What Is the Presence Within?

What do we mean when we talk about the presence within? The oneness. What does it feel like? How do we reach it?

The poet, Rumi, believes we live with a deep secret that sometimes we know, and then not. That secret is our connection to the divine – the presence.

In “The Mirror of Intimacy,” Alexandra Katehakis said, “Everything you perceive is your presence. Look deeply into every moment and perceive divine presence. Recognize each circumstance as having a particular bearing on your soul. Over time, this practice will bring you presence of mind and make manifest your own catalytic presence.”

There are many names for the presence within, many descriptions of it.

  • Om – The Buddhist and Hindu name that evokes the concepts of the oneness of God and the universal omnipresence of the creator deity.
  • Brahman – Hinduism, the super-present properties of the creator deity, Brahma, understood to manifest itself as light within the human being.
  • Divine countenance or the face of God – a metaphor for a close encounter with God.
  • The Holy Spirit in Christianity.
  • Immanence – a term for the presence used in mysticism.
  • Inner light – a term used in various religions to refer to the presence of God within.
  • Numen – a Latin term for the divine presence within.
  • Psychedelics can produce the feeling of the presence of God.
  • Shekhinah – Judaism’s term for a presence in a holy place called a tabernacle. The tabernacle represents the human body or being, and also refers to the presence of God within.
  • Theophany – the overt appearance of God to a person.
  • The Kingdom of God within – In Luke 17:21, Christ says the Kingdom of God is within us.
  • Higher consciousness – the higher the level of one’s consciousness, the closer to God.

The next blog will explain how we can reach the presence within and what it feels like when we experience it.

What Does Love Got to Do with It

I watched a panel discussion on YouTube with Eckhart Tolle and Ram Das that was recorded in October 2011 on Maui. The discussion by was great, but a funny thing happened at the beginning – the first question posed to these NOW gurus was about love.
The response was awkward. You can’t answer a question about love until you define the term, and that’s not easy. Tolle and Ram Das managed to get through the question, but it was not an easy navigation.
Love is such a troublesome word in spirituality – it comes with so much baggage. The notion, “all you need is love,” is fraught with misunderstandings about what love actually is.
So many times I’ve heard this statement by spiritual teachers: “When you strip away everything and get to the core of our true being, what you have is love.” What the heck does that mean?
Spirituality discussions work best with words like acceptance, presence, peace, well-being, or contentment. We have a general notion of what these words mean. Not so with “love.” Part of the problem is that love is commonly used as an action, such as “I love you” or “I feel loved.” Probably the closest synonym for love in spirituality is acceptance.
When you experience oneness, it is often described a feeling of acceptance. There are aspects of “love” that include acceptance, but a mother’s love or a father’s love is not necessarily acceptance. Romantic love with all its varieties, its passion, its insecurities, is rarely experienced as unconditional acceptance. Romantic love nearly always comes with a list of conditions.
When spiritual teachers use the word, love, they usually mean acceptance, for acceptance is a large part of our experience of the presence within.

Who Is Here You Are Now

I know that title here looks like it has a typo in it. Yet the awkward wording is intentional. What does it mean? I’m not sure. But I know one thing: our language does not lend itself to easily speaking or writing about deep spirituality, or what is referred to as nonduality.

Nonduality essentially means oneness. If there is oneness, there is not a subject and an object.

Alan Watts was the first teacher I read who questioned whether you can discuss nonduality in written or spoken English. Toward the end of the “The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” Watts concedes he can’t adequately describe nonduality because our object/subject language will not accommodate it. Many poets have tried to wrestle deeper meaning from English by defying conventional syntax.

The idea is to break syntax to open a hole in the language large enough for spirit to enter. Gertrude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Robert Duncan also said it with the line: “There’s nothing inside but the inside inside.” Or anything by John Ashbery, such as this: “The music brought us what it seemed we had long desired, but in a form so rarefied there was no emptiness of sensation.”

Perhaps you could defy our language this way:

You not you who you are not here where you are not now.

Or this question:

We not I who we are not here – are we you not now as we are you here?

Maybe it’s nonsense. Maybe it’s an opening to nonduality speech.

You can sound it out, and it makes as much sense as looking at a photo of yourself and saying, “This is not me” and being correct (thanks Zak).

To crack open the language is to crack open the thinking. And if thought is the barrier to true vision, then the language needs to be cracked open.

 

The Presence Who You Are

What is the presence that we feel during spiritual moments? I’ve experienced this presence while using hallucinogens, while meditating, during spiritual meetings, out in the mountains, during marathon runs.

