Tag Archives: Presence

This Ancient Philosophy Is What We Desperately Need In Our Modern Lives

Another link from Brian Williard:

This Ancient Philosophy Is What We Desperately Need In Our Modern Lives

Growing up, all the word “Stoic” meant to me was keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity.

Not until 1989, when I was taking the Synoptics course at St. Mary’s Seminary, did I learn — from Sean Freyne’s The World of the New Testament, which I highly recommend for many reasons — that there is a great deal more to it, including much to like.

Stoicism is a life of ordered joy.

As you read this article, please note the many similarities between the approach to life described there, and the things I have said here about presence.

Carolyn Gregoire also wrote the first article I mentioned about emotional intelligence,  “How emotionally intelligent are you?”

———— ♦ ————

And yet another link from Brian Williard:

Google’s ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ On The Power Of Emotional Intelligence

Looks like links to Carolyn Gregoire are becoming pretty common on this blog.

Don’t scoff at the headline.  From the gentleman in question here, Chade-Meng Tan, comes another ringing endorsement of meditation and presence as I have discussed them.  I note that the first exercise described in the article is tantamount to what I call prayer, and practically the same as I proposed in “You don’t need an invitation to love people.”

(Originally posted 2014-06-21.)

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Free speech issues, etc.

Bookmarks:
Some news sites cracking down on over-the-top commentsObama suggests sense of powerlessness in confronting the world’s evilsScary people downtownAn angry young man, and divine intervention

Continue reading Free speech issues, etc.

Ask Amy: Inflating the drama won’t help fiance deal with mother

Ask Amy: Inflating the drama won’t help fiance deal with mother

With Amy Dickinson’s permission, I am copying here below the whole of her column for today.  All three letters touch dramatically on principles I associate with presence, including “Keep the focus on you,” “Mind your own business,” and “Don’t come uninvited.”


DEAR AMY: My fiance’s mother is a monster. He gets upset any time they speak. The latest incident was because he had not been in touch with her since Christmas.
Continue reading Ask Amy: Inflating the drama won’t help fiance deal with mother

The power of presence

(Originally posted 08/15/13 at Trojan Horse Productions.  Reblogged 05/21/14.)

[Note, 08/15/13: Releasing this now as I will have another post on similar topics in the very near future.]

Wednesday afternoon 07/03/13 I stepped into the shower and said, “OK, what will I think about?” The answer came, “Think about nothing. Give yourself completely to this activity, this experience.”

And at once, for the first time in weeks, I felt the boost that comes from conserving one’s energies, when they are no longer being drained by attention to things distant from here and now and what I myself can do.

This is the power of presence.

[Notes to follow up on in the future:
– Scott Morrison
– Brother Lawrence: silence; feelings
– Forgive us our trespasses
– Take no thought
– The needle’s eye
– Just for today
– Serenity prayer
———
– Be here now
– Wherever you go, there you are
Conspiracy Theorists: America’s Lost Sheep?
Was There a Jesus? If So, What Was He Like?]

A first look at meditation

Although I constantly refer to “silence” and “presence,” I have put off posting any how-to here about meditation, since there are innumerable resources out there and I don’t want to re-invent the wheel.   I may eventually post a how-to here.

In the meantime, Brian Williard sent me the below link that I can’t ignore.

I’d urge anyone who’s interested in meditation, or in learning how to meditate, to read it.  Actually, I’d encourage anyone who’s not engaged in meditation now, to read it.

Son Meditation in the Midst of Turmoil

Continue reading A first look at meditation

The path of presence

Thursday, May 1, 2014.  For several days, I’ve sought a sign as to whether presence is, indeed, the way to go.  No answer could be clearer than my experience this afternoon.  I’ve gone through exactly the transition described in “Chaos overwhelms the poor.”  I have power and competence to deal with my current circumstances, with the resources at hand.  I perceive the universe as a well-ordered place.  This cosmic harmony provides the foundation for hope.  I may soon be able to face with confidence the unknown, uncertain future.

That I did all this on my own raises the question of whether there exists, in the end, the unseen world.  I have that answer already; I’ve been in this place before.

———— ♦ ————

From “Chaos overwhelms the poor:”

Jesus and others have taught an approach to life that enables one to learn to care for oneself and begin to establish harmony in one’s immediate situation.
Continue reading The path of presence

Fareed Zakaria

BK keeps the TV tuned to CNN.

On Sundays, Fareed Zakaria’s GPS comes on when I’m there in the mornings before church, and is rebroadcast when I’m there in the afternoons after church.

