POST INQUIRY: SACRAMENT OF THE PRESENT MOMENT
I completed my contemplative inquiry after five years of focus on 25 October, and I have updated my ‘About’ statement for this blog to reflect that. As I say at the end, I will keep up this blog, under this name, for the time being. I will provide information about contemplative Druid developments, write book reviews, post poetry and share personal reflections. As far as any public spiritual stance is concerned, I identify myself as a loosely associated Druid who continues to learn from other traditions.
One thing I take away is that I don’t have to share a person’s cosmology and beliefs to learn from them. Right now, I am thinking of Martin Pegler’s book (1) on the modern Christian mystic Martin Israel. It was recommended to me by my Druid friend Rosa Davis and I realised that it helps me to articulate something important even though I do not share its faith framework.
Pegler and Israel both use the term ‘sacrament of the present moment’. This isn’t just about being awake and attentive. Talking about ‘contemplative prayer’, Pegler says: “Reality need not be attained since it is an already accomplished fact, but it still needs to be recognised and then made our own if it is to mean anything. With an open mind and heart, it is best to forget everything we have learned and begin again just where we are … we wait patiently in the stillness of attentive trust for Truth to reveal itself”.
Pegler is a former follower of Ramana Maharsi who came back to the Anglican Church, so he is speaking of a Divine Truth. But his approach does not require this understanding to make sense. “Making a solemn pledge to honour everything in our experience is enough to allow the waters of Life to flow unencumbered … To know the true self … requires a radical acceptance of ourselves as we really are, of our whole personality in fact. As the outer layers are recognised and put in proper perspective, so the core or centre of the psyche is revealed. How radiant and warm it is but how few of us know it! We are deterred from this knowledge by the surrounding layers of cold and darkness. Many people strive for this central place of warmth, of which they are intuitively aware and may even have touched momentarily during meditation or during some great aesthetic experience. But few will attain comfort until they have made the surrounding darkness their own possession also.”
I find these reflections helpful. Treating present moment awareness as a sacrament, rather than an attainment or skill is helpful. Allowing the ‘moment’ to be reflective – to have depth and interiority – is helpful. Recognizing ‘light’ and ‘dark’ alike is helpful: nothing gets airbrushed out. The sacrament of the present moment is a full recognition of who I am and the context in which I find myself.
This radical acceptance paradoxically opens space for change. I find limited value in approaches that say, ‘don’t be like that. Be like this instead’. But the sacrament of the present moment is different. I think I’ve been celebrating it for a long time without naming it. Each experience is what it is, and remains sacramental in despair and joy alike. Cumulatively I have been finding it naturally easier to access a felt sense of inner freedom and peace. I recognize this heart space, or heart-wisdom space, as my true home. This place, or state, is also the centre from which I operate best in the wider world. It is my reason for maintaining a personal contemplative practice.
- Philip Pegler Meeting evil with mercy: an Anglican priest’s bold answer to atrocity Winchester & Washington: Christian Alternative, 2016 (Reflections on the Ministry of Martin Israel)