Main Pages

By Region




Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Presence?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Presence

"I Am" is the Same Thing as Presence

Completeness is the experience of "I am" without mind, without anybody reflecting on it and saying, "I am," without subjectivity. It is just the actual "I am-ness," without the mind conceptualizing it. "I am" is the same thing as Presence, as the "I," as the true identity, except there is no need to conceptualize.

Barriers that Prevent the Discrimination of Presence in Experience

Presence is more like feeling than like thought, which makes it possible to mistake it for the felt aliveness of the body. The unconscious components of the self-representation (like those involved in the primitive body sense), coupled with the assumption that the physical body is the most fundamental level of the self, tend to prevent one from discriminating Presence in experience.

Being the Consciousness that is Present

Eventually, we recognize that immediacy really means presence. That is, when our experience becomes truly immediate—without the interposition of any mental construct—then we are here, really in the now, fully in our experience. To be in our experience in this way is what we call presence and that is what we mean when we talk about truly being ourselves. We realize that “being here” means, “I am actually the presence that I am. I am here at this very moment, and my experience is not a mental construction dredged up from my past. I am just what I am in my factness, and I am experiencing this moment completely, directly, without anything intervening. I am the very awareness, the very consciousness, that is present, that exists, in this very moment, and I am experiencing myself as that very existence.” Further, when we are no longer defined and restricted by the constructs that our mind has imposed on the moment—when we finally can experience ourselves with immediacy and let ourselves be—we recognize what it means not to act internally, on ourselves or our experience. Because “not taking any inner action” and “being ourselves” turn out to be exactly the same thing—the simplicity of just being here.

Brilliancy is a Presence that Slows Time to a Standstill

To arrive at that all-inclusive experience of presence, where everything is one unified presence, we first have to understand what presence is in our own personal experience, and that means understanding the experience of presence as Essence in its various aspects. The aspect of Brilliancy brings in a very precise, specific experience of presence as completely in the now. Brilliancy is a presence that slows time to a standstill. As time slows down, we experience it as the flow of presence. When time stops, we experience timelessness, and the presence is pure and complete. There is purity now because experience is completely untouched by thinking. In place of thought there is radiance and brilliance. The luminosity and magnificence of Brilliancy is the exquisite perfection of presence without time. That is why the full experience of Brilliancy is the experience of timelessness. Before differentiation and conceptualization, before there is memory of the past or thoughts of the future, there is just the pure fact, the pure actuality, of presence with its complete radiance. Here the consciousness is aware of itself completely outside of time—consciousness and presence as the same thing. Timelessness, which is the full and complete experience of Brilliancy, becomes the entry into the now, which is universal presence.

Brilliancy, pg. 62

Dynamic Presence

When we experience the process of universal transformation as a flowing and unfolding presence, we begin to recognize the dimension of dynamic presence itself. The various ways of experiencing universal transformation in the above discussion reflect how we experience the coemergence of dynamic presence with the other boundless dimensions, and the degrees of subtlety of experiencing these dimensions. But when we experience it specifically as the flowing and unfoldment of presence we come upon the particular dimension of dynamic presence, at least in the logos of the Diamond Approach. Our experience focuses here on the dimension of true nature responsible for change and movement, which provides us with a more complete and detailed understanding of the changeability of existence. We experience ourselves here similarly to the soul, as a flowing and dynamic presence, teeming with energy and pulsing with power. Yet, we are not a limited soul, but a boundless presence that is dynamic and vital, full of life and creative power. We may actually recognize here that the qualities that our soul possesses, those of flow, unfoldment, dynamism, potentiality, creativity, and morphogenic transformation come to it from this boundless dimension of dynamic being. In other words, when we experience our soul as a living dynamic presence we are actually experiencing the dimension of dynamic presence but in a limited and individual way, as related to our particular physical body. Dynamic presence does not dismember itself into individual and separate souls, but simply appears so due to our limited understanding of our true nature. Because of this, the realization of the dimension of dynamic presence challenges our conviction that our souls have to be separate for them to be individual, and brings about the precise understanding of the relation of individual soul to universal soul, or dynamic presence, this way liberating us from this deep and constricting conviction.

