"Eternal Life:" Session No. 12 -- readings from chapter 12, "Living at the Edge"

Opening words:

More and more I find that dwelling in the present moment, in the face of everything that would call us out of it, is our highest spiritual discipline.  More boldly, I would say that our very presentness is our salvation; the present moment, entered into fully, is our gateway to eternal life.

Now, when I say this, you could accuse me of being a mystic.  And I am, but of a very ordinary kind.  I donít doubt that some people throughout history, and some living today, have heard voices and seen visions.  But my mysticism does not involve access to other realms, only the deeper experience of this one.  Mine is the mysticism of everyday life, of the heaped laundry and the bruised toe, of overcooked broccoli and leaves spangled with dew, of sunrise and sorrow, laughter and linguine, music and mold.  This everyday mysticism requires no special powers, only imagination, a doting and practiced attention to the ordinary, a willingness to be surprised by grace.

Preparation (distribute pencils and paper or note cards):

1. When are you able to keep your attention fully in the present moment?  What allows you to do this?  How does it feel?

2.  When your attention isn't in the present moment, where is it?  Why?  How does this feel?

Discussion:

1. Discuss your answers to the questions above.

2. When you were a child, what did the phrase "eternal life" mean to you?  What does it mean to you now?

3.  Recall and describe a "timeless" moment from your life, a moment where "time stood still" or where you felt as though you were living in eternity. 

4.  What in your life is changing and transitory?

5.  What in your life -- or in your world, or in the universe -- do you consider to be eternal and unchanging?

6.  When do you feel yourself most fully connected to that which is eternal and unchanging?

Closing words:

Dwelling in the moment, on our breath, on the works of our hands immediately before us, weíre drawn into lifeís luminousness, into the mystery at the heart of ordinary things.  Dwelling in the present, at least at first, involves forgetting past and future, stopping the mindís whirlwind of memory and expectation, giving ourselves a blessed hourís calm as we meditate, bake bread, walk through the forest, or play games with a child.  But with further practice we may find past and future returning to our awareness, only now without bringing anxiety or distraction along with them.  Instead, we become aware of living in eternity, knowing that this moment has found its proper place in the stream of all time.  When we feel this way, the present moment enlarges, draws past and future into it, until we are dwelling not just in the moment but within the whole of life.