Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For week of May 9, 2016

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Participation Presence

(Modes of Presence 6)

Have you ever tried to be present while you do something, for example while you speak? Whenever we do anything, there are at least two ways it can go in terms of presence. The most typical way is that we get lost in what we are doing. This does not mean lost in the transcendent sense of becoming one with the action, but rather lost in the sense of absence of intention, half-awareness, and autopilot functioning. An alternative is to stay present while we do what we are doing, being the one who is doing it, participating in it.

Two factors determine which of these ways any particular action will go. The first is our will: whether or not we are making a conscious and intentional choice to do what we are doing and whether we continue making the ongoing choice to stay in it while we do it. The second factor is the freedom and inner peace to carry that out.

In participation presence we are engaged but not lost in the action and we are present but not aloof. We are right here in the midst of our life. Being present means being here now, not somewhere else in our thoughts or mental images, not riding away on an emotion divorced from what is in front of us. Participating means our presence is in the action, not the artificial presence of an observer, surveying the scene as if from a distance, from a perch above it. We do not need to maintain distance to be present, we can be in the thick of things, in our body, in our immediate surroundings, with whomever is with us, all as it is in this moment. We jump in with both feet and live our moment.

And although we are engaged, we carry within us the equanimity and peace that enable us to stay ourselves, stay aware, neither shrinking from nor disappearing into what we do and see. We do not try to use presence to escape our troubles. When difficulties come at us, we are right there. We let them flow through us, without hooking us, while we do what we need to do. When the beauty of life unfolds before us, we are here to receive it and let it flow in joy, appreciation, and love.

To have that enabling equanimity and peace within us requires inner work. The most effective for this is a daily period of silent meditation. That gradually trains us to be at peace within our inner chaos. In meditation, no matter what is arising in our thoughts and emotions, we stay with the practice, for example watching our breath or sensing our body. We let the thoughts and emotions come and go as they will, while we stay present to the practice. We slowly descend beneath our inner chaos into the layer of peace and equanimity that surrounds us. We learn to come back to that peace even when not sitting in meditation. The more we soak in that unshackled peace, the more our being expands to incorporate it into our daily life.

So when we choose to be present and to stay present as we participate in our life, the peace that envelops us keeps us from being knocked aside or distracted away from our intention to be here as we involve ourselves with each moment of living.

In the example of speaking, if we try to be present as an observer of ourselves, we find it interferes with the act of speaking, making us awkward, stilted, and self-conscious. But if we enter the speaking, if we are present as the one who is speaking, it feels natural and complete; it gives a wholeness to the act of speaking, a wholeness that is not there without our participation presence. We speak from and with the whole of ourselves.

For this week, please choose to participate consciously in your life. Please practice participation presence.


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