I have fleeting moments of presence but it never seems to stabilize. Is it possible to maintain a state of presence?
This is a fundamental question for our work. To inquire into this I am going to start with the assumption that you are able to invoke presence into the present. Now, what is the process that causes you to fall out of presence?
I become interested in something and my attention pulls me into whatever that is, I start thinking about it or interacting with it in some habitual way and then I’m deep into sleep again.
Yes, that’s it. Attention involuntarily attaches to something and triggers a fall from presence into identification. Identification with what? Usually you become the thinker but it could also be your body sense or some idea or image you have about yourself. This process of falling can be observed as a seizure of attention which has become involuntary, followed by the assumption of an identity.
In presence, attention remains connected to home base… it moves out to attend to things but at the same time remains attentive to being present and to itself. This understanding was once known as ‘nigah dasht’, knowing where your attention is. Of course, only attention is sufficiently quick and accurate to know where it is. Attention must therefore be free to operate without interference. This is a great discovery.
Is it possible to think while being present?
That seems possible. In presence, thoughts seem to arise and fall away as a kind of after-image of perception. Sometimes I can even speak these thoughts while remaining in a state of perception but usually I end up becoming the thinker and then I’m asleep again.
What kind of thinking takes you out of presence?
Anything that has a sense of compulsion like having to plan something or defend a point of view or get something I want. Or disagreeing with where I am and what I’m doing.
So, to remain present attention must remain voluntary, which includes being in basic agreement with the present. Attention can temporarily be captured or become attached to something but then it must rediscover itself, free itself, before presence is lost. Presence, which is the source of voluntary attention, operates in the same way. Presence knows directly and immediately that it is present. It does not need to have this verified by another. In fact, it cannot be verified by another, including the thinker or one of your personalities, because then you are not present in the present, you are identified. Also, once again, these entities outside presence are too slow to be relevant.
To remain present, there must therefore be confidence that presence can immediately know itself to be present and therefore remain present without my personal effort or control, except to re-invoke if need be, to renew the descent of presence into the present. If I try to be present, some identity is probably reinforcing its own existence by making counter-productive efforts.
It is difficult not to think of presence as an entity.
That is true. It would be easier to think of it as a thing. But as soon as you give it some sort of conceptual form, your thinking is likely to begin constructing a substitute for the experience of being present. Presence is our true self, our real ‘I’, and it has a definite sense of existing, but it is not like any other self we know.
Then what is presence?
Presence is perception and a temporary absence of identification which is always a construction made from past experience.
Presence gives us the capacity to enter the present. Without it, the present is a flow of moments that have no duration, too fleeting to enter. Ordinary time is time passing, succession without constancy, without being. To be in the present requires ‘something’ that is constant; it is necessary simultaneously to be in a dimension of time which does not flow from moment to moment. This other dimension is the eternal and when it intersects with time passing, ‘I’ have entered the present.
And who is this constant ‘I’? The ‘I’ of presence is rooted in the eternal present, a dimension of time which is unchanging. This ‘I’ is not a construct of the psyche, not an identity or personality fabricated from experience. This ‘I’ is my original face, my form from before I entered into time passing. It is who I am when I remember myself as the voyager. It is the passageway to those qualities originally bequeathed to ‘me’ from the Universe’s Treasury of all possibilities.
When I am not present, I have forgotten who I am; I have entered a world of illusion.
Invocation of Presence – August 10, 2015