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The ground of being, awareness, presence – all names pointing to who we are beyond thought, time and space. In meditation we stop thought and this, our true nature, is revealed. In activity this ground of being or presence silently holds space, changeless and eternal and the substratum of all existence. Resting here, beyond thought, in meditation or not becomes a powerful place to direct our attention because it is our awakened state. The other day this question came up about presence:

“Isn’t presence like some sort of cheap escapism? I mean, I was having some restrospective thoughts, and sure I was feeling a little miserable, but then I felt better when going into presence, and yes, I feel OK now, but that doesn’t mean my problems aren’t still there, they are not going anywhere, I’m just basically ignoring them to experience this moment, I could very well be using this time to think about solutions, and try to punish myself into making some changes that could help me compensate for those regrets that won’t let me be happy. Also I’m sure once I stepped out of presence and start thinking again, reality is going to kick in, and it is going to remind me that I can’t change the past, and that the future looks tough, then I will feel miserable again until I find something else to distracts me. I don’t see how presence is going to solve anything, it only gives me a break, that’s all.”

Here is my response:

Ah, but presence is so much more than a break from our thinking minds – more than simply a moment of peace. Presence is an expansive field of awareness with infinite depth. As we spend more and more time here this Presence grows in us. We merge with it and become it, and we begin to know it intimately as our own true nature.

It’s not that presence itself solves our problems, but out of it can arise an intuitive sense, or even a direct knowing, of a way forward that is beyond what the lower polarized mind might tell us. By detaching from what Buddhists call the “monkey mind”, we begin to enjoy the peace, and also the heightened perception, that goes along with it. Our lives begin to change in expansive ways, and the practice of presence becomes our joy.

Poet and mystic Edward Carpenter in his collection of poetry, Towards Democracy, beautifully describes the quiet power of this inner presence in his poem:


Amid all the turmoil and the care – the worry, the fever, the anxiety
The gloomy outlook, fears, forebodings,
The effort to keep up with the rush of supposed necessities, supposed duties,
The effort to catch the flying point of light, to reach the haven
of Peace – always in the future –
Amid all, glides the little word Now.

As when the winds of March with their long brooms sweep the dead leaves from the surface of the ground, and the Earth in virgin beauty with the growing grass once more appears;
So when all this debris of thought from the Past, of anxiety about the Morrow, is at last swept away,
Does the vast ever-Present beneath reveal its perfect rondure.


Photo: Rick Erbach


I received an email from someone who asked me: “How can I be focused on just giving love unconditionally without waiting for love in return when I have experienced so much abuse in my life?”

We arranged a Skype call, and here is what I shared:

Our natural state of being is this unconditional love, emanating from the heart chakra in the center of the chest in limitless, eternal radiance. When consciousness resides in the heart, love becomes our ground of being. Negative states may arise, but we do not identify with them and they pass right through. They do not touch this ground of being from which we view and experience the world. The fundamental fabric of life is this love, permeating all of existence. It’s all there is; all manifestation arises from this field of love – unconditional love. And we are that.

So what is preventing us from experiencing this love all the time? Why does it seem to come and go? A friend sent me a picture of her new grandson over Christmas, his big, beautiful eyes shining bright blue, and his smile – radiant, the light pouring from his skin. There is such a transmission of Grace from this picture that it seems to have found a permanent place where I first propped it up, against a small statue of Kwan Yin on the side table in my dining room. This is our natural state – open heart, light-filled, radiant. As the baby begins his unique experience of life, this natural open heart state begins to become veiled from his perception. Because in this world we believe we are separate from our Divine nature, the heart behaves like a valve, opening and closing according to the positive or negative stimulus it receives. What will happen is that the baby will begin to have experiences that feel like loss, veiling his perception and direct experience of the eternal light within.

Perhaps it begins one day when he cries out to get his mother’s attention – maybe he is hungry, or his diaper needs changing – and mom is distracted and doesn’t hear him right away. His cries become louder. Eventually mom responds, baby is fed, and all is well. But then, later on, a similar experience occurs, and then another one. Baby begins to have experiences that feel like abandonment. The possibility of abandonment becomes very real to him, and this possibility becomes imprinted in his consciousness. It becomes a vibratory field which lies dormant, mostly, until it is activated by thought, by the thought of the possibility of abandonment. Imagine how as the baby grows into childhood, a multitude of negative experiences, experiences that feel like loss, can become layered into his consciousness. These negative experiences, these dense vibratory fields, are the veils that mask our natural connection to Source, to the light within, to the love that is our essential nature.

Our journey home to Self, to this natural state of love, is a journey through the broken heart. We must heal these wounds from childhood, allowing the suppressed emotions associated with them to surface, to be witnessed and released. When our inner deprived child is healed of this emotional wounding layered in consciousness, then the heart can open fully and permanently, unaffected by any negative stimulus. And in this open heart love can pour forth unconditionally, wanting nothing more than to express its inherent effulgence.

A student recently asked me what she could do about feelings of apathy, meaninglessness and desolation.

These heavy, dense emotions feel terrible and our first instinct is to run away from them –  to not feel them. We may do this by distracting ourselves, by getting really busy or, perhaps, by self-medicating in some way. This is a mistake. By ignoring our feelings we actually allow them to dig a deeper groove in our psyche and in the body. In truth all emotions exist as a field of energy – an energy vibration held in the subtle body and the physical body and activated by thought. If we avoid feeling our emotions, the disturbance will eventually  manifest in the physical, as a physical imbalance and an ailment of some kind. The solution is the willingness to witness any negative emotion that arises as a sensation in the body – simply as a vibratory field of energy. What typically happens, though, is that the mind intervenes. The ego/mind wants to tell a story about the source of the pain – to blame some one, or to blame some external event for causing the pain, or to feel sorry for itself. But this only exacerbates the suffering. With the willingness to experience our emotions directly and to expose them to the light of Truth, they will leave.

Our pure awareness is the light of the divine, and when we bring this awareness and attention directly to bear on the source of our discomfort in the body, this light acts like a laser beam, burning through the disturbance to reveal what is always there – the ground of being – vast eternal Oneness – and the source of our true peace.

To begin this exploration find a comfortable meditative position, or alternatively, lie on the floor on your back, arms resting comfortably at your sides, palms up, legs slightly apart with your feet relaxed and resting outwards. In yoga, this is the classic savasana pose. Take some deep relaxing breaths and bring your attention into your body. Notice any physical sensations. See if you can find the emotional pain you are feeling in the body. There is a corrolation. It can be sensed as a knot of coiled energy, a tingling sensation, or a churning tumultuous feeling, or perhaps an area of intense heat or pressure. Allow your awareness to meet the sensation directly. Feel. Notice if your mind wants to co-opt the process by telling a story about it, and let this go. Come back to sensation. Stay with it. It may want to move or morph into a different shape, or take on a different tonality. Track it as it moves or changes. Focus your lens of pure awareness directly on the source of your discomfort. Allow it to burn away.

You will soon find that which seemed to have so much substance, to be nothing at all! Take some deep relaxing breaths and enjoy this new found spaciousness. It is this spaciousness that is your true nature, and the field within which all emotions pass.