His voice makes me feel anxious. Continue reading Fareed Zakaria

Attack of the needy people

This is an unscheduled post.

The letter copied below from Carolyn Hax’s column for today just blew me away, as pertinent to current posts on the topic of presence.  A lifestyle of presence is very much out of synch with contemporary American culture, and is seen by those who don’t understand it as selfish and irresponsible.  The letter I’m quoting here epitomizes what’s likely to happen when you “keep the focus on you” and “mind your own business” — and deal with others who have no intention of doing either one.
Continue reading Attack of the needy people

Mooring oneself in What Is

Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

When not at sea, a boat is normally tied, or moored, to a dock.  The waves rise and fall, the winds blow this way and that, but the boat is stable and secured because it is moored.

The storms of life buffet us this way and that, and one can lose oneself in the chaos and confusion.  Managing, coping, requires that one have some mooring somewhere.  Some folk moor themselves in a concept, a dogma, such as Biblical inerrancy or the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church.  Others moor themselves in the dogmas of an ideology, such as Progressivism or identity politics; or a cause, such as environmentalism; or even a romance (a particularly bad choice).  I propose instead mooring oneself merely in What Is.

Everything else is subject to change or question or dispute.  There is no disputing What Is.  And the underlying principles, the principles that underlie existence itself, never change.

Contemplation and “Deep Silence”

I have previously discussed silence:  “About silence.”  Another term for this state is “contemplation,” which I have avoided using for reason that (1) I don’t care for a multiplicity of terms, and (2) there’s a lot written about it that, frankly, I myself don’t understand.

As taught by Ambrose Worrall, the discipline of silence has as its goal the attainment of a state he calls “Deep Silence,” the contemplation of a level of existence where there are no ideas, no thoughts, no opinions, no theories, no images, no value judgments (“shoulds,” “oughts,” approval or disapproval); but merely What Is.  After 35 years of practice, I myself rarely attain this state.  It seems to depend on how much Presence or mindfulness I’ve practiced during the preceding day.

As to the absence of value judgements, Rumi said:

Out beyond all thoughts
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

This was the Edenic state.

There is a state beyond Deep Silence.  In “Silentium Altum,” Worrall speaks of

… the realm of Absolute Silence, which we could call “Silence Unlimited,” or perfect and complete silence.

This is the condition in which God dwells.

In Absolute Silence there is neither time nor space; motion does not exist; there is no observer and nothing to be observed; there is nothing to learn, for all things are known.  It is eternity; it is infinity; it has neither position nor size; its center is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere.  This is perfection and only the perfect can understand it.

Man can approach the Absolute Silence but cannot enter it.

God created existence, being, based in a set of coherent, well-ordered, harmonious principles.  It must be so; otherwise What Is would quickly disintegrate into chaos and non-existence.  Mooring oneself in those principles can’t help but tend to establish coherence, good order and harmony in one’s soul, one’s mind, one’s life.

The inevitability of turmoil

In nature

Despite the order and harmony of the microscopic world — electrons move placidly in and among their orbitals; charged particles willingly follow paths of electromagnetic fields — at other levels of the physical universe, we see sometimes great turmoil: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and so on.  All ultimately derive, however, from simple fundamental principles.

Three factors determine our weather: humidity, barometric pressure, and sunlight.  They are completely independent, and so never conflict with each other; but their interactions make weather fair or foul.

Sunlight always causes water to evaporate; the more sunlight, the more evaporates.  And warm air can hold more water vapor than cold.  But air at high barometric pressure can also absorb more water vapor than air at low pressure; it’s like a larger or smaller sponge, that can only take in so much before it becomes full, and then begins to empty itself as rain.

High pressure systems are associated with clear weather, high clouds, sunny days and low relative humidity.  Low pressure systems are associated with low clouds, high relative humidity, and the likelihood of storms.

When a low pressure system passes over the ocean and sunlight falls on it, increasing amounts of water will evaporate into that air.  In addition, the absorbed sunlight makes the air more energetic, so that the system rotates with increasing strength, making high winds.  This may develop into a hurricane.

So from time to time I may find myself unhappily outdoors in the middle of a downpour, with heavy rain pelting my skin and drenching my clothes and belongings; and having to lean into the wind to keep from being blown over.  This may ruin my plans for the day; as a homeless man, the steps I’ll need to take that night for the sake of my clothes and belongings are less convenient than if I had my own place.  I have my choices.

