Spirituality for Difficult Times Part 1 of 5

 The Practice of the Presence of God

By Harriet, Editor At Large

I wrote the following as part of a personal email to Bev about one of my weeks. “Anyway this week it has been about becoming more aware, more at peace. Seeing I couldn’t do much because I wasn’t well I just spent time being. Its about the practice of the presence of God. And it is good. Though I’m not very good at the practice as I haven’t been giving it as much practice these last 15 years as I did for the years before that.

Along the way I’ve become aware that I’ve not been respectful enough of my emotional life and I let myself by controlled, confined and defined by others. So awareness first when it becomes specific. Then I can work at improving my emotional spirit.”

Her response to me was: “I would absolutely love it if you would do a post expanding on this!”

So I’ll try… This first article will be about what I actually did in this last week. I’ll try and tease a little more out in future articles.

I got the the idea of the Practice of the Presence of God from a book written somewhere about the 12th century by Brother Lawrence, a lay monk who worked in the kitchens of a monastery. He was always busy so made every waking moment a prayer to God. He literally made every moment a moment to be with God despite his busyness.

In contrast while I was ill I had nothing I could do so I dedicated every moment to God. Basically in those moments when I was well enough I would get up and do what I could, such as take the dog for a walk, cooking meals, cleaning up after meals, shopping and do the washing and ironing. Usually these were done in short spurts as I had little energy. When I wasn’t well enough to be working at these mundane tasks I accepted that and allowed myself just to be aware of God. I was all wrapped up in blankets (saving money on heating) and sat being aware of my body in the here and now. I breathed in and out, focussing on the holy spirit as the breath of God. When I was aware of my mind thinking of something else I would just observe the thoughts and any feelings, accepting them, then would bring my mind back to the presence of God.

Any time I thought I should be doing something else I would ask myself if I was well enough to get up and do it? If I was then I would do it. If not then I just accepted it. I was unwell and the best thing to “do” was to be aware of my God. It was not time to read or to pray or anything else such as craft. It was just me and God. It was complete acceptance of being in the now with God.

With that came a serenity, a calmness, a feeling of being OK, of love and acceptance. It is good.

The more I spend time in the now with God the more I became aware of my emotional life and how my unconscious mind affected me. I became more aware of my feelings. Some of these feelings I had previously been rejecting as unworthy, or not right because of what I had to do at the time. But feelings are just feelings. Ignoring them means to be ignoring part of myself and my values. I only had negative feelings when some value or other was being challenged. It might be that a value of respecting and being respected was challenged when someone was rude to me or another. Or I saw terrible waste of resources when things were being thrown out that could be well used by others. These feelings were very valid and were important. I had been ignoring them when I needed to honour them. It was not right when a doctor expressed dumb insolence to my grand child. It is not right when someone was rude to a bus driver who was just trying to get them from point A to point B. But then again it wasn’t useful to me, to my sense of personal serenity for either of these negative feelings to be continuously fed by my repetitive re-thinking of the events. It was time to let go of them.

I find it harder to do the living in the moment stuff when I’m working, as Brother Lawrence did it, though there was a period of my life when I practiced it almost continuously. It is so easy to lose the idea in the busyness of life.

My examples are all very well for when all is more or less OK, but what if things are really terrible? More later…

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