The French novelist, George Baranos, described sin as the patterned way of being in which we remain on the surface of life. Living on the surface is a great waste of life. Something in us remains asleep when we prefer fast food to a gourmet meal or when boredom fuels an addiction to stimulation. These are signs that we are living on the circumference and far from the center. Moving to the center is a journey of awakening. The route to that awakening is presence.
Presence is not something we do. It is not something we can turn on or off like a tap. Presence is being. The journey to our center is a return to the purity of simple being. The more we are aligned with the truth of our being, the more we live from our center and live with luminous presence. The more distant we are from the truth of our being the more our presence is clouded.
To live on the surface of things is to be a spectator to our lives rather than fully inhabiting them. It is living in the darkness of Plato’s cave and failing to realize that what we see are simply shadows, not the reality beyond them. It is confusing the superficiality of appearances with the reality they attempt to mimic. It is to be a character within our own dream and not even realize that we are asleep.
Presence is awakening from the dream and emerging from the cave. It is feeling for the first time the sharpness of grass on our bare feet. It is hearing for the first time harmony rather than discordance. It is sensing resonance, knowing alignment, and living depth.
Richard Rohr points out that everything is profane if we live on the surface of it, and everything is sacred if we go into its depths. To stay on the surface of even good things is profanity. Living by what others say rather than discovering inner truths for ourselves is way in which spirituality easily becomes profane. It is living on the circumfrence of ideas, thoughts and information rather than from the center of personal experience. Reading about presence – as you are now – is not the same as practicing presence. It can help you move out of the cave but as easily it can simply be just another shadow on the wall.
Life lived from our center is sacred because being itself – human being certainly included – is sacred. Life lived from the center is life lived in alignment with the Ground of Being. Our center never ceases to be present to us. It is us who fail to be present to it. But until we are, we can never be present to anything or anyone – including the Presence we mediate when we live from our our center.