I can resent the whole situation, be angry, wish it would all go away.  I can do that with all my might.  Or I can accept it and say, “This is what’s happening now.”

In society

I have only recently come into these understandings.

Social turmoil is, in some ways, analogous to turmoil in the weather.

Feelings, affects, or emotions aren’t just within us individually.  We broadcast them.  We send them out as, as it were, spirits — not living things, but spiritual materials analogous to gases — oxygen, water vapor, the smell of alcohol, the smell of roses, and so forth.

So, for example, if you walk into a room full of people who are in a foul mood, you may pick up on that, like a foul smell.  If they’re in a happy mood, you may pick up on that also.

All these masses of gases are out there, and they develop their own high- and low-pressure systems, and under the radiance of God’s sun can become energized — and sometimes give rise to social storms.

In the past few years, I have seen any number of intense controversies come and go.  The media stir up hysteria, and folk get heavily invested in feelings, and there’s a ton of sturm und drang, and a lot of people’s feelings get hurt — not to mention the possibilities of bodily harm and property damage.  I myself have got caught up in more than one, and became passionate about it, and felt like this issue was my calling from God, and the most important thing in the world — until the media lose interest, and the thing dies off like a burnt match, and nothing’s changed.

In short, shit happens.

I don’t necessarily have to involve myself in it.  I don’t need to defend my beliefs; I do need instead to live them.  I don’t need to refute others’ beliefs; I do need instead to love them.

That is What Is.

Between people

Many examples are available; I need only focus on one.

Different people are in different places, and thus of necessity have different points of view.  The easy resolution would be for each person to understand the other’s point of view, in which case they might all agree on What Is.  But different people also vary in their degree of empathy — the ability to see another point of view.

The most incompetent supervisor I ever had was seriously empathy-challenged.  Discussing this or that approach to some need or project on the job, she was utterly unable to grasp any point of view other than her own.  I tried and tried, every way I could think of.

Now, we sometimes think or speak of empathy in moral terms, or as a feature of emotional maturity.  In her case, I came to the conclusion that it’s neurological.  She lacks the equipment that makes empathy possible.

So it is also with psychopaths: they are physiologically incapable of empathy.  They lack the equipment.

That’s the way God made them.

It is What Is.

Within oneself

We could start with the turmoil I myself have just gone through in composing this very portion of this post.

The short conclusion:

It’s OK to be torn up.
Don’t get torn up about being torn up.

On the one hand, in a composition about attaining inner peace, it would seem unseemly to propose the inevitability of inner turmoil.  So, I haven’t wanted to say this.  On the other hand, as I have pondered the different causes of inner turmoil in my own history, it becomes clear that I have made tremendous progress in recent decades, by applying the principles I am seeking to teach here.

I used to get real torn up
about being torn up.

Even last night as I wrestled with the memories of the decades I often lived in agony — that I was able to maintain my composure, in the company of sixty disorderly men (at the homeless shelter), would have been beyond me years ago.

Related:  A short route to agony

I’ve been through a lot worse than homelessness.

For the moment, I suppose there are three causes of inner turmoil: indecision; karma; and dis-acceptance of What Is.

Indecision pertains to conflicting desires.  It can be eased if one is willing to do the work to become pure of heart or balanced.  It can be exacerbated by a defective worldview, such as if one is zealous to discern and act according to “God’s plan.”  Kierkegaard referred to the latter as “existential angst.”

Karma for me is reflected mainly in my lifelong karmic obsession with racism.  The related posts in my blog evidence the progress I have made in recent years toward accepting racism as a feature of What Is, and accepting also the What Is-ness of my own skin color.

Dis-acceptance of What Is.  For decades, I suffered from an invisible disability, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS).  I may go into the details elsewhere.  But the past few days, anticipating this writing, it has seemed to me that this condition marginalized me, made me as “differently abled,” as if I’d been born without arms.  Now, had I been born without arms, that could be karmic, or instead merely the way God made me.  As far as I understand things just now, it seems to me to be the way God made me.

Difficulties rose in my interactions with other people, with the job market, with institutions, and I became distraught over my inability to fit in.  This led to the situation described in the post, “A short route to agony,” linked to above.

Had I only known then what I know now; had I only had then the religion I have now; had I not lived in a world of “oughts” and “shoulds,” but instead merely accepted What Is; my life might have been far more joyful.

Conclusion

For all the turmoil we observe in nature, in society, in relationships and within ourselves; at bottom, God created the universe as an orderly, harmonious place; and one can focus one’s attention on that harmony and order.

This is God’s unchanging hand.