Take it or leave it.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Recently I enjoyed reading Vernon Howard's classic on mysticism, The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power (catchy title, ain't it?) and in it I found a lot I could relate to. Howard explains how we humans love to alternate between excitement and boredom, never content with the space in between, a space which can really be quite tranquil if you let yourself relax into it. He advised sitting still all day with nothing to do and feeling totally content with it. He even suggested I not plan tomorrow's day and just let it come, going with the flow as it were. Well . . . OK!

Most people with traditional jobs that involve deadlines and schedules would find this advice ludicrous, but I don't know that they'd be right, and besides, I'm not that person. I once was, back when I taught high school and then when I practiced medicine, and had I not planned my lessons and strategized which patients to see next I may not have been prepared to thoroughly do my job. But even writing a lesson plan you'll give in the future is an action you devote yourself to in the present. Anyway, now I can set my own schedule, or following Howard's advice, simply let it set itself.

And then I read William James' Varieties of Religious Experience, which I highly recommend for anyone seeking to gain exposure to mystic and religious thought spanning centuries and continents. In this rather lengthy tome I came across the "trust the moment" concept again.

James writes of the transition from "tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace . . . (that) so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down. This abandonment of self-responsibility seems to be the fundamental act in . . . religious practice. It antedates theologies and is independent of philosophies. (Those) who
have it strongly live in what is called 'recollection,' and are never anxious about the future, nor worry over the outcome of the day."

James goes on to tell of Saint Catharine of Genoa, who "took cognizance of things, only as they were presented to her in succession, moment by moment."

The moment, the present moment, is really all that we have. The moment is one's ticket to eternity. And when the duty that the moment involves is accomplished, it passes away "as if it had never been," giving way to "the facts and duties of the moment which come after."

Hinduism and Christian mysticism place great emphasis upon this concentration of the consciousness upon the moment at hand. Now I do too, and I suggest you give it a try as well.

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