Present In Both Worlds
I have found that, generally speaking, that it is the simplest lessons, the ones that seem the most obvious in a way, that end up being the most important to master – and that once you think you understand them, another level will be revealed to you and you must explore deeper into the mystery.
Many mystical traditions have something to say about being present, fully aware of the moment. It is a cornerstone of meditation. And it is a deceptively simple concept. Often when we think we are being present, the mere act of noticing this creates a duality of consciousness (the part of you observing the other part of you) that is inherently not being present. It is a tricky thing, but very much worth working on.
We hear plenty about the psychological benefits of slowing down and being mindful, but there are also some powerful magics in the act of being present, at least for the mystically and shamanically inclined – those who are hedge-riders and pathwalkers and gateways between the worlds. Because the truth is: you can’t be present in both worlds if you’re not present in this one. We take for granted that we’re already present Here, in the physical world, so we tend to focus our efforts on learning to be aware of the otherworlds, of spiritual realities. But in fact, truly inhabiting the physical world is not something that comes naturally for most humans, because our minds fight against being present and embodied.
However, the more fully you inhabit this moment, and your existence in the physical world, the more you become aware of everything else going on too. Because in this moment there exists not only the material, but the spiritual as well. True awareness of the world around you at that moment – not your own ideas and thoughts, not the remembered past or anticipated future, not places you’ve been or wish you were, but the NOW – inherently includes the otherworlds, which are always there just beyond the veil. In the moment, there is your breath and body, the air around you, the ground and sky and sunlight, there are multitudes of microbes and insects, tiny lives that you can’t see, and there are also spirits, even if you can’t see them either, right here. Not just at those times you’re approaching them deliberately, not just when you turn your mind to them, but right now.
Sure, we theoretically accept this, but the more you actually practice this awareness, the more you will truly know it in your bones. And the easier it will be to access that knowledge when you really need it. Instead of having to enter into an altered state of consciousness, per se (though one could argue that this present awareness is in itself an ASC as it differs dramatically from our usual human mindset), instead of actively seeking the spirits, you just need to notice that they are all around you, here and now. Which of course sounds much easier than it is, at least if you want to maintain that awareness on a long-term basis.
Another useful (if disorienting) effect of living in the present is that time begins to stretch out. If each moment is fully experienced, with the awareness focused squarely on it, it will seem to last longer. This can especially amplify ritual and trance, enabling you to get a lot more out of even a short period of work. (We’ve all probably had the spontaneous experience of feeling that more time had passed than was indicated by the clock; this deliberate act of present awareness directly produces that phenomenon.) It feels a little like slipping into the cracks in time – you can have significant and lengthy communications and interactions with the spiritworld and return to your everyday consciousness to note only a handful of minutes have passed.
But for me, one of the most important benefits of being in this state of awareness is that we can be totally without expectation. In the present moment, there is no past, no history, no memories that build our ideas of a thing. Therefore, when we interact with something in this state, we are able to have a fresh experience without preconception; we see True. We rid ourselves of the fallacies of our own mind and simply experience what, or Who, is actually there. This can dramatically accelerate our understanding and knowledge of our gods and spirits, as we can finally see Them for what They are (at least right at that moment) rather than what we want Them to be, or what we think we know. It gives us a real opportunity for growth and change, too, as in the present moment there are no ruts to be stuck in, no habits to limit us.
I don’t know if it’s possible for the mind to exist in that state of full present awareness all the time – if so, I’m sure some Buddhist monks have mastered it, for their own purposes – and it’s certainly not easy, especially in modern Western society, which does everything possible to encourage the exact opposite. I also suspect that what I recognize as being present is still not as deep as it could be, just as the same is true for my current understanding as compared to what I knew a few years ago. But practicing some form of this will change things, that I can guarantee – it may even transform your entire perception of the material and non-materials worlds, as it has for me.