Presence and being are what we are in essence
Presence and being are related terms; and could be used interchangeably with a synonymous meaning. Still, let’s use them together initially so as to aid clarity as to what is meant by their use just here, as alone they may suggest a variety of meanings. For example, ‘presence’ can be used to suggest some loosely charismatic aura that some people appear to emit. And ‘being’ may suggest a particular mode or condition that’s reliant upon exhibiting specific characteristics or traits – ‘being’ this way or that. Those definitions are not what are meant here by either term.
In presence we know ourselves directly
Let’s then cover this subject, by using the single term ‘presence’ whilst understanding the one word as if meaning also the expression ‘knowledge of being’. We could, perhaps a little misleadingly, think also of presence as self-awareness. It’s to know that ‘I am’ without any further definition, qualification or conditionality whatsoever. This is to say that in presence, I don’t need to construct in memory the idea or concept that ‘I am’, and I don’t need to think in order to know that ‘I am’ – that would be putting ‘De(s)cart(es) before de horse’ so to speak.
Our knowledge of being has an immediacy
Another helpful way of understanding presence is to think of it as so-called ‘a priori’ knowledge. That’s to say that this ‘knowledge of being’ is arrived at independently of the senses and is accessible prior to the overlay of any sensory experience. It’s immediate and unmediated by means of say, being thought about or remembered, or by being felt as an overtly physical manifestation. So presence is pre-sense in that whilst it’s knowledge of a kind, it’s not dependent upon the six senses known to awareness: mentation or mind itself, touch, smell, taste, sight and sound.
Presence arises before awareness of the senses
This is in part why the term ‘self-awareness’ is a misleading synonym, as in contradistinction to presence, awareness of each and all sensory stimuli necessarily arises together with attention being given to one of the six sense modes. Our self-awareness arises together with sensory objects such as thoughts and feelings. There can be no awareness of ‘no-thing’ (only awareness of the idea of it); whereas presence can arise independently both in ‘no-thing-ness’, as well as concurrently to, though still not dependent upon, awareness, which is itself ‘thing-ness’.
Presence transcends both subject and object
Whilst presence – unlike awareness – has no sensory object to which it refers and relates, we need to be careful not to confuse its meaning with subjectivity or the ‘presence of’ a subject. It’s more helpful to think of presence as a phenomenon which simultaneously embraces and yet transcends both objectivity and subjectivity, at least as those terms are commonly understood. The meaning here is that presence, or our knowledge of being, may stand evidently with or without the objects of awareness and with or without any subjectivity or introspectiveness.
Presence and being are live events only
Still, in stating that we can ‘think of presence’ as I just have, qualification is necessary by also stating that in actuality, presence itself cannot be known representatively in memory – we can’t conjure it up by thinking of it or by recall. In other words there can be no mental facsimile or proximate like imagery created of it in the way that say, a remembered visual image of a rose can stand as like imagery for the actual rose. This is why presence is a challenging phenomenon to describe concretely in words, despite the fact that we all experience it frequently each day.
Presence is a power we all possess
It’s worth stating that the process of developing presence, which we shall come to in part 2 of this article, is both straightforward and un-mysterious. This is largely because presence is an entirely natural phenomenon which each of us experiences repeatedly in our awakened state, albeit fleetingly and generally without acknowledging it. So the development of presence is merely an extension of an inherent faculty we each possess and which, if I may generalise and without intending to cause offence, we underutilise as a result of our ignorance of its power.
Presence is the key to understanding ourselves
This habituated neglect means that we may fail to appreciate its worth as an exceptionally powerful capacity within us. Once we understand it as such, we may use it both to aid understanding of ourselves, and as a vital facilitator of our sense of well-being. We can explore how this is achieved in the articles on contemplation; but broadly speaking, we can say that presence will be a great accelerant to all forms of discovery as to the true nature of our being. And in the increasing discovery of that knowledge, our psychological well-being increases in equal measure.