If, however inadequately, enlightenment could be described in terms of qualities, I see them as unconditional love, compassion, stillness, and joy without cause. Existence in time is only a reflection of those qualities, and whilst I maintain and invest my belief in my separate identity, I can only again express a reflection of those qualities and not be their essence.

Whilst I do not know who I am, I am bereft.

Enlightenment, however, has another quality, which is the bridge between the timeless and my illusory sense of separation. That quality is presence. Presence is our constant nature but most of the time we are interrupting it by living in a state of expectation, motivation or interpretation. We are hardly ever at home. In order to rediscover our freedom we need to let go of these projections and allow the possibility of presence. Its real discovery, or our access to it, can only be made within the essence of what is. This is where spontaneous aliveness resides and where we can openly welcome the unknown.

Only here, in present awareness of simply what is, can there be freedom from self-image.

To live passionately is to let go of everything for the wonder of timeless presence. When we are courageous enough to allow this we suddenly rediscover that we are the sole source of all and everything.

Presence is not to be confused with “being here now” which is a continuous process of the separate self and has no direct relevance to liberation.

Presence is a quality of welcoming, open awareness which is dedicated to simply what is. There can still be someone who is aware and there is that of which they are conscious… the sound of running water, the taste of tea, the feeling of fear, or the weight and texture of sitting on a seat. And then there can be a letting go of the one who is aware, and all that remains is presence. All of this is totally without judgement, analysis, wish to reach conclusion or to become. There is no traffic and no expectation. There is simply what is.

At first it is enough to allow dedicated aware-ness to what is. Letting go of the one who is aware can easily follow, but it can never be a task.

I cannot ‘do’ presence, simply because I am presence. So there is no process to learn because I cannot learn or achieve something that I already am.

Presence is totally effortless and is nearer to me than breathing. Presence can only be allowed and recognised. What I tend to do most of the time is sidestep it or interrupt it.

Existence would not be if it were not for presence. I am presence and you are presence. If we were not present, existence would not be.

Presence emanates from the source of all and everything known or unknown. And that is what we are. We are the sole source of our own unique creation.

There can be presence or we can remain separate. There can be openness or we can invest in manipulation. There can be a welcoming of the continuous simplicity and wonder of simply what is or we can be imprisoned by the limitations of our expectations. All is appropriate.

Presence is the light in the darkness. It is atomic. One moment of presence brings more light to the world than a thousand years of “good works”. In presence all action is uncluttered and unsullied. It is spontaneity born from stillness.

In allowing presence, however, we embrace a kind of death. What dies is all expectation, judgement and effort to become. What dies is the stuff of separation, the sense of self-identity, which can only function in the illusory world of past and future, memory and expectation. For it will be found that if we let go into simply what is, we will be in a place of unknowing.

That is how the embracing of presence is a kind of death. What dies is the dream of individuality. What we let go of is our incessant need to feel that we are a separate entity… that we will continue as a fraction of the whole. And in that letting go we come to see that all death is a rebirth into liberation.

For what we open up to in presence is the possi-bility of entering oneness, the rediscovery of what we really are. This is the bridge between the world of separation and enlightenment which once crossed, is no more.

When there is presence the self is no more. We stand astride the living paradox and allow the emergence of freedom from the incessant traffic of becoming. It is a welcoming of the open secret.

When there is presence there is awareness and this is the light that enters the darkness. The light enters the darkness and dissipates those illusions that appear to interrupt oneness. Awareness does not divide or suppress and thereby give energy to the unreal. It simply sees what is and brings the light which allows that which is illusory to evaporate.

There is never any situation in which we cannot be united with the present. Isn’t that wonderful?! I will say it again. Presence is available in any situation, or put another way, freedom is already continuously available.

There is sufficient in every day to be present with… pain, fear, the sound of a car, wind in the trees, my body in the chair, a pen in my fingers, emotional pain, habits, abounding self-judgement, guilt, walking, the taste of cheese, being in a hurry, being lazy, being in control, and the guru mind which insists that presence is non-productive and that I should be doing something “spiritual”, or at the very least, useful. Presence shines wherever it will, on any part of existence.

If I try to bring light to one aspect of my story in particular, I disturb the natural flow and counter-point of the opportunities that life and my innate wisdom presents to me. For presence is not a task, and it cannot be used by my will. It is not a spiritual exercise or a tool to get somewhere, like prayer or formal meditation. Directly I attempt to harness it to a task I have already tried to constrain that which is beyond limitation.

Presence is all-encompassing and is its own reward. It isn’t trying to get anywhere, and if I am, I have already interrupted it.

However, when there is presence the whole being relaxes into its embrace. There are no more questions and there is no more striving. The mind departs the throne, the body relaxes, the breathing evens out and the perception becomes global. I rest in that which never comes and never goes away.

When there is presence there is total intimacy and the senses are heightened to a degree previously unrecognised… I see and touch in innocence, I taste and smell for the first time, and hear a new sound that is vital, fresh and unknown.

There is a subtle feeling of risk and serenity in presence. It is the first and last step. It moves beyond time and self-identity and provides the ground in which the discovery of what I am is made immediately and directly available.

When there is presence, all that is illusory falls away, and what is left is real, vital and passionately alive. Life full on… not my life, not anyone’s life, but simply life.

Presence does not bring heaven down to earth or raise earth up to heaven. All is one.

Tony Parsons