One of the biggest challenges we can face in our lives is to “be in the present moment.” At times, we can all struggle with dwelling in the past or projecting ourselves into the future.
However, with spiritual lessons from the Christian spiritual tradition, illuminated with insights from the human sciences, we can learn how to stay present to what God is revealing to us moment by moment. Spiritual Direction can become a key piece to learning how to do this.
Christ as our stability
As we walk through life, we go through ups and downs as a normal part of our human experience. We have periods of deep peace and strength and also times of worry and anxiety.
Learning to let go and live in the present, remembering that Christ is with us helps us to surrender ourselves to Him as the source of our stability.
Calling to mind the image of Christ walking on water, we are reminded that He is the place of utter stability, even in the midst of turbulent waters and His presence gives meaning to all things.
While we carry questions, anxieties, and uncertainties in our lives, this image communicates to us to let things be. Even if the sea is raging, we can encounter a pathway of growth, keeping our eyes fixed on Christ.
“Do not worry about tomorrow” (Mt. 6:34)
To grow in our capacity to entrust ourselves to the Lord, we must remember that our deepest and most profound security is in an Other.
Using the human sciences as an aid to our understanding, we can see the benefits of returning back to the present moment from a human and psychological perspective. From a spiritual and interpersonal perspective, it is the place where Christ always meets us: here and now, in our present reality, how we really are, not in an idealized version of self. We can trust that in this present moment there is something very safe and holy, because the Lord is there and calling us to Himself.
Research in trauma, anxiety, and Catholic mindfulness reveal that certain ways of directing our attention to our present here and now, aware of our own embodiedness, brings us back to the real. And it is in the concrete reality of our present moment that we can rest in Christ’s abiding presence. In some ways, this is what lies beneath “surrender”, living in the present moment, and spiritual childhood.
When we feel uncertainty, we can remember that we are also safe because the Lord is with us. It is not running away from difficulties that gives us peace but learning to enter into them with Christ that we find peace and inner freedom.
As Christ teaches us in the Gospel of Luke, if even the needs of the birds are taken care of, we can trust that the Father will care for our every need. It is in the realization that we do not need to be in control that we find peace. Our freedom consists of seeking the Kingdom of God.
Additionally, remembering that there is a givenness to our life and that God has already blessed us with so much – our very life and being – helps give us perspective and frees us from allowing things outside of our control to burden us.
There are practical ways we can cultivate this awareness of the present moment. We can ask ourselves: What do I look at and listen to? What do I think about? Do I sometimes lose sight of reality? Do I tend to absolutize my present situation?
Cultivating our memory of Christ’s presence can help us to abandon ourselves to Christ. Our Lord has walked on the water, he has been in Gethsemane. The history of the saints and our own history with the Lord helps us remember that if He was with us then, he is with us now.
We are not alone, and there is One who can work all things for the good.
Another practical way to help us on this journey to living the present moment is to ask ourselves what our “hot buttons” are. What are things that take us away from the present moment? With time, we can learn to recognize them and manage them.
The role of spiritual direction
Finally, spiritual direction can have an important role in helping us discover the voice of the Good Shepherd in our present moment, even when we are in the dark valley.
Spiritual direction helps us to go into our fears, hopes, desires, and anxieties in a safe environment and place them on holy ground where we can be accompanied. Sometimes it’s hard for us to enter into our own heart and a spiritual director can walk with us in that process.
Additionally, spiritual direction helps us to ask ourselves what the Lord is doing in the here and now of our lives, fostering trust in His plan and allowing us to unite ourselves to the suffering Christ.
If you are interested in accompanying others as they walk with the Lord, learn more about the Spiritual Direction Certification Program at Divine Mercy University.