Effect of Experiencing Presence

Any experience of presence can change your perspective and your view of reality. For example, when you are pervaded with compassion and look at reality from its perspective, you notice that it affects not only your experience of yourself, but also your perception of everything else. Your attitude, what you think is important in life, and what you think is significant about reality all change. You feel kindness in how you relate to your own experience and also increased sensitivity to the difficulties that others are dealing with in their lives. If then you experience clarity and you are feeling clarity and you are being clarity, that transparency and luminosity will shift your perspective. You will begin to see through your familiar prejudices and assumptions and recognize a more objective, less self-centered experience of reality. You realize that without clarity, you are lost. It doesn’t matter how much compassion you have; if you are not clear about things, you won’t see what reality is, you won’t see what the truth is. So each experience of true nature widens and deepens your view of what you are and what reality is.

Essential Presence is the Ontological Ground of all Phenomena, their Ultimate Substance

We have seen that essence is the true nature of the soul in both of these senses: it is her ultimate existential mode and ground, and it is the most objective truth of what she is. In the same way, essence reveals itself at this juncture of the inner journey as the essence and true nature of everything. Essential presence is the ontological ground of all phenomena. It is their ultimate substance. It is the true nature of plants, animals, rocks, atoms, elementary particles, energy, light, oceans, planets, galaxies, whatever universes exist, and so on, and the true nature of all thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, and all processes involving any of these objects. Nothing is outside the compass of true nature. We saw in our discussion of the soul that her essence is not composed of distinct isolated parts, not composed of atoms. Essence is a homogeneous and indivisible medium, a true unified field. Seeing this indivisibility, it is actually a short logical step to recognize that it must be everywhere, as the essence of everything. More fundamentally, however, we increasingly appreciate the characteristics of true nature; it is timeless and infinite, beyond time and space, transcendent to all manifestation, and so on. Here we can explore these characteristics more specifically, to develop our understanding of the transcendence of phenomena, especially of time and space, from the perspective of true nature itself.

Experiencing Our Underlying Reality

Presence is our spiritual freedom liquefied, condensed. Presence is an actual sense of hereness—beyond our emotions, beyond the mind, beyond our ideas. In presence, we can know ourselves in a way that is authentic, which means that we are knowing what is real in us. When we feel presence, we are experiencing our underlying reality. It feels more real than the physical, the emotional, or the mental realms of experience. And it can’t be defined in any of those terms. So when we feel the presence of love—the actual liquid sweetness and its melting nature, or its fullness and richness and softness—we begin to see that the ways we have known love have been limited.

Levels of Presence

Presence can be experienced on many levels of subtlety and refinement. It can be experienced as the presence of light, the presence of consciousness, the presence of awareness, the presence of love, the presence of clear light, or the Presence that is the nonduality (coemergence) of consciousness (or light) and emptiness.

Noticing the Tension of Trying to be Present

So there is a place for trying to be present. But in time, the more you become present, you see that there is tension; there is a me trying to do something and there is the Presence. You see that actually the Presence doesn’t want anything, doesn’t try anything. You start wondering: what’s this? How can I try to be present? Who is trying to be present? And that’s when you allow yourself to be influenced and affected by Presence. That’s when you learn to be vulnerable.

