A friend’s recent use of the Sanskrit word “apranihita” has kept me thinking for a couple of weeks now. (She translated it “aimlessness”; I’ve also seen “purposelessness,” “wishlessness,” or “free from desire.”) She described the idea as “living in the present moment without constantly searching for something that satisfies us.” It has some interesting resonance with an idea at the heart of Jesus’ message.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “Stop running, because life is here, in the present moment. When you achieve stopping, you become solid and concentrated. That allows you to practice looking deeply into what’s here, and looking deeply into the nature of things brings insight. This understanding will liberate you from your suffering” (You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment).
Jesus began his ministry by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). In other words (my paraphrase), “Your time of waiting is over, and what you’ve been waiting for, searching for, chasing after, is at hand.” The dinner bell has rung, and if you don’t start feasting now, you never will (Luke 14:15-24).
In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says “the Kingdom of God is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it” (log. 113). The reason we don’t see the “more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of” (John 10:10 The Message) is because we’re looking for it, pursuing it, somewhere else, either in another condition of this life or in another life after this one. We’re like the little fish that keeps searching for the Ocean but sees only water. But if we can stop (the prerequisite for turning, changing direction, repentance) and give up our desire for what we imagine we’re searching for, we might gain the clarity to catch at least a glimpse of the eternal life that is already ours here and now.
Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth-century monk, found in washing dishes an intimacy with God that was as great as that he found in any sacrament (The Practice of the Presence of God). We don’t need to seek God’s presence or the life God offers in occasional ritual or at the end of a pilgrimage; in fact, we’re better off if we stop seeking it, stop our searching and striving, and simply open ourselves to its abiding presence in this present moment.