Part of a series:
- Presence (Part 1): What are Reactive Patterns?
- Presence (Part 2): Dissolving Reactive Patterns With Attention
- Presence (Part 3): Uprooting Reactive Patterns Through Insight
- Presence (Part 4): What is Presence?
Finally, I’m ready to talk about presence itself. Presence is not about speaking or behaving in any particular way. It’s not a feeling or emotion. Presence is a state of mind in which there is a clear knowing of what arises in experience—without distraction, and without the need to control experience. Presence is not something you can do. It’s not a practice—it’s the result of other practices. It’s what’s left after reactive patterns dissolve—so the best way to develop presence is to do practices that free you from reactivity. The more you free yourself from reactivity, the more present you become. (And the more your reactive patterns reassert themselves, the less present you become.) So presence isn’t black-and-white; there are many shades of gray.
In presence, a spontaneous knowing of what to do next arises in each moment; so presence serves the present situation, without reactivity or compulsiveness. In presence, you’re not compelled to protect yourself, to preserve relationships, to look good, to be somebody, to follow the rules, to live the process, or to do anything else in particular. At the same time, there is a natural compassion that arises with presence—a care for the well-being of all. This compassion is what motivates the actions that arise through presence.
Presence is a big part of what attracted me to meditation. In my 30s, I started running into people who were clearly more present than me. I didn’t have a word for the special quality I sensed in them, but I knew I liked it. I wanted to cultivate it within myself. My encounter with presence kicked off a decade of spiritual practice that turned my life inside out. As you can see, it’s hard to predict how presence will transform your life.
What has your relationship with presence been like?