Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For week of April 18, 2016

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Sustaining Presence

(Modes of Presence 3)

The duration of an episode of presence matters. Can we extend our presence by even ten seconds before we melt back into the stream of perception, thought, and emotion? Active presence, where we strengthen our intention, standing behind and as our effort to be present, standing in full will-to-be, though powerful, is difficult to sustain. The energy runs down, we get distracted, and we're gone. Nevertheless, active presence is important and has its place in balanced inner work.

But there is another way. If we want to be present, not just momentarily, but to stay present a little longer, the key is to relax into being here. We relax our body, sense it, and relax into the sensation. We notice our thoughts and relax into the cognizant space behind them. We relax into the equanimity behind our more superficial and fleeting emotions.

This approach to presence engages a different side of our will, namely understanding and insight. We can allow ourselves to live in our fundamentally open and free awareness only to the extent we understand it through seeing and experiencing it. Our practices of meditation and active presence build that seeing, that understanding and insight. And then we know in our core what consciousness is. We know in our core what happens if we passively follow wherever our thoughts and emotions lead us. We know in our core that our sensation body is always now and is our proper home. These are the elements of understanding how to live in presence.

That understanding enables us to relax into presence, relax into being here, into being ourselves. If we allow our presence to spread wide, to embrace our whole body, our mind, and our heart, that broad extent gives us a little more stability. So when some hot item reaches out to us from the stream of perception and thought, we can stay in presence, instead of being swept away and submerged in that stream.

Being present is certainly a fundamental aspect of a life well-lived. This moment, each moment, only happens once. It comes and goes. Are we experiencing it fully? Asking ourselves that question helps motivate and remind us, for this moment. But what about the next? Motivation is an expression of our will, and as such it is the core of presence. If the strength of any other concern overshadows our motivation to be present, we will not sustain our presence. Understanding enters to show us that we can care about both, that being present does not preclude or interfere with other life concerns, and that those other concerns need not displace our wish to be present. We can live in presence and live a full life. Indeed, the more we live in presence, the richer our life becomes. This moment, every moment, is part of our life. Are we experiencing it fully?

Our understanding combines with that motivation, bringing us to this moment of relaxing into presence. And here we are! All good and sacred qualities, begin and take root in presence. Though presence puts us in touch with the timeless, the depth of that contact depends in large part on time, on how long we stay present. So we relax into, and live in, the here and now.

With practice we can learn to sustain ourselves, to face our life, to be. For this week, please practice sustaining presence.

See Also: Stabilized Presence


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