While it’s hard to explain the feeling of a presence, I’ll try. It can feel like a hum that is both inside and outside. A warmth. A sense of well being. Connectedness with – I don’t know – spirit, the divine, whatever you call the ethereal that seems more real than real. Connectedness with everything. Calm. The absence of anxiety. The absence of emotional pain. The absence of fear. Peace.

For many years I only experienced the presence in rare moments. Then, I reached the point when I could feel it pretty much whenever I meditated for more than five or ten minutes. My breathing would reach that place where it didn’t feel like breathing. My thoughts would grow quiet or go away altogether. And I would feel the presence.

For a very long time, I believed I was connecting to spirit (God, higher power, the angels, whatever). For a very long time, the feeling of the presence was proof to myself that the divine is here on earth, at hand, with us, available.

What I came to realize much, much later is that the presence was me. The real me. Not the little me walking around in the world bumping into stuff, hurting and getting hurt. The presence was who I was. Who I was was the presence. Going on and on and on and on.

That ended the intermittence. The presence elongated into everything. You are the presence, and I am the presence, and my dog is the presence, and this laptop is the presence. When I think that something is not the presence, my thoughts are mistaken. And on and on and on and on and on.

Who Needs Secret Knowledge?

Making things simple can take a long time. We have pored over books, attended metaphysical services, classes, and workshops, met with advanced leaders only to discover that we are one with spirit and that spirit is here right now. The only special knowledge we need for that realization is the simple awareness that it’s true.

Be still and know that I am God. Or, be still and know you are one with the presence, and that presence is here now, always, and you cannot help but be one with the presence. There. No more books, no more services. No more classes, no more workshops.

Perhaps not quite so fast. In our daily lives, we can fall into the great forgetfulness. But lucky us, we can wake ourselves up again and again. A friend asked me, “How do you wake up? What’s the process?” We can use whatever brings up to awareness: meditation, prayer, chanting, stopping what we’re doing and paying attention to our surroundings, taking a walk, altering the pace of our breathing.

We experience peace in the wakefulness. I don’t know if our walking-around life gets better as we move to more wakefulness. I like to think it does, but that doesn’t really matter.

We can be of more use to others if we’re more conscious of the presence. In awareness, we can be of more use to ourselves in the world. Thankfully, drama dissipates – both the drama stirred up by our own little selves, and the drama of the world around us.

As we awaken, the world around us calms down. That makes it easier to be still and know that only the presence is real and I am one with the presence.

Consciousness meditation

Relax now. Slow down your breathing and let the tension go.

As you slow down your breathing, your consciousness

shifts, just so slightly, and you will become aware of your body,

aware of this room and aware of your surroundings.

Focus on your breath going out.

The breath coming in will take care of itself.

As you breathe, your consciousness will shift just so slightly.

That’s all it takes. Just a small change in how you

experience being here, how you see and feel

your surroundings, just this moment, just now.

 

We are new here today, but we have always been here.

We are new here today, and we will always be here,

In this moment, now, breathing in and letting the air

all the way out. There is peace in this breathing.

Let it wash through your body. You are here now;

let yourself be at peace. Let all your concerns

go with each breath. There will be plenty of time

to address your concerns later. For now, let them go.

 

There is nothing more important than to be here now,

with your breath moving in and out of your body.

You are consciousness made manifest in your body.

Your body is consciousness. Your presence is consciousness.

Your entire being, your entire life, is consciousness.

Change one thing, and your consciousness changes.

Slow down your breathing, relax in your presence here,

and your consciousness rises. Be aware, and everything changes.

 

You are one with the consciousness that makes up this world.

The very fabric of this world is the very fabric of you.

You are part of all this surrounds you. You are not alone.

You are more vast than you could ever imagine. Right here,

right now, you go on forever. Your small self is an illusion.

You are part of everything around you and you go on forever.

 

You are more than your thoughts let you believe.

Right here. Right now. In this present moment.

You have always been here, and you go on forever.

The Accidental Mystic

For many years, I followed the New Thought beliefs at Unity and Religious Science meetings. I attended Self Realization Fellowship. At all of them, I enjoyed the meditation and the message. I believed strongly in the teachings and became involved in these groups, including board activity and teaching the kids. I studied New Thought literature and read books by sympathetic thinkers such as Emmet Fox. When our minister was out of town, I often conducted services.

This involvement had a positive effect on my life. But it took a health crisis to really connect with spirit.

I woke up from a three-week coma a couple years back, and the person who woke was different from the person who entered the coma. When I woke up, something else was looking out through my eyes. Something larger than the little me.

As I recovered, learned how to walk again, and resumed my life, the sensation or presence didn’t go away.

