4 Stages of Presence

1. Settle.

In the stage of settling, the practice is overcoming gross level distraction such that our mind becomes more serviceable in practice, as well as allowing conscious room to emerge to work with our experience. Practices include simply sitting and allowing experience to settle on its own until a degree of ease emerges, or focusing the mind on an object and cultivating concentration of attention.

2. Be.

At this stage we practice non-doing through noticing when we are making efforts to create something in practice, releasing that movement of effort, and resting in the quality of just being. If one has not cultivated the experience of settling in the previous stage, it is more likely that one will fall into an experience of dullness or sleepiness when letting go of effort, rather than a presence that is lucid and clear.

3. Listen (receive).

At this stage resting in the experience of simply being becomes more stabilized and we now focus on being present with thoughts, sensations, and phenomena as they arise. We are practicing being present in stillness even as the content of our experience moves. This stage is called ‘listen’, or alternatively ‘receive’, to indicate there is presence and awareness that is lucid and open to what is arises.

4. Self-liberate.

At this stage we are simply radically present. We are not doing anything, one way or another. We just sit. In this way what arises in experience is said to self-liberate because we are present but not constructing or manipulating whatever arises and passes. Neither grasping, nor resisting, nor collapsing awareness into distraction or passivity.