So how do you find the presence within? The answer goes back a few thousand years: Be still and know that you are God. That’s the oneness. Much comes through the simple awareness that we are not separate, we are not apart, and we do not inherit pain, suffering, tension, or fear. They are part of the illusion. Our true life is in the reality of the presence. If we are in the Now, we’re in the presence. If we are still, we’re in the presence. If we truly realize we are not separate, then we are in the presence.
This shift in awareness can be prompted by a number of practices: meditation controlled deep breathing, yoga and other forms of stillness within.
Your meditation can be very simple. Sit in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Use silence or natural sounds. Natural sounds work better than music because any form of music comes with a point of view or intention from the composter or musician. Natural sounds are not encumbered by intention.
Try to quiet your thoughts. If your thinking goes on like a buzz saw, try repeating a set of words – some call this a mantra. The mantra works to block out thoughts prompted by worry, concern for the future, or simple to-do lists that rattle our brain when we’re trying to be quiet. You can simply say, “I am one with the presence; the presence is one with everything.”
Relax. Breath slowly and let your breath all the way out. Don’t over-burden your breathing. Let it become forgettable. In time, you may begin to feel a presence. It make take 10 minutes, it may take 30. You could meditate every day and not feel anything for a month. But in time, if you keep it up, you will feel something.
In the next blog we’ll look at how an awareness of the presence changes our experience of this life.
In the past two blogs, we looked at the nature of the presence within and explored the different ways people have experienced it. Let’s now look at ways to reach an awareness of the presence within.
I spent years wondering how to reach the presence inside. I believed it was real, even though I felt only a hint of it occasionally. The spirituality texts I read seemed intuitively true – the Upanishads, The Way of Life by Lao Tzu, The Bhagavad Gita, and many books by Alan Watts. Even mystical Christianity and the New Thought of Unity and Religious Science talked extensively about the presence of god or spirit within.
I believed it was real; I just couldn’t figure out how to experience it.
Interestingly, my first experiences in feeling the presence were through psychedelic drugs, including as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT. That’s a rough way to feel the presence. For one, these drugs don’t always bring a sense of comfort or wellbeing. Some of these drug experiences can be frightening. Looking back, it seems odd to experience a mixture of the presence and outright terror. But indeed, that can happen.
Yet I am convinced the presence I felt on these drugs was real, even if the feeling of the presence came with a disquieting pinch of self destruction.
Drugs are drugs. They can blast the doors of perception open – as Aldus Huxley observed – but they leave behind a ragged legacy that’s often accompanied by painful anxiety. A couple friends of mine turned to heroin to relieve the uncomfortable after-edge of psychedelics. As you can imagine, that didn’t turn out well.
There are certainly healthier ways to bring about the awareness of the presence within consistently. In the next blog we’ll look at how you can reach the presence through meditation and breathing exercises.
There is a place within where there is no fear and no worry. There is a place that sooths the ragged edge of sorrow and takes away loneliness. A place where pain cannot enter.
Our lives are so easily filled with hand-wringing concerns as we dash from one problem to another, never fully solving the underlying anxiety. The worry and fear just moves from one difficulty to the next.
Some of us try to calm these fears and worries with prescription pills or alcohol. Or we try to extinguish the dark discomfort through escape into TV, into food. Some use sex and emotional attachment to find relief. The respite from the pain feels real, but the rough emotions return as the chemicals wear off or the escape comes to an end. The then darkness comes back stronger.
Some try to face these difficulties straight on, believing that problems are for solving, and to some extent they are. But how can you solve regrets, resentments, or the gnawing feeling that something is not right, that some trouble is about to encompass you?
We were not created to live in endless pain and fear. We are created to live in the realm of happiness, joy and freedom. Deep on our bones we know this. And yet the pain persists, leaving us with the bitter conclusion that happiness us not possible in this broken world. We may come to believe that we are what’s wrong and broken in the world.