Presence Can Feel Substantial But it Has No Substance

When we explore what presence feels like, when we experience its luminosity, we recognize that, though it can feel substantial, it has no substance; it is not solid at all. Even though, when we first encounter it, we know that presence is what truly exists, our mind mistakenly conceives of its existence in the same way that we think a rock exists. But in doing that, we reify it, we concretize it, and miss its very nature. So we take presence to be existence, but the existence of presence is not like the existence of the body, for example, because it is not an object. Even though we say that presence is our being, that it is the authentic ontological ground of our consciousness, neither being nor existence are what we are referring to when we speak of the existence of a rock or a chair. We need to be very subtle in our understanding of what “presence is being” means. We need to recognize the pitfall of the tendency to objectify. This tendency to objectify is always an attempt to get away from this truth, from this reality that I am referring to as the black hole. And we are always trying to get away from it because it is always here; we cannot escape it. And somehow we are aware of that inescapability, we intuit it. We are continuously trying to create solidity because if we let ourselves completely relax, we will find out that the nature of presence itself is completely, absolutely nothing—it is more nothing than the nothing of empty space. It is nonbeing itself. So even though presence feels like being, when you recognize it, it is nonconceptual and therefore it is not—cannot be—the opposite of nonbeing. The notion of an opposite does not exist in the nonconceptual, and neither do being and nonbeing, because they are conceptual.

Presence in the Present is the Meaning of Being

... the totality of the cosmos is pure existence, pure Being. This means recognizing not only that presence is essence inside of you, but recognizing that everything is presence. This is what is meant by stating that reality is existence, is Being, is presence. Presence is directly experiential; this presence in the present, in the now, is the meaning of Being. This presence in the now is not the juncture between the past and future; the present moment is the entry into the presence of Being, but it is not time. Presence exists only in the moment and not in the past or the future. Even physical reality is presence, but we do not ordinarily perceive this because we are looking only at the surface without perceiving its other levels. It is like perceiving only the skin of an onion and eliminating the rest of it, so you can take an onion to be brittle and stiff and believe that it has no soft and juicy part.

Facets of Unity, pg. 169

Presence is Completeness

Presence is completeness. When you finally understand what Presence is, when you're completely present, you are complete. There is the valuing of Presence: there is the perception of completeness. When you're complete you're content with being present. There's no need for anything else.

Presence is the Essence of the Self

The self can experience itself either purely and immediately, or through memories and structures created by past experiences. When it is seeing itself directly, it is aware of itself as primordial purity, without veils, without obscurations. It recognizes this pure condition as its ontological nature. This primordial purity or ontological nature is recognized as the self’s ultimate truth. So we say that the self has an Essence. The central property of this Essence, or true nature, is that it is an ontological Presence. Presence is the Essence of the self, just as protoplasm is the Essence of the body.

Recognizing Presence as the Ontological Reality of Consciousness

When we can finally be ourselves fully, we recognize ourselves as Presence, and apprehend that this Presence is nothing but the ontological reality of consciousness. We feel our Presence as a medium, like a material medium, such as water or clear fluid. This medium is homogeneous, unified, whole and undivided, exactly like a body of water. This homogeneous medium is consciousness. The medium is conscious and aware of itself. It is not aware of itself by reflecting on itself, but by being itself. In other words, its very existence is the same as awareness of its existence. To continue the physical metaphor, it is as if the atoms of this medium are self-aware. Presence is aware of itself through self-pervasive consciousness, where this self-pervasive consciousness is the very substance or medium of the presence itself, not an element added to it.

