Presence and the new spirituality

The "new spirituality" is a new emergence of the perennial philosophy. With all the focus on transformation in 2012, it is a timely topic, but the now is always timely. It is not limited to personalities or forms but is the emergence of a quantum shift in consciousness, and secondarily in all the expressions of consciousness.

No one has the inside track on this — not the Mayans, the Christians nor any other group — for it is the ground from which all of these emerge. I call that ground the presence, and it is greater than any path that might express it.

What is emerging is neither new nor ancient, but truly now and timeless. It is essentially the eternal ground of the real emerging in time, place, person and circumstance, while not limited to any of them. Reality — and your own true nature — is not Christian, Buddhist, etc., but is the light that shines in each one. So long as we identify the ground with some particular path or position, we will be caught in the strife of opposites, each vying to be the "one way." The world will never find peace that way, nor will the individual. The only true inner peace, the essential peace, is found in resting in one's ground of being. Someday humanity will be global enough and realized enough in consciousness that the time of warring religions will be a relic of an outgrown past.

That universal ground that is always already present is emerging through the power of social and historical movements, through the experiences of your personal life and through your interactions with others. It is not limited to any category but will transform all of them, from science to religion, from politics to relationships. All of this together constitutes the transformation of a world. Its most essential and potent form will be in consciousness, and the more that is recognized, the more it will accelerate.

Never before in history has the universal emerged in a collective awakening such as now. Due to a unique convergence of factors, accelerated by technology and communication, what is emerging today is far more global than anything before in the way of spiritual traditions. What has loosely been called "the new spirituality" has been called "spiritual but not religious" because it is recognized as consciousness itself rather than any form of consciousness. It will come through forms, practices and teachers, but it will not be limited to, or identified with, any of them.

Personally, the ground emerges through and beyond any particulars. It might emerge through a love relationship, a beautiful sunset or a health or financial crisis, but it outgrows the bounds of any limited circumstance or experience. Spiritual practice can make it more intentional and consistent, and in its full flowering, it transcends any particular form that nurtured it. Once it becomes part of your consciousness, it is experienced in each particular relationship, event, experience or moment. It becomes a mode of who you are, a way of being — in fact, the way of being or presence.

The more present we are, the more available we become to this shift, and we become active and conscious participants in it. It doesn't happen to us but through us — and ultimately is us. We come to live with an intentional awareness of such participation. Don't wait for it to happen in some extraordinary personal experience or natural disaster of planetary proportions. Don't wait, period. Individually and collectively, we have the extraordinary opportunity to recognize it and participate in it, now. And the now is always already unfolding. The cynic (or the cynic within you) might say, "This is all fantasy. I don't see this happening on the world scene." Don't wait to read it in the headlines or hear it on the news. Rather, awaken it within yourself, and you will find it everywhere. That is the creative minority, the leaven in the loaf, that serves the larger purpose of our times. How is it emerging, how is it calling, in you?

Ed Hirsch teaches the Practice of Presence in Ashland.

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