Presence – can you feel it? Give it a try now!
Let’s start this article by demonstrating to ourselves something of the flavour and experience of presence – the knowledge of our being: At the end of this paragraph, the word ‘feeling’ will appear. As soon as your visual awareness lands on that word ‘feeling’, keep your eyes fixed softly upon it. As you do so, draw that same awareness – the sight of the word ‘feeling’ – back into yourself as if zooming out telescopically whilst at the same time sustaining your awareness of the visible word. Take about 3 or 4 seconds to do this and then sense the newly arisen ‘feeling’.
Naturalising presence is simple and easy . . .
It may take a few attempts to get the hang of this, so just relax and take your time until you feel comfortable with the task and are clearly able to sense that newly arisen feeling of presence. As you develop this simple skill, it’s worth bearing in mind that in order to cultivate presence, we have simply to allow it to be; we don’t fabricate it. Initially, there’s a contrived spreading-out of attention as we zoom out telescopically so as to include a sense of ourselves in the awareness; but this sense of contrivance soon drops away as the skill becomes naturalised.
. . . we merely allow it to be; that’s all we do
Unlikely as it may sound, it’s so that in naturalising this simple skill, we make an important advance in being able to engage more deeply in the phenomenal world that we narratively and perhaps casually take to be ‘my life’. We’ve learnt that presence arises when we simply allow it to be, and can now apply a multitude of variations upon the theme just practiced. The first step is to clearly identify a physical object of awareness – sights and sounds work best at first – then gently draw that same awareness of the attended-to object back into a sense of our being.
Presence is neither subject nor object; it’s just being
It’s worth noting that presence – that subtle and silent knowledge of our being – does not of itself see the world as a dualistic play of subject and object. It’s not, of itself, creating a self-centric knowledge of the kind which assumes an existent self or subject – ‘me’ – looking out to a world constructed and populated with objects of otherness – ‘you’ or ‘it’. As self-entity is therefore not intrinsic, then this is why it was said in Part 1 that ‘self-awareness’ is a little misleading as a synonym for presence. It’s neither awareness of any sensory object, nor of any entity of selfhood.
It’s a fundamental knowledge; not just an idea . . .
So presence is knowledge we have of our own being; it’s how we know we’re present and participating in life and the world. It isn’t the sense of selfhood, which is explained elsewhere on the site, but is much more fundamental. Presence is a knowledge we possess of our being which isn’t reliant upon ideas, concepts, or any narrative of selfhood. In that sense it’s a silent, still, and pacified form of knowledge. It’s the sense of ‘I am-ness’ that exists independently of any mental activity. It’s our body knowing itself directly, unmediated by representations or imagery.
. . . not the self, nor any state of being . . .
This means presence isn’t a mood or mental state, which are both representations of the mind/body system. Presence exists prior to the overlay of any sense of self, of verbal thought, of overt feeling, of recalled memory, of emotional mood or idea. Once again, presence isn’t conditional upon anything whilst in being; we simply grant its existence in an acknowledgment. This is achieved with remarkable simplicity, as we’ve just proven. It doesn’t lend itself to description, and resists representation in aware memory, and yet it’s always readily actualised.
. . . but pure and spacious being itself . . .
There is in the granting acknowledgment of presence a sense that we’re creating air and space for our mental world to occupy. Attendant with that, we gain a further sense that the shackles of our formerly narrow awareness are being loosened. The perspective has shifted and yet we haven’t lost the phenomenal awareness with which we navigate and make sense of the world. The perspectival shift is so very important because with that we become less prone to entrancement by sensory objects, less distracted by unhelpful, energy-sapping aspects of our life.
. . . ever available, ever present, timeless being
Elsewhere on this site, we’ll discuss the refining of the application of presence so as to enable access to a pre-conceptual, or ‘no-thing-ness’, state of mind; the purpose of that being in order to – through direct experience – contextualise and broaden perspective to our understanding of the myriad functional mind processes presented to awareness in ‘thing-ness’. This too will be a straightforward and un-mysterious skill to develop, though it’ll be a novel experience for many readers. For now though, we can bring presence to any moment of life.