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January 2, 2012

We have all had experiences of being present in simple appreciation.  What gets in the way of a more lasting experience of spiritual presence in our lives?  Why does it get disrupted?  We ourselves, of course, are the chief obstacle to deeper presence.  Beyond certain cultural impediments to the transcendent, certain functional orientations and fixations, and the difficulties and distractions that arise in our day-to-day living, the facticities of our own formation require the most attention.  This and the following reflection will briefly outline the factors we might consider in attempting to understand the broad range of obstacles that impinge upon and impede our desire for satisfying human presence.

     Martin Heidegger observed that da-sein (human being) is always “mooded.”  We have to take this into account.  We are always more or less in the grip of one mood or state-of-mind or another.  Simple presence occurs when we are at least not caught in a mood; i.e., when we are aware of and thus on the way beyond the particular coloration of a mood.  We may ask ourselves:  “What mood state, dream-state, or attitude am I in upon awakening in the morning?”  Do I react to certain words or actions by other persons, or to disturbing memories from the past or anxious anticipations about the future?

     Recently someone said to me that she was “troubled and confused again” by something she had read.  I focused her attention on the word “again,” pointing as it did to her state of being.  She was troubled and confused again.  We can be anxious again, angry again, confused again, pained  again.  We must be prepared to take up these troublesome repetitions in our personal formation.

     Certain emotions have the power to destabilize us, to obstruct our potential for simple presence.  Shame, guilt, fear, anger, jealousy, and resentment are among the usual suspects.  Our habit formation inclines us to be and to do in customary ways that become difficult to undo.  Heart-level appreciation is made difficult when our habits are depreciative.  What habits stand in the way of my being present?

     On a deeper level:  Do I have phobias that rob me of my capacity for simple presence to reality as it is?  Am I given to deluding and deceiving myself?  To what extent do negative thinking and imagination distort reality and distract me from open-minded and clear-minded presence?  Do I fall into depressions?  Am I prone to mania?

     Have my desires fulfilled and unfulfilled and my lacks affected my ability to be reality-oriented?  The wounds we carry also impose limits on our ability to be present to ourselves, to others, and to God.  Thus, I must recognize my limits.  Self-knowledge enables me to discern where and how I can best be present to myself and others.

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