Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For week of April 25, 2016

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Responsive Presence

(Modes of Presence 4)

When we see how often we are lost in the stream of thoughts, lacking presence, inattentive, half-aware, it moves us, kindling our need to live more completely, more vividly. We could try seeking new experiences whose very newness awakens us. Certainly, there is no harm in going after new experiences. But there is a more effective approach to the fundamental problem of half-awareness: upon noticing our own absence, we actively respond by choosing presence, choosing to be in this moment fully. In this sense, we do not need to seek new experiences, because in presence each moment is made new.

It may be the thousandth time we are washing the same dish, but instead of being inattentive, bored, daydreaming, or wanting to be finished, we live it. In presence we are in contact with our all our senses. We hear the splash and feel the warmth of the water, the hardness and weight of the dish. We notice its fragility. We feel our hands in action. We notice the colors and shapes of the dish, the sink, the water, and we feel that we ourselves are there, washing this dish. This is a moment made vivid, as each moment can be, if we live it in presence. Knowing this is possible, the contrast with a moment of half-awareness makes us wish for more. And we act on that wish by moving into presence.

When someone we care about is in difficulty, we respond. Sometimes this calls for action on our part. But often it simply calls us to be there for that person. We see the need. We may not possess the requisite expertise or ability to alleviate the difficulty. We can, though, offer ourselves, as a kind and supportive presence. We can just be there. Our own inner stillness and attentiveness have a subtle but important impact.

When we ourselves are in some difficulty or confronted by a significant challenge, we may need to respond with action. Our tendency may be to panic or react. But action backed by presence is more complete. When we are there, doing what we are doing, being the one who is doing it, the quality of what we do trends upward. The difficulty elicits this positive and appropriate response from us, rooted in presence. Here I am, doing what I need to do.

The entire field of experience spreads before us in every moment of our life. We are surrounded by and embedded in our experience, just as we are surrounded by and embedded in our immediate space. Can we enter the field of experience with presence? That field is a vast, endless opportunity for presence. It cries out for us to make something of it. Only if we are there, does experience matter. Otherwise, it may be wasted; our time and our life pass us by.

The upshot is that if we enter our experience with presence, the result is a meaningful moment. And meaningful moments make for a meaningful life. Whenever we wonder about the meaning of life, about the meaning of our own life, we can look to presence as a way toward answers. Certainly, what we do matters. But how we do what we do, in particular the degree to which we are present, underpins all meaning. Meaning flows from responding with presence to the possibilities, situations and moments of our life.

For this week, please practice responsive presence.


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