Natural Presence:
Wakeful, Open, Tender
August 2014 Graduate Meeting

Videos for this meeting:
RAIN: Cultivating a Mindful Awareness by Tara Brach [42 min]

    Imagine you just found out that your child was suspended from school.
    Imagine your boss just told you to start over on a report you'd worked on for a month.
    Imagine you just realized you'd been on Facebook for three hours and have finished off a pound of trail mix in the process.
    Imagine your partner just confessed to an affair.
    It's hard to hang out with the truth of what we're feeling. We may sincerely intend to pause and be mindful whenever a crisis arises, or whenever we feel stuck and confused, but our conditioning to react, escape, or become possessed by emotion is very strong.
    Yes, there are times when being present feels out of reach or too much to bear. There are times when false refuges can relieve stress, give us a breather, help lift our mood. But when we're not connected to the clarity and kindness of presence, we're all too likely to fall into more misunderstanding, more conflict, and more distance from others and our own heart...
    Presence is not some exotic state that we need to search for or manufacture. In the simplest terms, it is the felt sense of wakefulness, openness, and tenderness that arises when we are fully here and now with our experience. You've surely tasted presence, even if you didn't call it that. Perhaps you've felt it lying awake in bed and listening to crickets on a hot summer night. You might have sensed presence while walking alone in the woods. You might have arrived in full presence as you witnessed someone dying or being born.
    Presence is the awareness that is intrinsic to our nature. It is immediate and embodied, perceived through our senses. If you look closely at any experience of presence, you'll find the three qualities I mentioned above:
    Our wakefulness is the basic consciousness that is aware of what is happening, the intelligence that recognizes the changing flow of moment-by-moment experience - the sounds that are here around us, the sensations of our body, our thoughts. It is the "knowing" quality of awareness.
    Our openness is the space of awareness in which life takes place. This awareness does not oppose our experience, or evaluate it in any way. Even when our feelings and thoughts are painfully stirred up, it simply recognizes what's happening and allows our emotional life to be as it is. Like the sky when weather systems come and go, the open space of awareness is unstained by the changing expressions of life moving through us. And yet awareness has a natural sensitivity and the capacity to express warmth. This responsiveness is what I call tenderness. Our tenderness allows us to respond with compassion, love, and awe to whatever arises, in all its beauty and sorrow.
    We can refer to these as the three qualities of presence, but in fact they're inseparable. Think of a sunlit sky. There is no way to separate the light of the sky from the space it illuminates; there is no way to separate the warmth we feel from the space and light around us. Light, space, and warmth are all inextricable expressions of a whole.
    Our longing to live fully - from our beingness - calls us home to this natural presence. Our realization of truth arises from the lucidity of presence. Love flows from the receptivity of presence. Aliveness and creativity flower when we inhabit the openness of presence. All that we cherish is already here, sourced in presence. Each time we cry out for help, our longing can remind us to turn toward our true refuge, toward the healing and freedom of natural presence.
           - from True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart by Tara Brach

Closing Thought

     You can't manufacture kindness but you can intend it.
           - Tara Brach