judgment and guilt, we are missing this moment where we are presently. When we live in the future, especially when we are living in fear, we are missing this moment where we have life right now. It isn’t that complicated, really.
When you were lost in your Legos, were you afraid or guilty or worried or angry or sad or depressed or ashamed or any of that? Of course not. You were grounded and routed in the present moment. Now you are older and maybe Legos aren’t your thing, but you can meditate and find peace in the present moment. As you do this you will find eternity opening up within you. You will find yourself and in finding yourself you are finding God. There is nothing to fear. Jesus even said that “the Spirit” will reveal to us that He is in God and He is in us and we are in Him. That is a definitive way of saying we are one with God or God is the center of us.
Here is the rest of the Merton quote from Seeds. I encourage you to find the present moment and live there. Pass through the door and see eternity looking back. Let yourself find yourself so you can experience the Heaven on Earth we have already. Let yourself be touched by the infinite “I am” and experience His essence which is Love. In this place you become the Love that you already are and bring that Love to others.
“We cannot go to heaven to find Him because we have no way of knowing where heaven is or what it is. He comes down from heaven and finds us. He looks at us from the depths of His own infinite actuality, which is everywhere, and His seeing us gives us a new being and a new mind in which we also discover Him. We only know Him in so far as we are known by Him, and our contemplation of Him is a participation in His contemplation of Himself. We become contemplatives when God discovers Himself in us. At that moment the point of our contact with Him opens out and we pass through the center of our own nothingness and enter into infinite reality, where we awaken as our true self. It is true that God knows Himself in all the things that exist. He sees them, and it is because He sees them that they exist. It is because He loves them that they are good. His love in them is their intrinsic goodness. The value He sees in them is their value. In so far as He sees and loves them, all things reflect Him. But although God is present in all things by His knowledge and His love and His power and His care of them, He is not necessarily realized and known by them. He is only known and loved by those to whom He has freely given a share in His own knowledge and love of Himself. In order to know and love God as He is, we must have God dwelling in us in a new way, not only in His creative power but in His mercy, not only in His greatness but in His littleness, by which He empties Himself and comes down to us to be empty in our emptiness, and so fill us in His fullness. God bridges the infinite distances between Himself and the spirits created to love Him, by supernatural missions of His own life. The Father, dwelling in the depths of all things and in my own depths, communicates to me His Word and His Spirit. Receiving them I am drawn into His own life and know God in His own Love, being one with Him in His own Son. My discovery of my identity begins and is perfected in these missions, because it is in them that God Himself, bearing in Himself the secret of who I am, begins to live in me not only as my Creator but as my other and true self. Vivo, iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus (“ I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me”).” Merton, Thomas (2007-11-27). New Seeds of Contemplation (pp. 39-41). New Directions. Kindle Edition.
Lego Moments, you have to love them.