Sometimes we begin to think that presence is something in particular.
In our eagerness to learn and find out about presence, we begin to make presence into an object.
We begin to make it into something we can identify and put into a little box . We create a little corner somewhere in our minds and say “That is being present!” or “That is presence!”
That’s not how it really is.
You have to notice your own direct experience.
There is absolutely nothing we can say about presence as it happens.
Later, afterwards, even one second later, we can describe what we have been experiencing.
We can bring what is beyond understanding and beyond any particular individual experience – we can bring that into our body/mind senses and describe what we have experienced.
But not when it happens.
It is the direct experience that is so amazing, mysterious and powerful.
That is who we are.
That is our nature.
That is what everything is.
Everything arises in this stillness, and from this stillness.
It is this very direct experience of presence that we want to come back to.
We don’t want to create an understanding of it in our minds.
Even if it may be convenient to have some kind of understanding – to have some place in our minds where we can go and say “That’s presence!”
Let go of that!
Your nature reveals itself in the moment of paying attention. It is available to all of us at any moment.
And the moment we move away from that, the moment we move in any way into understanding or believing or identifying ourselves as something – the moment we move away from the directness of knowing who we are, we experience suffering.
Remembering this is the foundation of our work.
It is the beginning and the foundation of inquiry.
It is the beginning and the foundation of what I call honesty.
The invitation is to come to know yourself as you already are.
And the invitation is to know what is present in this moment. And to notice what we are perceiving through the senses. To develop the honesty of knowing what is actually present in this moment. What is the body/mind sensory experience?
Honesty is very factual. It doesn’t deal with the story or the description of things or the interpretation of things. It doesn’t deal so much with the events. It deals with the facts of your experience.
It really relies on where you are and what is going on for you in this moment – outside of interpretation, outside of judgement, outside of good and bad.
What is really present in this moment as you sit here – wherever you are. Bring your attention to the actual experience in your body – what you are perceiving through the senses. This is the foundation of honesty. Be very factual. We want to learn to say “tension”, “relaxation”, “frustration”, “happiness”. Whatever it is in the moment. We want to learn to name that. Very factually.
So honesty moves between the absolute ultimate recognition of presence as our nature and the facts of our existence in the moment. It also includes the understanding of the real cause of suffering. That when we move away from what is actually present, we suffer.
When we have honesty, we say “I am presence – that’s who I am – that’s my nature and whenever I move away from that, there is an experience of suffering. When I am not acknowledging the body/mind experience there is a perpetuation of suffering.”
Also, honesty is never about anybody else. That is not the kind of honesty we are interested in here. We are interested in the honesty of our own experience.
When you come to this honesty, you will have a much easier time perceiving where everybody else is at – which is often very different from what you think or imagine.
When you are congruent and really noticing what is, this allows an opening.
Because you are in alignment and being true to what is, this opens your vision and suddenly you can perceive not only where you are but where everybody else is also.
Not seeing from what we imagine, what we want or don’t want – but how it really is.
HONESTY IN PRESENCE Q&A
Student: I often get lost in thought and find it difficult to be present. What should I do?
Neelam: This happens to everybody. You have to be very gentle with yourself. Thought is okay. It happens. It is not a matter of stopping the thought or getting it right.
Notice in a simple open way that you are thinking and if you do not have a need for things to be different you will come back to presence.
Student: I find it difficult to be present with certain painful realizations. For example, recently I have become aware that for my whole life I have believed I am unlovable.
Neelam: Congratulations! It is so powerful to see this. It is really the purpose of inquiry to see this.
Of course it is difficult. But the difficulty has been there all along.
All our lives we move away from what we believe is not okay. This is where we bring tenderness.
Tender presence is what has been missing since the beginning.
The reason we have the need to move away, to protect ourselves is that tenderness has been missing.
Tenderness allows us to see how wounded we are.
To really unwind this belief about unlovability, you have to allow the feelings to be present.
Let yourself be present in it just the way it is. Very, very gently, tenderly….
….as excruciating as it is…… that is the way to freedom.
Student: Sometimes my fears are so strong, I find it hard to stay with that.
Neelam: The fears are so strong because there is no presence. Everyone has experienced this.
The reason that the fears are so strong is that we allow them to be here without being present. It’s a habit. We have not learned how to do it any differently. In that moment, as you are doing your inquiry, you really have to be fearless. You have to be very willing. Normally, the mind has a lot of excuses going, “This is too big. It’s too scary. I don’t know how to be here.” And this is true – we haven’t learned how to be here – yet. What I call tender presence is when you give yourself the right to be here. And you say to yourself, “I’m going to be here, I have a right to be here!” Even though the experience may be terrifying in the moment. It is everyone’s birthright to be here.
Student: In a difficult and recurring interaction in my family, I find it so much easier now that I’m attending to what is going on inside and noticing the physical sensations. For years I have tried to figure out what’s going on. “What’s wrong? What did I say? What should I say?”
Neelam: Yes, it is so easy to get lost in the mind’s story – the mind’s description of what is going on. You want to deeply understand what is happening instead of covering it up with strategies and ideas – which is tempting in the moment, but not really helpful. You have to take a moment to go inside and notice where you are at in a very factual way. The mind thinks that suffering is about avoiding circumstances or taking care of things. It’s not that we don’t need action but it is not the reason suffering is present. It is present because we are not at rest. It is our work to come back to presence and nobody can do that for us. Eventually our inquiry may result in certain particular actions towards the other or in a certain communication but it is not necessary. I find that when we are honest there is so much less that is required than what we think. There is an amazing space that opens up when we are present. We don’t have to do anything. Our responsibility is really a responsibility of inquiry.
Student: Sometimes presence seems so ordinary and I want it to be different, more expansive or more extraordinary.
Neelam: We all crave this extraordinary experience! But it is so deceiving when we believe that presence is extraordinary.
What happens is that we stay on the edge of craving a particular experience and miss an opportunity to come to freedom.
At some point, there is a level of maturity when we begin to understand that extraordinary states are temporary … blissful or beautiful as they are. Freedom is not any particular experience. To understand that is to lay down the need for something to be different than it is. It is this that leads to the end of suffering. When you notice that you are thinking that your experience of presence is too ordinary, notice your body sensations. Allow yourself to experience the pain of craving and wanting things to be different.
Neelam is a NDL guest teacher; you can get more info about her and her upcoming December 9 worldwide tele-satsang here: https://neelam.org/worldwide-thematic-tele-satang/