Dear Friends of the Omega Center,
Several weeks ago, right before our June ZOOM conference, I had a bike accident. The night of the accident (as I foolishly tried to ride my bike at night after a lovely evening with friends) I wound up in the ER with twelve stitches in my chin. Because of the upcoming ZOOM conference, I was not aware that I suffered a concussion. However, following the ZOOM conference I started experiencing dizziness, light-headedness and disorientation—all symptoms of a full-blown concussion. I landed in the ER two more times in early July and was told that I had multiple concussion syndrome (due to previous head injuries in the last five years.) I had to cease all writing and computer work, as well as driving and alcohol (ugh!) As I watched everyone leave for vacation, I awoke each day praying for healing, knowing that the remainder of my summer would be quite different than what I had planned. My mother used to say: “God never closes one door without opening another.”
What doors can open in a state of concussion? The doors of patience, mindfulness, gratitude and living the momentary events of our lives as blessed events. Academia is like an athletic contest, a fast-paced cognitive sprint marked by endless demands for articles, books, talks and intellectual performance. I must say, the night of the accident, my head was full of thoughts, ideas and emotions, as if trying to solve the world’s problems entwined with the complexities of my own life. As I started experiencing the effects of the concussion, I began to realize the preciousness of life’s moments and the great insight of living in the now, for the present moment is really all we have.
What did I learn from this accident? That every moment is a blessed event, a God-event, something Saint Paul realized in his own way, after falling off his horse. By saying this, I do not mean that God is watching over us in every event; rather every event has an ultimate horizon, an absolute center of infinite possibilities held open for a particular response in this particular moment. The ultimate horizon of each life-event is God. There is no other God than the God of the eternal now. God is not simply the ultimate horizon of life; God is the ultimacy of life in this moment. How I live in this moment, therefore, makes a difference to my eternal existence, to the final definition of my life, and what my life means for the world, since the final decision of my life—in this moment–is my irreversible contribution to the world.
I think we all, at some point or another, have related to God as an object of prayer or devotion or maybe simply a topic of discussion but seldom do we think of God as the event horizon of each moment of life. God is not an object and we are the subjects; God is the absolute horizon of subjectivity itself. In my disoriented consciousness, I became more conscious that God is the absolute future of my life in this moment; my life and God’s life are unified in a single flow of life. In this moment, therefore, I must decide who or what I exist for. Am I with God or not? Am I mindful of God or forgetful of God, wrapped up in my self? We seldom realize that a God-consciousness of the present moment (or lack of) determines the future of our lives.
We often take for granted the moments of our lives in the same way we take for granted the air we breathe and the light of day. The truth is, however, every moment of life is gift and in every moment we must decide for life or against life: we must make a choice. Without a conscious awareness of each moment as a blessed event, we could easily squander the precious gift of life. For each event is final and irreversible: we cannot go back and change the events of time. In a single moment our lives can change irreversibly; the finality of each event determines our future. In a single moment, the entire world can change. One has only to recall the event of 9/11 or, more recently, the outbreak of COVID-19.
Life is a series of momentary God-events. In each moment God is creating, waiting, responding, loving and caring for us– not as a big Being over us but as the ultimate, eternal, divine horizon of our unique, personal existence. With God as the root reality of our lives, we cannot afford to live recklessly or mindlessly, as if life is here to serve our needs. We cannot self-indulge, over-medicate, intoxicate or satiate our endless desires and expect the world to serve our whims: the unexamined life is not worth living. The world can only flourish if we flourish as authentic beings. To grow into my authentic self is to grow into God, which requires a vigilant mindfulness of each moment I engage life. Thomas Merton (following Augustine) said it so well: to find God is to find myself, and to find myself is to find God, for God is more interior to me than I am to myself.
Spending these days reflecting on our national and global crises, I cannot help but think that we are on a path accelerating downward. The frenetic pace of modern life with its blind competitive streak, aimed at achievement, success, money and power is a mindless existence, a society running toward the cliff of emotional and psychological burnout. Global warming burnout is a consequence of this cliff-hanging existence; so too is COVID-19. We are an overdrive, out-of-control culture, where even going on vacation can be another form of stress, as we make every effort to relax. The number of COVID-related deaths is indicative of our overdrive culture; the insistence on having fun at the expense of dying from a deadly pathogen is alarming. We live as if the world owes us a good life, when in fact the world owes us nothing but the consequences of our actions.
Pondering the potency of life’s moments, I realize the need to live mindfully, awakening to each conscious moment as a new moment of light and the immediate experience of existence itself. We must learn new ways of “minding the mind,” as the Buddha realized. To practice mindfulness is to focus each breath of conscious awareness on the root reality of existence itself: the root of my life is God’s life and the root of God’s life is my life. Centering prayer means living from a deeper center of this divine presence, co-creating with God the moments of my final existence-for each moment is, potentially, my final existence. We tend to live as if the future is forever and the best of life is yet to come. Mindful living means to live backwards, as if this moment could be my last and final moment. In this moment is the potential for my eternal happiness or endless sorrow: the choice is mine.
To live in the God-moments of life, minding the mind, is to realize all we desire is here–in this moment–our happiness, peace and joy. Vacation may be a change of scenery but more so it is a change of mind (from the Latin vacare, “to empty out”). If we can learn to sit still and turn our minds to the immediate horizon of our lives, realizing that in each moment time and eternity are entangled, perhaps we can live in gratitude for the moments that shape our lives. To live mindful of eternity is to make the best use of time. My prayer for each of you is to live each moment mind-fully, as the final moment of life, by rooting your lives in the breath of eternal love.
Please continue to pray for my healing, and let us pray together, united in the energies of love, that we cherish the moments of our lives.