Here’s the essence: The idea of presence is based on the erroneous idea that you can somehow exist in an altered state of consciousness that is in tune with hidden existence – true reality. And that this so called presence is something different – in fact better that what other people’s normal state of awareness is.
So I’m in yoga class today (this is a yoga class that I have been taking for 15 years) and part of the philosophy of yoga is this idea of presence. What the hell is presence? People talk about it all the time. It’s like the new age trendy moniker – Be present. Or the humiliation – “you are not present with me, you are not in your presence.” Presence. Come on. if you think about it, what the hell does presence mean anyway? Let me ask you a question. Why don’t you try to be not present, how about that. Do that for me; be not present. How are you going to do that exactly? Are you going to separate from your body? Like an alien thingy? That is good, maybe have an out-of-body experience, and leave your body in one place and your awareness in another? And would that mean you weren’t present? If your body was left behind, you are still taking up space. That is the joke, you see. The ridiculous idea that you can be present or not present.
Presence, what they call presence, is the idea that somehow you are in some delusional, altered state, that gives you this sense that you are more “aware”, more present, because you are aware of certain a certain feeling of specifics of the environment around you. Really, you are not aware of shit. That is the truth. Your brain’s conscious focus is so small that it is really unbelievable. You can focus on basically one pinpoint at a time, unless you defocus and move into an altered state of consciousness. And that is it, that is human attention. You can focus on one detail, or you can soft focus and expand your “awareness.” But all of it is happening in your brain. Your conscious attention can focus on maybe +/- seven things.
But basically, once you get past three or four or five or six, seven at the max, you have lost track. Just because you think you are present, doesn’t mean that you actually are more “present” than anybody else, whatever that word means. Presence is this idea that you are perceiving reality in this unified wholeness. You are not, it is a delusion.
Your brain can’t perceive everything, however it makes you feel as if you do. That is why when you walk into a room you feel as if you “see” everything, but you are not really. And it is not until somebody points something out and goes “hey did you see that cool chandelier up there? And you go, “oh yeah, I did notice that.” Bullshit. It was only the algorithm that your brain puts together to make you feel like you can interact with the environment as a continual whole, but for the most part there are so few things that are in your field of conscious awareness. Plus there is at least a .5 second delay in your unconscious awareness to your conscious awareness.
I experience this all the time when I’m driving. I want to change lanes, but my arms won’t move. And then I look, about a second or so later, and there is a car in my blind spot.
Your unconscious mind does this perfectly – sometimes. So frankly, whatever this myth of presence is, and just because you think you are mythologically present — doesn’t mean you are. It’s so easy to debunk this it’s just ludicrous. I can take literally anybody who says they are present, and I could point to 500 things that they are not present of at all. And the only bullshit they could give me is something like, well they don’t need to be “aware of it all” consciously all the time. To which I would say, neither do I. So that makes us the same, and whatever your bullshit notions of presence are, are therefore moot.
The reason that these gurus and characters go on with the idea that they are so aware and present is because nobody challenges them. So, you have the delusion that you can shift your awareness to a different focus in the field, which you can, and then you can focus on any specifics detail infinitely – which creates the delusion that you are aware. So, while you are reading this, you are aware of the temperature of your skin right now. Are you aware of the temperature of your skin, are you warm/cool. I just brought your awareness to that. Are you aware of the clothes on your skin. I just brought your awareness to that. Now, you can follow the feeling of the clothes on your skin once I tell you about it, and we could start to talk about the texture, the temperature, the sensation, the — we could even go into the types of fabrics and all that kind of stuff, but the reality is you weren’t aware of it until I brought your attention to it. So, the idea of presence – being aware of everything is ridiculous. It’s an illusion.
Let’s look at presence another way. You have this pseudo-delusion, this idealized, hyperbolized ideal that there is some being out there who is somehow aware where other people aren’t. This is the Guru concept, no? They people are in fact exploiting others because they go oh, I’m present and I’m aware and you’re not, and therefore I can charge you huge amounts of money and I can waste your time and I can teach you all these techniques to make you more present, but in reality all I’m teaching you is delusional hypnotic, soft awareness techniques.
A lot of people say well, you know, our ancestors were correct when they came up with theses ideas of presence, and we’ve been teaching these ideas for thousands of years. To this I say: if something was being taught for thousands of years, all this means is that it’s stupid, okay?
Because the kind of thinking that we had 2,000 years ago was stupid thinking. That’s the kind of thinking where we believe that this earthquake is evidence that God punishing us. The floods are because this couple over there was having sex against God’s will, and therefore we’re all being punished. The snow-capped mountains have collapsed and there is an avalanche because that’s what God wanted to do to punish us because so-and-so had an extramarital affair.
All punishment by God revolves around sex. Sex gets the bum rap cause people do it a lot.
Sex got so moralized through the millenia because people were always fucking. So anytime something bad happens, all you have to do is go around the tribe and say okay, what happened here? If you start pushing the issue of what people in the tribe did, and everybody goes oh, I didn’t do anything wrong. But if you push and you push and you push and you find out that Sam walked over to Susie’s – who’s married to somebody else in the tribe – and was fucking her last night. And there it is. The moralization of sex.
So then you go oh, oh my God, it was extra-marital sex that caused the floods. You need to atone for your sins, we need to draw blood or sacrifice something. All of these stupid ideas came out of the thinking of our not so brilliant elders. So did the concept of being “present.” It came out of stupidity. It came out of ridiculousness. We still to this day retain this thinking. I can sit in a yoga class in Santa Monica with over 150 people – and listen to a teacher blather on and on and on about the importance of being present and not picking at stuff off your toes or your clothes – because that’s not present. What the fuck is this person even talking about?
Seriously. How can you not be present? You’re present with the picking of the stuff of your clothes! It’s not like there’s some disembodied consciousness; it’s just your brain shifts, and it’s natural for it to be in different physical areas inside your head. Quite literally, different parts of your brain are dominating the systems of your body at any given time. That’s just how it works.
Sometimes you’re in the pre-frontal cortex, which is what some call conscious awareness. Some people confuse this as presence. Sometimes you’re in the temporal lobes, sometimes you’re simply in the motor skills, and sometimes you’re fucking sleeping and you’re unconscious, literally.
The whole idea and orientation of there’s present and non-present is completely ridiculous. It’s like talking about Snoopy and not Snoopy or God and not God. It’s a complete erroneous, made-up, ridiculous idea, created by a bunch of idiot ancestors who believed that blood letting and leaches – oh and praying to the right astrological god for your disease would cure you.
These are the folks who are sitting around a campfire, in a hypnotic fire trance, making shit up about what is right and what is not right, and what is good and what is not good. So you know what? I’ve got some news for you. Practice being not present. That’ll be a lot better for you than being present. Okay? And have a good day – really. Cause all the stress you have had around being present is a waste of time.