Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the Week of May 2, 2022


Stable Presence

Introduction to the Series

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The moments we remember are moments of presence. The moments of vividly experiencing our life are moments of presence. Our most effective and productive moments are moments of presence. The moments of deepest connection with other people are moments of presence. And our moments of greatest freedom are moments of presence. Yet presence is not confined to special moments. It is the other way around: presence makes any moment, however mundane, special.

It may be that we have lived with a haphazard approach to presence: accepting it whenever it arrives, unbidden and unexpected. Yet we are not constrained merely to wait for presence. There is a science and an art to increasing and enhancing our episodes of presence. And like any science or art, it requires serious effort on our part, an effort that pays direct dividends in the quality of our life.

To come into continuous, stable presence may seem impossible, especially if we have some understanding of what presence is. In this context, we mean total presence: full awareness of our body, our emotions, our mind, and our senses, backed by the engagement of being the one who is present, the one who is experiencing what we experience, the one who chooses what we choose, the one who is inhabiting our body, mind, emotions, and life in this moment. That may sound complicated, but it is simply the wholeness of completely being here, now.

As for the nearness of the possibility of continuous, stable presence, that depends on the stage of our inner development. Yet for all of us, stable presence can be our aspiration, our perfection. As such, it is immensely useful. Working toward the perfection of stable presence sets us on a path toward a worthy and understandable goal, a path that requires us to be honest with ourselves, to be self-aware and see clearly into our current state, a path that reveals the nature of our inner obstacles to presence and shows us our progress toward overcoming them.

We work toward total, stable presence by working toward stabilizing partial presence. A prime example is the practice of body presence through sensing our body. Somewhat surprisingly, partial presence can be more difficult to maintain than total presence, because wholeness is inherently more stable. To try to split our attention and be aware of our body while also being aware of speaking and listening in a conversation may not be so easy. To try to be fully engaged in the whole of ourselves in a conversation may be more tractable. Nevertheless, the work of partial presence sets the stage for total presence. Yet in a real sense, no form of presence is partial: every seemingly partial presence has some contact with consciousness behind it. And consciousness is inherently whole.

Notwithstanding its inherent wholeness, there are degrees of presence, measured in intensity, breadth, frequency, duration, and depth. Even stable presence has the degrees of intensity, breadth, and depth. For example, given a sufficient amount of persistent inner work of presence, a person may reach a threshold of a first level of stable presence. For that person, there is always someone there, someone home, someone experiencing what they experience and choosing what they choose. Yet this stage of stable presence, though an important milestone in itself, may not be broad or deep or intense, leaving us much further work to do. As an example of where our pursuit of stable presence could lead, note that Gurdjieff is quoted as having said "My body may sleep, my mind may sleep, my feelings may sleep, but I never sleep." With long-term dedication to the necessary inner work, this first level of stable presence comes gradually, inevitably, and inexorably, but hidden from us until we recognize it, until it seems to have appeared whole cloth.

An illusion of stable presence is also possible. If all we remember are moments of some degree of presence, then we do not remember the moments of non-presence, thus leaving us with the illusory memory of a life of stable presence. If we ask ourselves "Am I present now?" the question itself wakes us up temporarily, and so whenever we check we find that we are indeed present. But the moments prior to checking, prior to remembering about presence, may be shrouded in obscurity.

The way out of this hall of mirrors of illusory stability is through pursuing the perfection of moment-to-moment intentional presence. In the strength of that pursuit, we know whether and when there are gaps, or gaping chasms, in continuity. That dispels the illusion of stability, if it is illusory. We can also assess the intensity, breadth, and depth of our presence when we are present.

In the coming weeks of this inner work series, we will delve into approaches to stable presence. For this week, please examine your own stability of presence.

    1. Sensation
    2. Three-Centered Presence
    3. Conscious Presence
    4. I Am Presence
    5. Loving Presence

See Also: Stabilized Presence


     

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