We hear a lot about presence, being in the now, and being present. These are three related aspects of long standing wisdom teachings. But what exactly do they mean? Why is being present so desirable, and also so challenging to attain?
Presence is the unspoken dimension of who we all are. Presence is the "being-ness" of who we are beyond thought, judgment, personal bias, and doing. Some describe this as the soul, pure awareness, or one's higher self. Presence engages all our senses and allows us to be fully aware against a background of vast, intelligent stillness. Presence is a form of alert stillness.
Coming from presence is the (only) way to experience life, people, events, or circumstances as they really are. All other aspects of our human makeup are laced with and colored by preconceived notions, beliefs, fears and judgments. What typically happens in everyday life is that, unknowingly, we "bring to the party" all our baggage, and then unconsciously spread it all over everyone and everything. Once that happens we cannot see what is; we only see and react through the blinders of our stories and projections.
Charisma is not the same as presence. The energy of charisma has magnetic charm. It has a stage presence with plenty of wattage and a "ta-da, here I am" vibe reflecting the power of the personality, which is organized by the ego. The ego has gotten a bad rap. There is nothing inherently wrong with ego. It has an important function in defining our individuality. However, the scope of the ego is very limited and fear-based. This is why everyone's ego aspect collects judgments, insecurities, conflicts, etc., and then keeps the drama going by thinking everything in life is personal.
Being in the now is being out of your mind
The mind is always anticipating the future or reflecting on the past. Another way to say this is that the mind is either thinking about the last word or guessing what the next one will be. The past is over and the future is not here. This is why it is said that the present, the now, is all that we have and all that really exists.
Being distracted from the present by the machinations of the mind means a huge part of you is not here. If the mind is running the show, it makes it impossible to fully focus your interest or attention or love on anyone or anything, including yourself. The mind does not comfortably hang out in the present.
Being present is a gift
Being present is intentionally putting the mind and the ego personality temporarily aside, so that the presence of your soul can show up in the now. This is how you can fully see, listen to, feel, and know the essence of who you are, of who another person is, and to experience life events without projections. The greatest gift you can give another person is your presence, and your presence is the source of your inner peace.
Heart is where the action is
The built-in connection to presence/soul/higher-self is an open human heart. By nature, an open heart is compassionate, inclusive and non-judgmental. Living through the lens of the heart is the link-up to our presence and the greater cosmos. It is via the heart that presence flows naturally into this reality, where its wisdom can guide life on all levels. A heart-centered focus includes the higher mind, and with heart/soul in the driver's seat of life, the ego, mind, and personality are comfortably in the passenger's seat where they can be called upon when appropriate.
Ways to still the mind and open the heart
Meditation and yoga are two examples of time-tested practices intentionally designed and proven to still the mind and open the heart, allowing the pure awareness of who we are to guide our lives. Music, art, dance, and being in nature are among many other the ways to connect with presence. Sometimes professional help is also a part of the mix. And there are many extraordinary teachers, workshops and books to show the way.
The state of presence offers the freedom to experience life as it is, and to respond from the heart in the moment. You cannot experience presence with thought! However, you can always feel the beauty, enjoy the uplift, and revel in the mystery of presence. PJH