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What Does It Mean To Be A Community of Presence?

Spiritually, presence can mean two radically different things. One the one hand, contemplatives talk of “being present.” Presence from this perspective is all about awareness and remembering to “live in the moment.” On the other hand, theologians tend to come at presence from the perspective of “otherness.” Their concern is not just that we pay attention to the present moment, but that we notice a transcendent Presence that is woven through all moments.

This month, we refuse to takes sides. Attentiveness or otherness? Who says we have to choose? Isn’t it true that, more often than not, they dance together more than they compete? Isn’t it true that when we are most present, a powerful presence emerges? Pay attention to your child and slowly a confidence and unique self unfolds. Pay attention to the flow of your breathing or the flow of the ocean and something bigger than yourself enters the scene. Look for a long time at a singular tree and eventually it presents itself to you as a world in and unto itself.

The underlying message here is that the world is full of unnoticed gifts and grace. It’s a message perfectly fit for this month that so often celebrates presents over presence. In the face of commercials and billboards that tell us our lives will finally be complete if we stuff them with a few more shiny objects or plastic gadgets, our spiritual traditions come along and remind us that our lives are already complete. Their message: The greatest gift of the holidays is noticing the many gifts that have been sitting there all along.

So how will you engage this dance? What powerful and meaningful presence is waiting for you to be present to it? What gift is waiting and wanting to emerge? What will your awareness bring into being this month?

The Presence of Trees

Slowly, I am remembering

the language of awe,

how to take in, say,

the living complexity of a tree

its gnarled trunk,

its ragged bark,

the way its leafy canopy

filters sunlight

down to the brown

carpeted ground,

the way the wind bends my heart

to the exquisite presence of trees

the forest that calls to me as deeply

as I breathe,

as though the woods were

marrow of my bone as though

I myself were a tree, a breathing, reaching

arc of the larger canopy

beside a brook bubbling to foam

like the one

deep in these woods,

that calls

that whispers home.

~Michael S. Glaser

Christmas Light

When everyone had gone

I sat in the library

With the small silent tree,

She and I alone.

How softly she shone!

And for the first time then

For the first time this year,

I felt reborn again,

I knew love’s presence near.

Love distant, love detached

And strangely without weight,

Was with me in the night

When everyone had gone

And the garland of pure light

Stayed on, stayed on. ~May Sarton

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