Presence is being with whatever is in the moment with us. It is being with what is, as it is, with no need for it to be different than it is. Of course, there are obvious, and legitimate, limits to what we are able to “be present with” in the external world of normal, apparent, reality. You have to draw lines in that world, and set limits, and establish boundaries, and say, “No!” The Buddha, for example, said, “Yes,” to his rice bowl and “No” to his palace (and wife and child, among other things). The external world of normal, apparent, reality is very much a world of “Yes” and “No.” Of “this” and “not that.” You can talk about identification, and say, “Thou art That,” as much as you want to, but the lamb is not the lion, and they both know it. The rapist is not the rape-ee, and cannot truly “become” the rape-ee, without ceasing to be the rapist.
In the external world of normal, apparent reality, certain constellations of perspectives and values called the “I,” can be merged, to some extent, with certain other constellations of perspectives and values also called the “I,” but not with all constellations, not with all “I’s.” We have to BE an “I” before we can consider “becoming one” with another “I,” and will never manage “oneness” with all “I’s,” mainly because some “I’s” have their own agenda, and cannot be trusted to have “the highest good of all concerned” at heart. And, even with the “merger of selves,” there are boundaries that must be respected and honored and revered. “Oneness” is not “obliteration,” or “consolidation,” or “absorption.” It takes two “I’s” to make a “We,” to be a “We.” And, “We-ness” is the source of the continuing development and strengthening of the “I-ness” of the “I’s” that make up the “We.”
So, don’t think “Thou art That” is an invitation to disappear into the “That.” The lamb does not become the Lion, except in its fondest dreams. The phrase is an invitation to explore the “thou-ness” of the “that,” the “that-ness” of the “thou.” “Thou art That” in some ways, but not in others. And it is as valuable to note the points of demarcation as the points of identification. When “Thou art That” completely, absolutely, then thou aren’t “Thou,” and that isn’t “That.” We cannot identify, or identify with, “that” which isn’t distinct, separate, apart from “thou.” Identity before (and after) identification.
And, of course, identity is simply our awareness of our particular take on things, our perspectives and our values. What is “me” are “my” perspectives and “my” values. “I” am, you might say, the meanings “my” life has for “me.” And, “I” am always the same, but different. The particular constellation of perspectives and values that is “me,” is constantly changing with the impact of experience, yet it remains recognizeable. The strength of the “I,” the core, the foundation, is the “I’s” sense of the rightness and wrongness of things, the “I’s” ability to distinguish “Yes” from “No.” We are binary beings, organized to “open” and “close” our way through the external world of normal, apparent reality.
Or not. Who knows what the deal is “at the core,” or if there is a “core”? But we have to say something, or not, we have to say, “Yes” or “No.” I’m going to say that it is crucial, essential, absolutely necessary that we become aware of our perspectives and values. That we know where we stop and others start. And, that we greet one another in the external world of normal, apparent reality, with Presence, by being with that which is with us in the moment, to the extent that is possible without encroachment or the violation of legitimate boundaries. I see that as the second step in the radical transformation of very nearly everything.
The first step requires us to extend this kind of Presence to the internal world of how it is with us now, in this particular moment of our lives, in every moment of our lives. You know those parts of you that you hate, despise, and can’t get far enough away from? Presence. Presence is the solution to all of your problems with you. Well, maybe not the solution, but the critical ingredient in the solution.
Here’s the deal. Instead of identifying yourself with the part of you that hates part of you (“I hate myself!”), take a step back and simply experience part of you hating part of you. “Something in me hates something else in me.” Be Present with whatever is most present with “you.” If the something in you that hates is stronger than the something in you that is hated, be Present with the hating something. Invite it into your Presence. Say “Hello.” Say, “I’d like to hear what you have to say.” Listen to what comes.
And, if it is too big, too powerful, too scary to be Present with, find a therapist to help you through the experience. Therapists who are trained in a process called Focusing (do a Google search for more on the process, if not for a list of therapists in your neighborhood) will know what I’m talking about. Ann Weiser Cornell’s book “The Radical Acceptance of Everything” is a good introduction to this approach to healing the divisions within. It is simply what those who know have always known. We cannot be where we are not until we can be where we are. The path begins under our feet. Be here now (with all that is here with us now). You know. Like that. Like “That.”