In trying to understand what was happening, I read further than deeper. I now think that what I’ve experienced is what is often called oneness or non-duality. I’m the same person walking around, working, and interacting with family and friends. My personality is generally the same, but there is a presence that is with me all the time, something positive that seems to neutralize negative feelings. Anger and frustration are gone. And while humor is still part of my life, the cynical side of humor is absent.

Reading about spirituality is quite different now that I’m trying to understand what’s happening to me rather than trying to make something spiritual happen. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the decades of spiritual study helped bring about this positive change. Don’t know. But the world – which once seemed inhospitable – now seems beautiful.

The Tiger and the Cherry Tree

A young girl was walking through the fields when she noticed a tiger had spotted her. The tiger began to stalk her. She started to run, and the tiger hurried in pursuit. The young girl came upon a tree and scurried up. The Tiger came up to the trunk of the tree and began to climb toward the girl. So she climbed further up the tree, going out on a branch. As she moved out on the branch she was startled to see a poisonous snake.

The snake was slithering toward her. She looked behind, and the tiger was making progress up the tree. Suddenly she noticed she was in a cherry tree and there was a ripe cherry was right in front of her. She plucked the cherry, popped it into her mouth . . . and it was delicious.

What does this Zen story mean? It’s been told many ways, but the central facts are the same from telling to telling. There is danger behind, danger going forward, and the fruit is very tasty. In the Zen story, the tiger is the past, the snake is the future, and both are very threatening . However, the fruit is the present, and it is fine and wonderful.

I believe you can take the story a step further. As with the Zen lesson, there is no tiger and there is no snake, but perhaps there is also no cherry tree or luscious cherry. The cherry is part of the illusion that includes the tiger and the snake.

You can take it a step further yet: there is no young girl, for she is also part of the illusion. There is only consciousness which is neither tiger, nor snake, nor cherry, nor tree, nor young girl. All that exists is the taste, and it is delicious.

A Shift – And Then the Search Is Over

A friend asked what is meant by “spiritual awakening.” I thought, good lord, that’s like trying to explain the taste of ice cream – or why the Beatles meant so much once. I decided to see if anyone had a decent description I could borrow. I researched a whole host of descriptions of mystical experiences: Kundalini awakening, psychic break, deep meditation, LSD, psilocybin, sweat lodges, the effects of following a guru. While I found exciting tales of dips into the mystic and powerful revelations, none described what I was seeking to answer my friend’s question.

Then I found a site that just nailed it. It was Bonnie Greenwell, Ph.D.’s site, awakeningguide.com.

Her description is simple, eloquent, and blessedly void of drama: “The experience of waking up is different than mystical events, and in fact has often been said to be no experience. It is a ground-level shift that occurs right now, right here, and whether it lasts a minute or a lifetime, the Truth of who you are is known,” says Greenwell.

She continues with her clear description of a spiritual shift: “Waking up is what happens in response to the question ‘Who is having these experiences?’ and searching neither thought nor emotion to find an answer. It is not the process of having an experience, however ecstatic and profoundly mystical it may be,” says Greenwell. “It is the understanding of that which has an experience, or that which lives through us and is eternally present through all time and experience. To wake up we have to give up the idea that we are a personal identity who is seeking experiences, and begin to wonder what is really true underneath and behind all experiences that humans live.”

She also well describes the absence of effort involved in awakening: “When there is no longer any struggle, because all that is left of the little ‘me’ is a slight memory and flavor, and perhaps a few insignificant preferences that can easily be put aside, the spiritual journey is over.”

Thanks you, Dr. Greenwell.

 

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

When we have a spiritual awakening, it’s natural to ask the question: How do I live now? How does this change my life? Does the internal breakthrough come with external responsibilities?

The simple answer is no, nothing has changed.

The more complicated answer is yes, everything has changed.

The title of this blog comes from William Butler Yeats. In his own spiritual development, it became clear to him that great dreams come with responsibilities. Your response to the world will change as your view of the world evolves. This works both ways. Slip into a dark place, and you will see an unforgiving world that is hurtful. Your actions will follow: hurt people hurt people.

But when your spiritual life expands, you see more and you will begin to understand you are part of everything and everything is part of you. As the small and ever-pressuring self begins to break apart, you will see that your presence itself begins to have a healing effect on those around you.

Dark, constricted vision produces after itself. Light likewise, produces light. As you develop spiritually, you will automatically pull away from hurtful behavior as from a hot fire. You will gravitate toward healing behavior because it is nourishing and feels right.

Detachment from worldly pressures does not mean separation from others. Quite the opposite. It means freedom to do what is lovingly needed. In the dream of a greater, more spiritual existence, you will see where you can be helpful, and it will be your pleasure to serve.

You will see the thorn in the other’s palm, and you will remove it – not because you have new strength to take up this weighty task, but because you will see that it is so easy to do.