Presence Work Principles-

Here is an simple attempt to describe the principles of the work(actually there many ways of describing these, and you will find some of them in the highest nondual teachings of the Gnostic traditions in many cultures and in the poetry of awakened beings):

Basic Principles

The fundamental principles of this work are simple, and can be expressed, practiced, and developed in innumerable ways.

“We are the mirror, as well as the face in it
We are tasting the taste, this instant, of eternity
We are pain, and what cures pain, both
We are the sweet cold water, and the jar that pours.”
– Says Rumi
Through this work we may perhaps glimpse the direct accessibility and relevance of such words to us all.
We CAN practice and deepen in this mystery, particularly when we support each other to do so, for our very awareness and attention, our very presence is the direct, though filtered, expression of a most powerful, marvelous and mysterious spiritual reality. It is not inaccessible, but right here with and as us, though because it is so close we do not notice it. As Rumi says “A rider comes riding into town shouting ‘ Where’s my horse, where’s my horse?’!” or  “You are like fish in the sea, looking for water”.
Though that is not to say that this realization and practice is easy! Far from it, yet it is also effortless, and rather a letting go of unnecessary habits of avoidance than adding something new onto what we have already become. And the glimpses we get usually feel like a soft home coming, and a profound release, rather than an achievement. Well it’s full of paradoxes to be sure.
There is a dimension to our being that is always with us, but mostly unnoticed. This dimension is free from the struggle and sense of duality or separateness we are usually identified with.  In fact it is the context for all our experience, our very awareness-presence. It is not something we have to develop, as it is a deeper already given ground of our being. To begin to contact this dimension does not necessarily solve or change anything in our relative existence, but can relieve us of a fundamental distress inherent in the usual identification human beings have with only a limited self-sense. ‘Presence Work’ as practiced in these classes and workshops is primarily aimed at encouraging recognition of and contact with this deeper ‘dimension’, as well as bringing the particulars of each person’s current life experience and ‘issues’ into this field. A deepening of this presence-field seems to be enhanced in dedicated company (as in the saying of Christ- ”When 2 or 3 are gathered …etc.”)
The person’s gradual deepening in and integration with the deeper dimensions of their being is an organic unfolding determined by many factors, primarily the willingness to open to the direct undefended experience of whatever is actually in their experience. Since we are usually heavily defended, due to past pain from allowing direct experience of areas of our being, to deepen in this process can at times be painful and scary. It may challenge the inner attitudes and self-protective beliefs we have adopted in our long history. But as we notice the ever-present reality and indestructibility of our unconditioned nature, we may gradually feel we can relax such conditioned holding patterns and open to the unfolding ever-renewing impulse of our lives.

We could say there are two to our experience of existence
1. There are phenomena, multiple forms of experience, outer and inner, endless changing content of experience- phenomena.
2. There is the ‘experiencer’ , awareness of experience. All experience happens in consciousness, (or there would be no experience)
‘Normally’ Consciousness is ‘glued’ to experienced phenomena to a high degree, so ‘it’ tends to identify itself as being bound to and limited by the content of experience, and when apparently not, is usually still bound to and identified with subtle self images, mental, emotional. and bodily, or at least to some sense of ‘I’ that is less than fully open.
We are normally meeting ourSelves and our experiences from a greatly reduced and filtered perspective, consequently our experience remains somewhat buffered and deadened, as does our awareness of our consciousness or source being itself. So the work is expanding in both directions- making deeper contact with our direct experience (in the content aspect- sensations, feelings, objects, thoughts, others etc.), and deepening into the mystery of that presence-awareness which is conscious as us.

The marvelous thing about ‘Presence’ is that presence includes both poles and everything in between, we are all already to some degree ‘present’ and can help ourselves and each other open up this very intimate and personal presence into That Presence which is an ever present and limitless mystery in which we already Are. To use a quote from Longchenpa of the Dzogchen tradition of Tibet- ”There is not a single state which is not this vast state of presence. It is the site and home of everything. So remain in this which cannot be constructed or taken apart.”
The metaphor of a ‘field’ may be useful- everything is in this field and the field is the presence of everything manifesting in it. It is reality and we are slowly waking up in it and, marvel of marvels, AS it. As Rumi says again “ beyond all ideas …there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”
This may sound abstract and strange to some and well ‘known’ to others, but through working together we can directly know and feel and be what this refers to. And we can do this without having to adopt any particular tradition or doctrine, but use our direct inquiry and awareness (fully feeling and sensory), enhanced by that of our fellows.
Further, this Presence we are turns out, as we open into it, to be Love!
We turn out to be love!

Now, the one principle from which this work first began developing is important to mention. And that is that we can significantly amplify the ‘field’ of presence for each other when we ‘give’ our open awareness and attention to each other without judgement or expectation. Our attention and presence acts like an Alchemical or ‘heating’ agent, raising and quickening the awareness and unfoldment of the one attended to and the group, if they open to it. Remarkably so. And what emerges spontaneously, the changes of awareness that occur for the individuals concerned are dictated by their very unfolding process, always totally appropriate to where they are in their unfolding. As well, a Holy Presence, a grace and deep peace usually to some degree becomes palpably felt or intuited. Many subtle openings and insights and shifts may happen in the ‘soul’ as we allow this field to affect us. The subtle organic intelligence of this presence field is unpredictable and ever unfolding.

This principle of ‘When two or three are gathered’ in dedication to the truth has of course been part of most traditions for centuries, under names such as ‘satsang’, ‘sanga’, ’church’ etc.
However, usually we gather in the name of a belief, and tend to rigidify into believers and non-believers’ etc. That is, the mental / cultural identifications obscure or at least limit and colour the original awakening intent and potential of such ‘gathering.’  Sometimes I think this work should be called “Beyond Belief”, because it is- in several senses!
It seems we are in a time when the gates for an awakening of Universal consciousness are opening for a far larger population than ever before, and there seems to be a call felt and heard by many to walk through, despite all the insecurity and falling away of conventional certainties. Being demands it. Our own Essential Nature calls us to allow it through.
We are becoming conscious of our divinity even as we are, even as the limited, dysfunctional, imperfect beings we so obviously are. We are, as I (and many others) intuit, the vehicles and indeed in essence the very presence of the Divine Being awakening in form, on this Earth, now. When you begin to sense the wonder and beauty of this, in others and yourself, such a tender inexpressible gratitude and love may well up and send tears streaming down your precious face!

This work is offered as one expression of this call in mutual service of this awakening.

– Duncan Mackintosh