Contemplative presence

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Last month I read an article titled The present moment by Jack Petranker in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (Winter 2014 issue). The author described four ways that people can be present. These are briefly described below. Following these are my personal reflections about the nature and experience of presence and contemplative presence.

1. Therapeutic presence
Practising present moment attention by letting go of the past and future.

2. Joyful presence
Attending to the present moment by cultivating full acknowledgement and appreciation of the rich experience available in each moment.

3. Mindful presence
Attending to the present moment by remembering to be mindful, remembering what has value, what matters most, and by choosing how we make sense of the world in each present moment.

4. Active presence
Taking responsibility, acting on our convictions, choosing how to act in the present moment and who and what we will be, and taking the experience of the present moment into the lived experience of everyday life.

The first three forms of presence are inherent within the experience of active presence. In active presence we are being invited to acknowledge and work with the potential to go further, engaging with our experience openly and intentionally choosing the whole, when we engage with the world.

Petranker’s invitation to experience a broader sense of what it means to inhabit the present moment evoked a deep resonance within me, and I thank him for this. In my meditation practice experience the notion of active presence is preceded by what I refer to as contemplative presence. This dimension and process of presence arises when I experience silence and stillness deep within my being and when I quietly remember that my being arises within a deeper and broader ground of Being.

Contemplative presence includes simultaneous processes of waiting, remembering and listening deeply, from one present moment to the next. These processes create and birth new and unique present moments, possibilities, opportunities and reminders about who and what I am, who I can be, and what I can do in my relationships and in the world.

Contemplative presence, in turn, gives rise to Petranker’s active presence. In my experience contemplative presence transforms the still, silent and formless into active presence – that is, being, pursuing and doing what deeply and ultimately matters or concerns me, intentionally and deliberately.

Reflective questions

  • What does being present and connecting with the present moment mean to you?
  • How do you, or can you, come into the present moment and determine who and what you want to be, and how you want to act in the world?
  • Which forms of presence do you, or can you, draw on for being and acting in the world?

Happy reading. Charles Thermos

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