From this sad place, it can be hard to let go and find the presence within, that place of wellbeing that is not an escape from life’s tangles but rather a returning to the acceptance and peace that is available to all of us. It is the essence of who we really are.
In the next blog, we’ll look at ways to reach the presence.
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 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.
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.
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 answer to that depends on what we mean by “I.” During a good portion of my day, I’m very aware of “me,” the human being who was born a few decades ago, who had particular childhood and adult experiences. A good deal of the time, those experiences seem very personal and overwhelmingly real. “Of course they’re real,” I think.
But there are times when I’m not looking out through the eyes of “me.” There are times when the notion of “me” seems to have little charge. I’m surprised sometimes at how easy it would be to let go of it, to let it fall back into the energy of unrealized potential – or whatever energy goo our lives fall back into when they are behind us altogether.
When I was a teenager and later a young adult, I fealt threatened by the notion of having my life wash out like a rain drop into the ocean. I feared that would be obliteration – the death that some see as simply the lights going out.
Now, when I consider the idea of my life washing out into the ocean, it seems a blessed relief. The personal “me” is useful. It’s a tool. The experiences in our lives – in any one of our lives – are rich and colorful. But less and less do I see them as personal. My life is all our lives. I don’t own it, I don’t hold it, I simply use it.
Some say the “me” doesn’t exist, that it’s an illusion. Oh, it exists all right, but you don’t have to identify it as who you are. Who I am has moved on, or has always been beyond. I’m not sure. But I know the lights can’t go out on the who I experience now.
You reach a point in life when you don’t want to waste any more time. Time begins to seem precious. Time becomes a limited quantity that can slip away forever with hardly any notice, until years have passed, decades have come and gone. You look in the mirror and – wow – time has passed you by, leaving its scars or gravity and worry. And you haven’t written that novel, you haven’t trained for that marathon, you haven’t even unpacked all the boxes from your last move.
And that’s fear talking.
You can always count on fear to try and snatch the moment away – and the moment is what you have. It’s all you have. It’s all you need.
You have the moment if you choose to accept it. The moment is eternity. The moment is now. Right now. You can bring it into focus by changing your breathing. Slow down your breathing. Let the air all the way out. Let it back in slowly. And be where you are.
It doesn’t matter where you are. In traffic. In your dentist’s waiting room. On hold during a call that’s going to make all the difference. There is only one thing that can make all the difference, and that’s to experience . . . what is called so many things . . . oneness, holiness, centeredness . . . being whole.
It doesn’t matter if you feel broken. We all feel broken in so many ways. Some say that spirit enters our wounds. But spirit doesn’t have to enter us. We are made of spirit. There is nothing else to make us from.
We lack only one thing – the awareness of spirit within . . . and spirit without. It is ours as we choose to have it. This moment is all you need to be one with spirit. Breathing in, breathing out. Right here in this moment that holds all of the time you could ever need.
For most of my life, I’ve been aware of a “still small voice within” that seemed more important than the rest of the thoughts banging around in my head. While many associate this phrase with the Old Testament, Mahatma Gandhi also used it when he said, “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still small voice within.”
For much of my childhood and adult life I was aware of something inside me that was more essential than all the noise of the world. During much of that time, I could only barely hear the voice, and I could only barely feel the presence that seemed to go with the voice.
I often thought, there is something inside me that knows.
I had an odd confidence in that voice. Yet the nose of the world nearly obscured it for years. There were times I tried deliberately to increase the volume of that still small voice. But it stayed remote and scratchy, like a radio station in the middle of the night you can barely hear – a station that happens to be playing the music you most want to hear. It slips away again and again.
Then, I experienced a physical trauma that suddenly changed how it felt to be in the world and changed what it meant to be in the world. All for the better, surprisingly.
As part of that change, the still small voice became clear. The shift in clarity seemed almost physiological. The voice was suddenly at hand, and the sense of presence I always associated with the still small voice seemed to permeate the very cells of my body. Instead of far away and indistinct, the voice and the presence became accessible.
I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know what it is. But I trust it and it guides me now.