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.

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.

How Long Have I Been Here?

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.

I Ain’t Wasting Time No More

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.

It Guides Me Now

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.

Holy Instant Is Meant to Last

Most people I know have experienced moments of spiritual experience or insight. My research sample of friends is too small to assert that everyone has experiences of being in the presence of spirit. But probably everyone has these experiences at different times in life. While some believe these are momentary flashes that come on their own, I’m convinced they can be encouraged and sustained.

I experienced spiritual moments when I was young. I didn’t think anything of them. They were simply moments of feeling that all was well. Usually I experienced this while I was in the woods or trudging through fields in search of snakes and toads. I was complete. The world was complete. And there was no difference between me and the world.

Later I experienced spiritual epiphanies during my late teens and early 20s during experiences with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, DMT, and psilocybin. The drugs delivered a much different holy instant. They produced spiritual sensations, but those experiences were laced with an edgy chemical feeling. When the drug wore off, so did the spirituality.

Shortly after that period, I met a girl who had a strong commitment to spirituality. We attended Self-Realization Fellowship classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She would have direct spiritual experiences with friends. She described this as “clicking.” She told she was waiting to click with me. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Then one evening as we pulled into the parking lot of my apartment, a feeling started coming over me. It was a strong physical feeling that was both light and comforting. There was nothing subtle about it. We were both looking straight ahead. Softly, she said, “This is it. This is clicking.” I had no fear, no anxiety, just a strong sense of love and presence.

I started to ask what it was. She said, “No, don’t disturb it.” The feeling lasted for about five or ten minutes. When it faded I finally asked her what it was. “That was clicking,” she said. When I pressed, she said, “I don’t know what it is. It’s clicking. I think it’s God.”

The clicking never happened again. She moved on to another boyfriend. I moved on to another girlfriend. I have felt the sensation again – though in a weaker strength – during meditation. As my spiritual commitment and activities increased in recent years, I’ve felt it again, many times, but not with the same intensity or the same mystery. These days, when I experience the presence of spirit, it’s not mysterious at all. I’ve become convinced it’s our natural state of being.

Holy instants sometimes last only seconds. They are precious moments when we finally see reality. They’re like a moment of sunshine on a cloudy day. When the sun pokes through, we know the sun is not being inconsistent. The sun is never diminished by the clouds that block it.

 

Likewise with spirit during a holy instant. Our experience of the presence may be brief, but that doesn’t mean spirit is any less complete. Spirit is never inconsistent, never brief. Celestial light is constant. It’s not distant. It’s present and complete at all times, in our heart, in our breath, in our very being. The holy instant is our true nature, our true identity. This waking life is the illusion. The holy instant is the truth, and it can be called forth to the center of our being, to the center of our experience of this world.