I thought that a connection with the Presence of life was something you had or you didn’t. I didn’t realise that having more connection and presence in my life required me to show up first. When I did, my experiences astonished me, teaching me that it is not hoping or wishing or wanting or trying or thinking, but Practice which actually makes Presence.
The vernacular of spirituality is so overloaded with ideology and dogma, that it is no wonder many of us have taken such a wide berth from any sort of spiritual practice. Perhaps religious prejudices, negative experiences with ‘spiritual people,’ or the simple fact that we can’t believe something just because other people tell us it’s true have prevented us from discovering the guiding voice within.
I know much of that was the case for me.
I do not believe this practice I have been led to of intentional morning quiet time is for everyone.
I don’t believe everyone needs it. Since starting this practice myself, I have realised that I very much need it in order to be connected to life in a loving way, rather than a fearful, separated way, but I can see people in my life who are like that without doing this. It’s just that I have lived in a disconnected way for long that I need a bit of extra help.
I’m also really grateful for that, because it has led me to some profound experiences.
I want to share some very simple suggestions and reflections with you in case you are willing to do a little experiment to cultivate more presence in your life, and I share it here because I have experienced profound changes in my life through this very simple practice of intentional quiet time every morning.
Before I tell you exactly what it is (for me), let me tell you what it is not.
This is not a religious practice. This has no basis in ideology, belief systems or other people’s concepts of God.
That is not to say that this practice can’t play a part in those things, because it absolutely can.
But if certain words or phrases other people use to describe the creative spirit of the universe sit in your stomach like a Big Mac, large fries and a sundae (mmm…maybe that’s a bad example), then don’t use them. Create your own. This is a positive practice which should feel good, like slinking into a warm bath after a day’s work.
When I began, I actually took a moment to write what Presence or the Divine meant to me. You can start anywhere and there are no wrong answers or wrong descriptions (in my humble opinion), as long as it feels right for you.
Part of my description of the divine presence was “the smell of a new born baby,” among other things. For me, I needed this to be a positive experience, not an exercise in fear of somehow getting it wrong.
I have since learned that faith is not knowing, and showing up anyway.
I encourage you to show up as you are with what you have.
Place and Space
There are a few conditions which have helped me carry out this practice and the first is a place to be alone. I’m not saying that you can’t do this with another person, because of course you can, but for me it is important to be alone.
After living in a one-room studio for over a year in Mexico, I was very grateful to find myself living a two-level, one bedroom apartment in Guatemala. I didn’t realise at the time that having personal space would be so conducive to this practice for me. Now we are in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I have my own room to practice my quiet time every morning, which excites me far more than it probably should.
As many of you are traveling, this may require you to get creative. Perhaps the beach, a park or under a tree in the garden may become your sacred space to connect with the guiding voice within. Perhaps it will be the bathroom. Like I said, start where you are. Don’t wait for the perfect external circumstances, because trust me, they will never come.
The circumstances of my life as a traveler have certainly made this part about ‘finding time’ easier. But I truly believe anyone can find that time in the morning, with a bit of effort.
If you are getting up for work, set your alarm for fifteen minutes earlier. I know that sucks and that sleep is King, but presence really does require practice and the rewards far outweigh the inconvenience.
If you are a parent of young kids I can only imagine how challenging it would be to set aside even five minutes of alone time in the morning. But maybe you could start your intentional time while feeding/nursing your child, after they have left for school or when they are down for a nap. I’m not a parent so I would bet this would require much more effort and flexibility than most people, but I can’t imagine anyone in more need of a few minutes of inner connection than run-down, sleep deprived parents.
Don’t do the dishes, they can wait. Give yourself the gift of… yourself.
Now this is a tricky word for me, as though it implies ‘wanting’ something but this is not the case. This practice is not about wanting something in particular to happen, nor is a means to a desired result.
It is a time to surrender our desires and demands; to connect and receive guidance from the loving, wise presence within.
This part was actually pretty easy for me as I had just experienced an emotional rock bottom inflicted by my own ego. I had proof that my way of doing things simply wasn’t working; it didn’t make me happy and I was willing to try something else.
I have learned throughout my journey that desperation can be a great gift. It allows us to set aside what we think we know to make room for what we don’t. All my growth has come from the things I didn’t know.
For those of you in a dark place of fear, anger and loneliness, all I can say is, yippeeee! You will probably be more willing to surrender to this practice in the hope of healing and renewal. And I promise you from the bottom of my heart that it is possible.
This practice may be a door through which you finally walk in freedom.
If things are trucking on pretty well for you and you are simply curious or would like to be more present in your life, well, yay for you too.
On a logical level, even if you are pretty happy, surely spending a few minutes every morning connecting with the most loving, wise and true part of yourself can only be a good thing.
This one is so simple it’s almost ridiculous. Ask a question. Anything at all. If something is troubling you, ask what to do about it. If you are at a crossroads and unsure of which path to take, just ask. Ask if the presence you seek even exists! I did.
It was suggested to me not to ask for specific things or make requests but to ask for guidance about how to handle the situations facing me in my life. I was so emotionally empty, I started by asking what it was that I was meant to do each day, one day at a time. I still am.
Listen and write
Now comes the fun part! Because you have shown up in your sacred space with intention, in order to experience the guidance of your inner voice, it’s important to write down that guidance. Write down every thought that comes. If nothing comes, imagine what your most loving, wise self would say.
Write it all down. Don’t edit what comes out. Sure, it may not all be divine wisdom, but it also might be. It’s not up to you to decide, yet.
It was suggested to me to check my guidance against the qualities of love, selflessness, purity (i.e not anger) and honesty.
If what you have ‘heard’ and written down is in line with these qualities, as well as your values and responsibilities, then there is a pretty good chance it is divine advice.
Carry out your guidance. If it is in line with the qualities above, it won’t hurt anyone or you. It may be something as banal as cooking lunch for your family (it was for me). Or taking a bath. Or sending someone a message. In fact, it is mostly those sort of things for me. Rarely is it something that I cannot handle.
Before I started this practice I was trying to do a million things and not doing any very well. My relationship was strained, my energy and concentration at all time low. I was full of fear and frustration and felt like I was running on empty, because I was.
I wasn’t ‘fixed’ straight away of course, but as I carried out the simple tasks suggested to me by my inner voice, I felt a huge sense of relief flow into my life. The biggest surprise to me was how such a simple practice could be so profound.
I have not looked back and am so grateful to this practice of intentional quiet time involving connecting, asking, listening and writing which was suggested to me. It has ignited a light within me I feared didn’t exist and encourages me to share it with anyone I can with absolute love, in the hope that it may assist you to connect with the divine wisdom within you.
This does not come from me, but through me, with the pure intention of cultivating peace in the world, beginning with ourselves.
You are loved. You have a purpose, and when you live that purpose you will feel connected to the divinity within us all.
P.S I made an initial commitment to this practice for 30 days. Daunting, I know. But the discipline of this practice is almost as important as the practice itself, and this small discipline has allowed more discipline to flow into my life, which has never been my strong point, believe me!
If you are willing to try an experiment, commit to 30 days of intentional morning quiet time. Buy a simple notebook. Record the guidance of your inner voice every day. Follow it to the best of your ability. Forgive yourself when you don’t. And see what happens in your life. (And let me know how you go, if you like, because I will be doing it right along side you).