The Difficulty of Being Here
The difficulty of being ‘here’ is that it can, and usually does, seem the most uncomfortable place in the universe. We would rather be somewhere else than here; in some other time than now. By ‘here’ I mean the place in which you find yourself at this moment. The comfort we yearn for always seems to be over the hill and far away, somewhere else.
‘Here’ is where the dark demons of our selves are found. But ‘here’ is also precisely where God can be found. It is difficult to be here, in the moment, because here is where we discover that our worldly selves have no substance. And that is difficult to experience and comprehend.
There are people who understand where ‘here’ is, and how focusing our attention is the route to it. They have mastered the tendency that overwhelms most of us: that of running away, and keeping ourselves distracted from the present moment. They have mastered their emotions, their minds. They are here, now. Completely. Such adepts are masters, realized souls.
The hunger before the feast
The difficulty of being here is not to be dreaded, though; it is to be relished. It is our recognition of the absence of love; and knowing this absence is the beginning of knowing its presence. We cannot know that the core of us is love without knowing the long, dark night of the soul. We cannot appreciate the feast without first knowing hunger.
To be here in this moment, and to know it to be the safest and most comforting place in the universe, we must find someone who is here, now, who lives in the present, to teach us how to overcome our terrors and temptations. He can show us how to rescue the damsel of our souls by slaying the dragon of our rampant outward tendencies.
How is such a being to be found? How can we be sure he is real? We must keep on doing what we were doing when we first asked the question: searching and searching. The first step is grasping the possibility that there is such a being alive in the world today, a human being with both the complete authority and the complete humility that come from self-knowledge.
Finding an exemplar
This same exemplar can absorb all our misery in his love, all our fear in his certainty. He encourages us to make such certainty real right here in the middle of our lives. He is a mystic, one who practises the ‘mysteries’ of knowing God. He tells us we can do it too, right now.
Then comes the creeping understanding that your life has a purpose which has nothing to do with worldly success, worldly relationships, or any other kind of worldly fulfilment. Such goals crumble – they no longer satisfy us. You can’t take them with you when you go. But once we begin to grasp that the secret power of life is inside each one of us and can be known in this lifetime, then we start to use words like ‘life’ and ‘purpose’ in a new way.
The next step is to put our new use of these words into action, to graduate from being theoretical philosophers (from the ancient Greek: lovers of wisdom) to being practical mystics. We might coin a word for ourselves: “mysticonauts”, for those who travel the mysteries, the inner space – as opposed to astronauts or cosmonauts who travel to the outer reaches of physical space. To enter inner space we have to get a pilot’s licence, which means being instructed in the fundamental mysteries of consciousness. We can then learn how to be connected with the very stuff of life, which is called Shabd in India and Logos in ancient Greek.
Going back to the beginning: we are absent, we are not here, because we have forgotten who we are. We think our totality is ‘out there’ in the nitty gritty of life, the soap opera of our gritty lives. We imagine we will be happy when we get those lives right. We imagine successful people are those whose soap operas dazzle with the trophies of their successful selves: wealth, power and relationships. We too want those trophies, but when we don’t attain them we feel more trapped than ever.
Meanwhile death hovers, ever present in our vacant lives, making a complete nonsense of all our worldly aspirations. When we enter the last few hours of our lives, we are not going to be worrying whether we spent enough hours in the office, earned enough money, or got enough respect for our talents. What we might regret is that we haven’t learned to do something very simple and utterly essential: to focus our consciousness to remove ourselves from elsewhere, from yesterday and tomorrow, to bring us into the shimmering present, here and now.
We forget who we are because we keep imagining we are human beings, replete with histories and personalities, looking for a spiritual experience to lift us out of the trap. In fact, we are spiritual beings who have forgotten who we are. Those fully realized beings, masters, are here now in order to show us the way to here and now – to help us remember who we are and why we are here. What matters is that we know a master, a bringer of light. What matters is that we ask him for our mysticonaut’s licence through initiation, enabling us to start the mystic journey (or is it ‘complete the journey’?).
This is the journey to the heart of our being. The trek to here. It starts outside and ends when we are dead to the world and fully alive to the sound that resounds inside. The vehicle in which we make the journey is our attention. The way we get into the ship of attention is two-fold: simran (practising remembering where we are going through the power of language); and dhyan (practising seeing where we are going through the power of inner sight).
Once we are in the ship of attention, we are not elsewhere or else- when; we are here and now. The vagaries of the world cannot touch us, because we are not in it to be touched; we are on our way home.
Here is the pivot between outside and inside. You have to go through here to get from outside to inside. When you are inside you can become a master. Baba Ji has described Sant Mat as the path upon which we can become masters. To go home is to master the mind, the outward tendencies.
The difficulty of being here, in the centre, is ultimately the difficulty the soul experiences being in the world, being trapped in an illusion. It does not want to be in this time and space, however tempting the exigencies of the physical world. But we have to start from where we are; here is the only entrance into the reality of the Shabd. We must penetrate the difficulty of being here if we are to discover it is bliss.
Seeking life without the Friend’s presence,
you didn’t spend a moment waiting at love’s door.
My God! Sit down and mourn your loss!
That time is gone when you could have been living.
Fakhr al-Din Iraqi in David & Sabrineh Fideler, Love’s Alchemy