Seeing a Dynamic Presence, the Divine Logos, Flowing Out of the Absolute

We experience ourselves as a vastness, an immensity, an expanse so deep it is absolutely dark. Though dark and still, inscrutable and silent, it is the source of all luminosity and light. And within this immeasurable immensity, we witness the process of creation. We see a dynamic presence, the divine logos, flowing out of the absolute, revealing its potentialities as the manifest reality, disclosing its mysteries as the multidimensional manifold of existence and experience. Yet, because of the infinity of the absolute we see this manifold as a surface phenomenon, as if the absolute is so pure and pristine that it glitters and shines, its brilliance forming a surface, colorful and luminous. This colorful and luminous surface of radiance is continually scintillating with colors and forms, shapes and patterns. We witness an unfolding surface of clear and variegated light, whose pattern is the totality of creation. The absolute is prior to light, but also its source and ultimate nature and mystery. The light is the unfolding logos, whose pattern is the totality of existence, a dynamic unified manifold. The scintillating light is one unified surface, with no parts and no partitions, a field of radiance full of intelligence and truth, reality and significance. The background of this unfoldment, the absolute, is so totally dark it appears black, but luminous crystal clear black. We experience it as beyond the world. The world looks like a transparent picture, as if it were a soap bubble with pictures on it. It looks like a reflection on the inside of a transparent bubble, within the infinite immensity of the crystalline absolute. This perception changes depending on how involved we are in the manifestation, or how concentrated we are on the absolute.

Sense of Presence

Presence gives a sense of immediacy, of fullness, of hereness in the experience. It gives a sense of immediacy and directness that suffuses the experience, that pervades it and fills it, so that our awareness, our consciousness, is not only observing it from a removed place but also from within it. It is as though our nerve endings were inside the experience, outside the experience, and in between; they are everywhere and feeling the experience in all its possibilities. That’s when we really know the experience fully and completely. If we have that kind of awareness, then we recognize that to be aware of something is not just a function, and it is not just a capacity. The awareness, in fact, is our essential presence, our hereness, our substantiality.

Soul Seen as the Flow of Presence

It is particularly this experience of the self as a flow of Presence in a dynamic unfoldment that we call the soul, the ancient western term for the self.

Stabilizing the Realization of Presence

I am clarifying the relationship between our central practices of inquiry and nondoing from the perspective of totality. How do we practice nondoing? Isn't that doing something? How can inquiring be nondoing? Exploring the paradox of nondoing brings us closer to how reality actually works. Nondoing supports the practice of inquiry by emphasizing beingness, presence, and noninterference. Inquiry develops the discriminating intelligence of Being and integrates that into our process. At some point, our inquiry can engage our process without interfering with our experience, and our nondoing can attain the dynamic intelligence of Being in service of discerning what is true. The practice of inquiry is actively engaged because we are engaged with life. We are living and we are active, and part of our living is the engaged practice of inquiry. Inquiry doesn’t mean that we are always asking ourselves questions. It doesn’t mean that we are always sitting around thinking. Inquiry is the natural and spontaneous flow of our interest in life. When something is not understood, a spontaneous movement and inquiry arises that may not even be formulated as a question. All we know is that something is not understood and, after a while, there is a revelation or a further discernment. The stillness and quietness of our concentration practice helps stabilize the condition of nondoing, which is the base of the practice of inquiry. Concentration and nondoing support and stabilize the realization of presence, the realization of true nature. Inquiry helps to discriminate and integrate this realization as well as to develop it and open it to further possibilities, which are partly a response to our life and its circumstances.

We Know Presence by Being Presence, by Simply Being

Presence is not a feeling, even though it can have an affective component. The affective component in presence is not the quality of presence itself, but the differentiation of some inherent spiritual qualities, like love or compassion. We know presence by being presence, by simply being. In other words, we can experience Being explicitly as a category of its own, and not only as an implicit dimension characterizing existents. We can experience the dimension of presence explicitly, directly, and clearly. The development of the modern positivistic scientific paradigm owes a great deal to Descartes, who made a particular contribution to the separation of soul from God and universe, in a sense setting self above and against the universe, as a separate entity that can study it. It is no wonder that modern mainstream thought cannot conceive of presence as a category on its own, and can conceive of Being only in the abstract, as an implicit characteristic of existents. Modern thought is dominated by the philosophical paradigm that conceives of the world as matter, and of the self as matter that possesses consciousness. This perspective has supported our amazing scientific and technological advances, but it has also robbed our knowing of its most fundamental dimension. Many developments in more sophisticated current thought are confronting the limits of this view.

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach