From Thinking To Feeling To Being
Today our topic is on what it really means to be living from Presence.
Our whole self-development journey is one towards a deeper understanding and embodiment of presence. The more presence we invite into our life, the more our life comes alive. Living with little presence our life just slips through our hands and passes us by. We become passive participants in our life and don’t experience it fully.
Presence means to be here and now grounded in our life, grounded in our bodies, through not only the sensory experience but also aware of ourselves doing whatever it may be as we are doing it. We fully inhabit our bodies and actions by being an active participant in our life.
You can think of consciousness as the timeless energy and the basic foundation of our presence. Being timeless we experience a deep sense of wholeness and inner peace.
Many spiritual people for example who are into Yoga may develop strong sensations of their bodies, emotions, and thoughts yet their consciousness can remain weak as their identification with their sensory experiences clouds their clear seeing of consciousness itself. People tend to only focus on the contents, on the foreground, the objects of their experience, losing sight of the silent background of consciousness. Most live in unawareness of this background as it is quite subtle and formless, and we are conditioned to focus only on form. So most never ever clearly distinguish consciousness itself because it is too mixed up with our sensory experience of the world and our thoughts and feelings in our inner world. This background or screen of experience is space-like awareness, is timeless, unchanging, and allows us to cognize experience.
Moving into The Timeless
When we start to live more consciously, we reverse this relationship. It is a shift in perspective where we bring the background to the foreground, and the foreground moves to the background. Not losing sight of either. The conscious thinking mind becomes more passive and our subconscious becomes more conscious and active. Our aim is a harmonious integration of the two.
Through our spiritual work like meditation, we allow the contents to relax and calm down on their own until we begin to recognize consciousness itself as it becomes untangled from its contents and sensations. The longer we abide as this restful awareness, the more our various energies of thinking, feeling, sensing, become balanced and our presence grows stronger and more stable.
This is why we must be disciplined in our work. We need to develop the will to be more present in our life. If we are not intentional, presence will be weak and fleeting. There must be something in us that truly wants to wake up and be present and is proactive in making that choice moment to moment. We need to remember to remember ourselves to constantly remember to be mindful. We need to develop this will to be, no one can do it for us. This is a conscious choice. This will to be is the active participant in whatever we may be doing and determines our degree of presence. It takes the will to be to consciously direct our attention.
Our will which acts through our attention and intention can attract higher energies which can coalesce and blend with the lower energies in our bodies increasing consciousness. Focusing our will to be in the sensation of our bodies serves as a good foundation as sensation is the bridge between the higher and lower energies. Being present in the sensation of the entire body serves as our anchor to the now, while also attracting higher energies which can then become like a force field of presence around our bodies. Note that it’s important to learn to use our will to be to become actively present within the energy of sensation, not to just superficially have an awareness of our body in a general sense. It’s like being aware and present to the energy coursing through our entire body from the inside out. Without being present within our body, without this will to be moment to moment, if there’s nobody home actively directing our attention, it doesn’t matter how aware you are of your body you will not become more conscious and present.
I know many people who have done yoga for years or many athletes who have amazing control over their bodies yet are not anymore aware or conscious than a random person off the street. This also goes for most of the students interested in Advaita, neo-advaita, commonly known as non-duality which essentially teaches that there is nothing for us to do. That we are already enlightened since the background of consciousness is always available. Which if we could go directly to the background of consciousness and realize ourselves as that would be great, but in practice, the majority of people need to have their minds and bodies prepared to be a vehicle for consciousness to really wake up. Those teachings are also really appealing to our egoic mind as it prefers the path of least resistance, and also lacks a lot of the development and potential of our human side. Even the Sage Ramana Maharishi intended his non-dual teachings to be only for the fewest of the few who were spiritually mature for it, for the rest he encouraged the study of the scriptures and several practices like self-inquiry.
As our will to be becomes stronger and feeds our presence, we will begin to raise ourselves above our habitual and reactionary behavior, our habitual and mechanical thoughts and feelings. We may start to abide longer in thought-free awareness, in our pure presence, which can be described as the simple feeling of our I’ness, our amness, our Isness. Getting to really distinguish and identify this I’ness is key to progressing on our inner journey.
Abiding as presence we can become simultaneously aware of the inner and outer. Meaning we are actively aware of our contact with the outside external world via our senses and also aware and receptive to our inner world allowing our higher will to descend and infuse us. This simultaneous awareness of the inner and outer blends into one, just a relaxed presence of being here and now fully. Most people spend their entire day jumping from one to the other. Their attention is either engaged with the external world, and don’t notice clearly what they are thinking or feeling, or they are more caught up with their thoughts and feelings and not aware of their surroundings. If the weather is nice in the morning I like to ride my bike and I also have a nice bell which I use to temporarily shock and wake people up that I come across on my path. For many that split second where they move out my way is the most aware they might be all day unknowingly.
Presence can be measured in terms of: frequency, duration, intensity, and depth. Our self-development work revolves around the development of these factors.
Frequency means how often during our day do we actually remember to be present within ourselves and make an effort to do so and also remember the last time we remembered to do it. Our goal is to shorten the in-between times. Using both formal meditation sitting time and other methods we may be working on during our active day to day life.
Duration lets us know how stable our presence is. The longer we are able to stay present, in our I’ness, the more stable our presence is. At the end of your day, start to estimate how much of your day you were truly present and how much were you just functioning on autopilot with little to no awareness of your inner and outer world. For most people, this will start as a very small percentage. We need to crawl before we can walk before we can fly. Our eventual goal is 100% of continual presence.
Intensity means the quality and energy of your will to be present. It’s a strong intention to be present which makes for a vivid and relaxed state of being. Intensity does not mean being forceful, for this creates tension and makes it impossible for us to be really present. The middle way of the Buddha was the way of alert relaxation.
Depth deals with the degree of stillness and clarity of our presence. How much energy and will is present. If there is complete stillness and also the energy of the will, of the attention and intention to be engaged with the moment, we will be able to have the clarity to see the depths of our Being and gain deep wisdom. If there is only deep stillness without the energy of our will, we will be in more of a trancelike state lacking the transformative clarity and insight. This is often one of the drawbacks to the methods or paths which focus exclusively on one-pointed concentration. Our attention should be not too tight nor too relaxed that you fall asleep. The Buddha initially tried for many years doing the way of concentration, only to see that it could not take him all the way to inner liberation.
With continual practice presence becomes something real for us, very palpable, that we can easily distinguish the difference of when we are not living from presence. Our spiritual practice is then about invoking presence into our lives as much as we can.
We invoke presence by remembering, returning, sustaining, and repeating.
For most of us living from presence is so delightful that it should motivate most of us to continue and remember our practice.
Every day we must remember to live from presence. When we happen to have that moment of awareness, we need to remember to use this remembrance as an opportunity to return to one of our current practices or methods that we may be working on to cultivate presence. As we return to our practice we try to deepen our intention to remain present as in the beginning presence is very weak and any thought, feeling, or sensory experience can take us out of presence and back to living inattentively. Each time we return our challenge is learning to sustain our presence. And finally, we repeat the process over and over with the aim of shortening the times between remembering. In time we will be deepening our presence. Eventually, we may arrive at an effortless effort if we become inwardly integrated, but we must be careful that we not only imagine intellectually that we are being constantly present. I know many people who have read the power of now, who are just only constantly thinking about being in the now, while still being identified to that train of thought and not actually attending to the moment from presence in a wholesome way. We must be genuine and sincere with our inner work if our path is going to lead us back home.