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The Pursuit of Presence
I suspect I am not alone in feeling a bit lost in today’s world. I’m disturbed by political leaders encouraging fear and anger while ignoring important issues, at the invasiveness of technology, and at the rise of random acts of domestic violence and terrorism. I am disturbed at the rage that is driving events. What is most challenging, however, is that common values of kindness, compassion, tolerance and cooperation seem to be considered signs of weakness in mainstream America. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 2016 presidential elections. While four letter words litter everyday conversation, the only four letter word we seem embarrassed to hear on the airwaves or speak in public is LOVE.
I understand the social and political unrest of today: people want to make a difference, to challenge the belief that individuals simply don’t matter. However, a powerful impact does not come from actions of rage. True power comes from the heart. Through the heart, our Presence is invested with unshakeable strength creating a wave in the ambiance of enormous impact. Remember the metaphor of a butterfly’s wings creating a hurricane on the other side of the world. Whether our personal Presence is transformational or adds to the malaise of these times depends on how connected we are to our authentic, heart-centered self.
Presence conveys our essence, communicating the turmoil or serenity of our thoughts, the turbulence or coherence of our emotions and the conviction of our truth. It reflects how we process, integrate, and use life-force. Presence is conveyed more by the vibe we emanate than through what we actually say and do. We can speak sweet words, control our facial expressions and adjust how much grip to give a handshake, but it is impossible to manipulate the energy we transmit. What we communicate through our Presence is who we are on the inside.
Cultivating our internal strength transmits a powerful Presence and transmits a palpable force for change. Consider historical figures like Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi. Consider the recent photograph of the African-American woman standing before the onslaught of armed forces during riots after yet another senseless police shooting. Actions bring us to the right place at the right time; Presence carries our message.
Developing Presence is different from creating a persona, the glorified impression of ourselves we want others to believe in. While Presence communicates our inner truth, a persona hides who we are behind pretense. One of the reasons communication technologies makes me uncomfortable is the amount of time spent relating to each other through personas. Relationships based on Twitter and Facebook, perceptions of reality based on reality TV shows, create confusion between Presence and persona. Technology short circuits our inner faculties of awareness so that glamor and glitter seem more real than inner light.
Inner truth is based on information we receive through felt-perceptions, a combination of mental insight linked with body sensations, emotions, and feelings. Felt-perceptions are the inner faculty that forms our intuitions, gut feelings and inner wisdom. They are the means through which the Heart communicates with the conscious mind. When communication between the Heart and the mind is blocked, Presence is diminished. When we substitute electronic media for face-to-face relationships, we lose communication between Heart and mind; we lose connection with reality.
Developed Presence is the x-factor needed to clarify the turmoil of these times. Currently, the worst of who we are is being elevated as the best we have to offer. In a recent article published in the Huffington Post, Deepak Chopra gives an explanation for the current political picture that also describes today’s general malaise. Chopra points out that when charged emotions are suppressed, they turn into what Carl Jung termed The Inner Shadow. Chopra says, "The shadow compounds all the dark impulses—hatred, aggression, sadism, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, sexual transgression—that are hidden out of sight.” The Shadow can’t be suppressed forever. Eventually, internal pressure combines with external circumstance so that societies which are "well-ordered and rational, fair and just, cultured and refined, suddenly erupt in horrible displays of everything they are not about: violence, prejudice, chaos, and ungovernable irrationality.” (1)
While we might want to deny this National Shadow has anything to do with us personally, consider the range of emotions on display during this 2016 campaign. Regardless of which candidate we endorse, no matter where emotions are aimed, the anger, fear, hatred, distrust, ridicule and division being experienced are part of our collective Shadow. Righteousness, the belief that our personal views are inviolate, gives permission to exalt the worst of our impulses as though they are the noblest parts of self. Although this underbelly is disturbing, outing suppressed emotions presents a golden opportunity for healing.
It is not an accident or a mistake that the Shadow is emerging at this time. The ever increasing feeling of losing individual power fuels the desire to make a difference. While is it easy to blame unjust laws and an unfair political system, doing so gives political personalities something to manipulate in pitting one group of people against another. When we move underneath the surface prejudice, fear, and anger to the deeper desire to make a difference, we find the potential for healing.
Presence is the antidote to the Shadow. Presence recognizes that destructive feelings are born out of pain. Rather than fight with these feelings or further suppress them, they are acknowledged and engaged. In healing, we discover the source of our disempowerment is not the external system, but our internal discomfort with that four letter word, Love. This may sound farfetched, but consider this: the essence of who we are is Love. Everyone who has ever had a peak experience, epiphany, or mystical awakening has uncovered this truth. Love is the end point of every avenue of self-realization. It is the essence of the universe and the essence of self. Denying Love is denying self.
Our discomfort with Love is borne from the depths of disappointment and betrayal we have encountered in life. Through our disenchantment, we doubt that Love exists, or if does, whether it has power in the face of turmoil. We believe Love is merely an emotion with no substance. Consequently, we deny our essence. We doubt that our Presence makes a difference and believe the way to create change is through anger and violence. Gandhi said that if we believe we are powerless, the only course for self-defense is violence, but if we believe we are powerful, we create change through ‘soul-force.’ This is what I call Presence.
The need to make a difference is one of the strongest of human motivations, yet we continually undermine our influence. David Bohm, the father of Quantum Physics says this, “There is a difficulty with only one person changing. People call that person a great saint or a great mystic or a great leader, and they say, 'Well, he's different from me - I could never do it.' What's wrong with most people is that they have this block - they feel they could never make a difference, and therefore, they never face the possibility, because it is too disturbing, too frightening.” (2)
Relieving the problems in our life and in the world requires that we shift more than just our way of thinking. It requires that we shift our way of being. How we use our feelings and intuitions, the manner in which we pursue our dreams, determines the quality of the present and future Earth. We are called to consciously participate in the present moment creation of the future. Through Presence, we create change from the inside out and simple acts of kindness, compassion and cooperation are revealed as strength. It’s time to stop looking externally for the source of our disempowerment, and look inside for the source of our power, found in that four letter word, Love.