Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the Week of June 6, 2022


I Am Presence

(Stable Presence: 4)

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"There comes a point in the Work when it is clear that 'I' do not remember myself.
'I Am' remembers."
Lord John Pentland

We are given this one precious life. Even if you believe in an afterlife, in heaven or hell, or in reincarnation, this life is still precious, every bit of it. This is the only time we will ever live this unique moment. The question is how shall we live this one precious moment? Do we live it by default, paying minimal attention, allowing the moment to pass us by? Or do we live it in presence, live it fully? We have some ability to shape our external life. However, the impacts of accidents, illness, and societal forces are largely beyond our direct control. We have more potential freedom to shape how we live inwardly, and this can make all the difference. It defines our experience of life. The practice of presence does exactly that, embodying our freedom to choose our inner life.

Beyond the practical techniques of presence, such as body awareness and entering consciousness, the core question of presence remains: Who is present when we are present, or in other words, Who am I? This central question has layer upon layer of truth, illusion, and potential embedded within it.

Presence is more than awareness of our sensory experience, inner and outer. Presence is more than awareness. Energies, the sensitive and conscious, are the primary substances of awareness. But is there someone who is aware, someone who is seeing what we see, hearing what we hear, and doing what we do? The answer to that question differentiates between presence and lack of presence. If you are aware of your immediate experience, then there is a degree of presence. If immediate experience is just happening in an autopilot, minimal-awareness mode, then there is no presence. The difference between the two modes of living is major, like turning on the light in a dark room. Our aim is to live in presence.

Nevertheless, even within presence there are degrees. There are the measures of presence: frequency, duration, breadth, depth, and intensity. Our work toward stable presence concerns mainly the duration and frequency measures but is fundamentally impacted by the depth and intensity of presence.

And there are the modes of presence, which refers to the level of you that is present. When we first realize presence, the I that is present is our ordinary I in the active role of I am present. We feel ourselves to be the one that is here, the one that is present, the one that is choosing to be present in this moment. In an early stage of the path, this I may be changeable, one of our many different I's that takes center stage in our psyche for a moment, soon to be displaced by another of our many I's. Yet for that moment, that I is who we are, the one who is actively present, if we are present.

At a later stage of the path, a person's many I's will have merged into a single I. This can be called having your own I. The great advantage of having a single I is that it is stable and does not get displaced by another I. When this I is present, one may stay present for longer. The rub here is whether this I is playing the active role in presence. If so, we feel I am choosing to be present and I am the one who is present. This active presence may be strong, but it is not stable, because the active role is not permanent. This own, single I may be active at times, and at other times not.

But presence need not be driven by our active force. Another kind of presence is receptive and effortless. Letting ourselves rest in presence. Awareness is there. Our I is there as the one who is aware, the one is who allowing oneself to be. Because this does not require an ongoing, active choice to be present, it can be more stable. It is the result of a great deal of active effort to be present, a great deal of integrating our many I's into one I, a great deal of managing, collecting, organizing, and blending the energies of awareness. All that work can lead a person into the reality of effortless presence. If that work has been well and truly completed, effortless presence can be permanent. If that work has not been completed and we prematurely stop active efforts and let go into effortless being, then the energies dissipate, the effortless presence evaporates, and we fall back into autopilot and daydreams. In either case, whether that work is complete or not, there remains an important role for active efforts of presence. For even if a person comes into permanent effortless presence, more growth and more depth remain possible. And for that we need all three forces: active, receptive, and harmonizing.

Lastly, we come to sacred presence, sometimes called Real I, the Master, or Individuality. For this, the question of who is present, or who am I, must be resolved, and the answer is not our ordinary I, regardless of being single or not. This fourth mode of presence is neither primarily active nor primarily effortless but does include both of those elements. Crucially, at the core, it involves allowing presence in without being the one who is present, without laying claim to ourselves, without claiming to ourselves, however subtly, that I am the center of this moment, the center of my life. We leave the center empty, its original condition. We leave the center open to a higher, all-embracing force. That centerless higher is who is present in us, as us, the true I AM. We actively cooperate, blending our activeness with the higher activeness. Rather than being present, we are being presenced.

We can explore this fourth mode of presence during sitting meditation. We can explore it in our life. That empty void, behind everything in us, makes room for the sacred. The void is already here. We are not manufacturing it. We are simply letting go of everything that covers it over, everything that tries to take its place, to fill the emptiness, or to run from it. Yet that void is our true home, our source. We open to our core and in so doing we open to the overflowing emptiness that warms our heart, creates our soul, and reconnects us with the one true I of all, the sacred One.

For this week, please explore and practice I Am presence. This is possible because it already resides in every one of us.


     

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