Presence, a word we often hear in spiritual teachings, tends to be spoken of as if it were some rarefied state, distinct from other states. And definitely not what we’re currently experiencing! Presence tends to get framed as some special realm or dimension of consciousness that we must somehow locate, cultivate, practice, rest in, commit ourselves to, and so on. But rather than assuming this to be true, let’s have a look and see if it is actually the case.
Consider the following: Has there ever been a time when presence was in fact absent or missing? Is that even possible? Hasn’t something always been present? Hasn’t something always been alive? Look and see if you have ever lost or been separate from presence. Teachings may proclaim that such experiences as thinking or the sense of being a separate person somehow veil or keep us from realizing presence. But whether we call it thinking or feeling a sense of separation, isn’t the presence of any experience, still by definition present? Aren’t the experiences we label as stuck, twisted up in knots, frustrated, lost, grasping, or annoyed nothing but pure unadulterated, sparklingly alive presence? Really, there is nothing but presence for if we were to experience something else, something other than what we imagine presence to be, well then that would be present too, right?
And yet, while something is clearly present, we cannot at the same time say precisely what that is for what’s present is really beyond any and all definitions. Try it right now. Feel what is here, experientially. Feel whatever is arising in this oh-so-fleeting moment. You may have a million and one different names for it. But see that no conceptual labels apply for this that is present right now cannot be collapsed into any description or category. Thinking? Sensing? Feeling? The seeing of light? The hearing of sounds? The deepest sorrow? The greatest joy? While undeniably present, none of these labels is capable of adequately conveying the infinite, indefinable nature of what is actually here, the pure presence and utter mystery of this.
And what is the most obvious quality of this that is present? That it is. Whatever is here, however we might conceive of it, it is all pure vitality, pure dynamism. While the myriad and diverse forms, shapes, colors, and textures this can take is absolutely staggering, that it even exists seems the most astounding mystery and miracle of all. This is. Wow! How is that even possible? How is it that anything is actually present, that anything is?
Feel that. Whatever shape reality might be taking, feel the awesome power and vitality that is its very existence. Feel the undeniable, inescapable and potent presence of presence, the here of here, the this of this. It’s not presence on one side, knowing, watching or being aware of something else over there. No, it’s all presence, all this. No inside and outside, no here or there, but simply this—total radiance, total aliveness. There isn’t anything else. For after all, what else could there ever be? If something else were to appear, something else was to become known, it would still be, just this. Were we to become aware of some other dimension, some other realm or reality, we would still be right here, knowing and feeling the presence of this. We could travel the farthest reaches of the cosmos, have the most mind-boggling, transcendental, otherworldly experiences and it would still be, this.
Remember though, this ever-present presence is not what we think it is for no interpretive framework is capable of capturing or rendering what is appearing experientially. But, if this is not what we imagine it to be, what then is it? What is this that is here? Well, there’s really no answer to that question for any answer would be just another attempt to define what cannot be defined, to pin down what cannot in the end, be conceived. It’s like a koan; the more we feel our way into what is here and explore what this is experientially, the clearer it becomes that there is no final answer. And yet, it’s the most important question we could ever ask.