As I walk my dog, Ghandi, through the nearby park, I feel alive. I witness the vast spectrum of color as the sun shines on a field of snow. We stop walking and just listen…first stillness…then birds sing a happy song. And, just as we begin walking again, Ghandi freezes, gazing intently in front of us at nothing I can see, and I wonder if he is seeing beings without bodies tracking our every move.

I see nothing, and Ghandi will not budge. I ask him what he sees, and he doesn’t look up at me. He stares ahead, motionless. We wait for minutes, and in my impatience, I pick him up, carry him down the path and then put him down. Whatever it was is gone, and Ghandi walks on as if nothing happened, and proceeds to sniff a nearby ribbon of yellow snow.

Our shared experience in the park each day is worth more to me than I can put into words. It’s more than just being outside stretching our bones and breathing fresh air. It’s about being present.

On this Tuesday evening at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, during a discussion about awakening into now, I hear that every species of being on the planet is naturally awake, present to this now moment, except humankind. I think about my walks with Ghandi and then I compare that with the rest of my day, so entrenched in my mind as I put this magazine together and simultaneously worry about paying the bills this month.

I hear the speaker, Leonard Jacobson (author of Journey into Now), say that 99.27 percent of all humans spend their lives in a state of unconsciousness, lost in the mind, “in a world of the remembered past and the imagined future,” a world of thought, opinion, ideas, imagination and belief. He says waking up is as simple as looking at a flower, or a tree – that everything is inviting us to to awaken from our minds, inviting us to presence.

My mind returns to that “remembered past,” reflecting on when I feel most alive, walking with Ghandi in the park, with a silent mind and an open heart. And then, with a subtle shift of perspective, I look at the flower on the end table next to Leonard, and I return to presence.

This teaching – helping us to become aware of when we are not present, and to become aware of what takes us out of presence – is a true gift, but it is a far cry from the way we were taught to live our lives, in the world of the mind, filled with judgment and a sense that I am right so you must be wrong.

What I find most inspiring is that this teaching of presence is done with a gentle hand. There is no “have to” or “must.” It is about relaxing into what is. And I think relaxing is truly a message for these times. We perceive stress everywhere, don’t we? In response, we are pushing and forcing and collapsing under the weight of all of that effort. It’s time to be present.

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