The Universal Present by Ed Hirsch

The Universal Present 

 Would you like to get in on a secret? The first part is the Open Secret that is always here and now, simple and available. The second part is a gesture that anchors it. Together they make the Universal Present that keeps on giving, always new, always now.

 Have you ever felt caught in an endless schedule or drama, and you knew that at any moment you could simply pause and get off the wheel—but you don’t? And then you feel all the more hooked, trapped, helpless?

 Have you ever felt imbalanced and then got caught in the complications of an endless project of analyzing, rebalancing, improving, self-correcting, self-perfecting—if not outright self-conflict and self-judgment?  

 The secret is the radical alternative. Cutting through the complexity, we come home to Here Now, Returning to Center, to That which is prior to ego, prior to reactivity, prior to problems, prior to mind. We can refer to it as the Power of Now, the Peace of Presence, the Silence, the Stillness, or even God if you like, or simply the nameless Mystery. It is beyond beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, for it is simpler and more direct than any of that.

What IS, Always Already, before you even take a thought, is the Now, which you enter through gesture and breath in the present moment. This brings the Formless into the living here and now, so it doesn’t become an abstract ideal that we know we “should” remember but keep forgetting.

 In the East, it is called mudra or Namaste, but it is universal and not confined to any tradition, East or West. Simply bring your two palms together at the heart. The two hands symbolize all the dualities of life and are extensions of the heart. By bringing them together, you connect with That which IS prior to all differentiations. The hands, agents of doing, are brought together in nondoing. By bringing them together at the heart, you drop out of the head into your depth, which we can call your True Nature or Spiritual Heart. Don’t get stuck on the terms, for this secret is prior to thoughts, prior to emotions, prior to energies. Enter directly into that Presence.

 The hands together at the heart bring you into here. Taking a deep, slow breath brings you into now. Your full attention, your being, is here now. If you like, a simple word can focus your attention on the inner felt meaning of the gesture.

 By making a deliberate action, you are not passively waiting for grace or hanging out in abstractions only. And yet by entering into this gesture, the doing, and even the one who is doing, alchemically opens into nondual Being. What is Prior becomes priority. You yourself are engaged, but it is beyond the separate “me,” beyond any ownership, control, or self-reference. And yet it is inherently satisfying and empowering.

 The universality of this gesture can connect you with the hearts of all by connecting through your own heart. We could call this prayer or meditation, but really it is prior to all of that. Call it a practice or ritual if you like, but really it is a non-practice, a non-ritual, for all its form opens and empties into the Formless, making direct connection with the Peace That IS Here Now.

 By coming to the Formless Center beyond any center, you are prior to attachment to any outcome or problem to solve. It is not designed to attract the perfect partner, job, or circumstance, and yet by coming to Center, you are accessing a central power, love, and wisdom from which to move in the world. As gracefully as form empties into the Formless, the Formless enters into form.

 This practice doesn’t require any belief system, and it is not a religion. You might begin and end the day with it, and you can enter it anytime in between in a way that feels appropriate and unobtrusive. It might take some practice before it feels natural, but it is not about getting good at a practice.  

 There, now the secret is out. Everything falls away to a grounded, heart-centered simplicity of BE HERE NOW. Live from That.


 Ed Hirsch conducts free, drop-in weekly groups in The Practice of Presence at a local Ashland residence. Contact him at for information.

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    The Inner Peace blog is a place to share wisdom about peace practices and inspire, learn and explore all aspects of inner peace. A team of writers will discuss varied qualities –€” intuition, courage, fearlessness, friendship, forgiveness, gentleness, giving and receiving, tolerance, faithfulness and kindness –€” that help us all through the tough times, the challenges, the joys and the sorrows with inner peace as the ever-shining goal. Whether 2 or 92, your inner peace is up to you.
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