How do I know when I am present?
You don’t. Presence does. The ‘I’ that asks this question is not operational when presence is present in the present. In a state of presence, the thought of being present may or may not arise but it is always well after the fact of presence cognizing itself. This cognition is immediate, not only in the sense of having no passage of time but also in the sense of not being mediated. There is nothing between presence and itself, no other entity to see or comment on the presence of presence other than presence itself. It is perfectly ontological…self-arising as the Karmapa would say.
Then how can I remain present?
You cannot. But presence may continue to be present once it has learned to recognize the process by which it becomes identified with the machine and falls out of the present and into sleep. Let us be clear. Presence is a state of dis-identification which frees attention from the domination of the head brain. But what we call the machine…the physical apparatus and ordinary mind…likely continues to harbor the momentum of sleep…the tendency to react in habitual ways to external stimuli. The sleep state is always just a hair’s-breadth away. The process of re-identification is fast, but observable in a state of presence. Presence can remain in the present by seeing and interrupting the process of identifying.
Also, consider why you wish to be present all the time. Is it some sort of warped ambition from one of your identities? What is important is that presence is called to be present when its presence is required, when there is work to be done. Attention can be at work more continuously, but presence not so much.
A gentle snooze, easily aroused, may actually be suitable for family visits or reunions with old school chums who are more comfortable with your customary reactive self. Of course, if you can voluntarize your sleep state on these occasions, you go to the head of the class.
To Be Continued…