It's often said that tension gets in the way of our inner work; that we're too tense.
Yet I want to work in the moment; and the tension that gets in the way so often seems to be not physical tension, but the past-tensing of inner work.
It goes like this: I'm talking about how we just had a sitting, and great things happened in it; or they didn’t.
Or I'm speaking about something that happened to me last week and how I experienced it (usually, it was some negative thing. I don't speak about the positive things in life because that's supposedly not how we “work.”)
Or I talk about how great the work we just did in our group was, if we sat quietly together.
Or I'm speaking about someone who is already dead who said such and such.
Or I am referring to what we just read, or what I read last week, and so on. Whatever it is, it's in the past tense.
Does this sound familiar?
It strikes me how distinctly lacking an effort to work now is. That's the whole point of inner work, isn't it? Yet even when one calls people to work now, if they begin together, and there is such discussion... well, in three minutes, everyone is talking about things that happened long ago, or theories, or books that they read. There's an extraordinary inability to focus on the present moment and how I am now, and no one actually sees it, even though seeing myself now is rather essential to the process.
Everyone wants to have B-ing and C-ing without A-ing, which is this action of working in the moment. I can't be and I can't see if I don’t A— that is, have an attention in the moment. That attention, of course, has to be a different kind of attention, which is another subject. But the point is that it has to be there first. My intention needs to be focused on the present moment first, because right now, in this moment, is when I can work. If I past-tense the moment, I outsource the work efforts to other times (which don't actually ever exist except as concepts) and other places (which also don't exist relative to the fact that I am only ever in the place I am in now.)
This may sound like a philosophical proposition, but if I attend to myself intimately — and yes, this intimate attention is the type of “A" I recommend be exercised before I try to "B" or “C”— then something else happens.
Intimacy includes the breathing and sensation; yet it comes before them and consists of an action of attention that takes place on a very personal, sacred, and molecular scale within the action of my Being.
It's in this inmost depths of my Being where the sense of the soul resides; and if I don't see through this sense, I don't see.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.