contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Tag: Kabir Edmund Helminski

LIVING PRESENCE

In my part of the world, we have begun the greening of the year. But I can’t go out to meet it, or if so, only a little. I can’t go out, so I have to go in. In the greening of my contemplative life, a sense of ‘living presence’ has been the key.

My bespoke liturgy speaks to me and at times asks for change. A section of my morning practice, an affirmation of ‘at-homeness in the present moment’, wants to expand into a ‘celebration of living presence’. At-homeness stood for a place of safety and regeneration. ‘Living presence’ includes that and points to more. In the celebration, I affirm myself as ‘living presence in a field of living presence: here, now and home’. I’ve added a period of walking meditation (20 minutes or so), mindful to breath and footfall and also including liv-ing pres-ence as a mantra over two full breaths.

The Phrase ‘living presence’ came up spontaneously but realising that I didn’t actually make it up, I checked up on where I first came across it. It comes from the Sufi teacher Kabir Edmund Helminski (1). “Presence signifies the quality of consciously being here … the way in which we occupy space. Presence shapes our self-image and emotional tone. Presence determines the degree of our alertness, openness and warmth. Presence decides whether we leak and scatter our energy or embody and direct it”.

For Helminski, presence is also our link to the divine. since in the bigger picture it is “the presence of Absolute Being reflected through the human being. We can learn to activate this presence at will. Once activated, we can find this presence both within and without. Because we find it extending beyond the boundaries of what we thought was ourselves, we are freed from separation, from duality. We can then speak of being in this presence”.

My picture of leaves in light against a darker background is, for me, an image of living presence. It wasn’t intended to look like this, but I’m glad that it does. It said ‘living presence’ to me as soon as I saw it. Each leaf grows out of the tree and is extended by the light of the sun. All are enabled and nourished by ‘interbeing’, the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s (2) reframe of ‘dependent origination’. But the elements of darkness and shade, whilst delineating the tree trunk, also suggest the mystery of a primordial nature, no-thing in itself yet making everything possible. The picture seems to be saying that the potential for greening is everywhere, outside and within.

(1) Kabir Edmund Helminski Living Presence: A Sufi Way to Mindfulness & the Essential Self New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992

(2) Thich Nhat Hanh The Other Shore: A New translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries Berkeley, CA: Palm Leaves Press, 2017

HEART LANGUAGE

I tend to feel most centred and empowered when using heart language. By ‘heart’ I don’t mean the physical heart, or even the heart chakra, but the mystical Great Heart, a place of ultimate stillness, where the microcosm of the human heart opens to the macrocosm. Some people, for example in the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, think of this as the consciousness that underlies all forms, the divine mind, the Self (1).

There are those, like the Sufi teacher Kabir Edmund Helminski (2) who, for the very best reasons, make a separation between Heart as “the subconscious/superconscious mind and all the faculties that are non-intellectual” and the thinking mind activated by will and reason. For me this creates a separation and dualism. In my world Heart includes the reasoning mind, and continues to hold it at some level, even though the existential angst of the reasoning mind itself may defensively lose connection with the greater whole.

I do however share the view that Heart is accessed through the growth of a sensitive awareness that allows us to be receptive and whole by entering in to a more spacious ‘I’, a more integrated quality of presence. Through a fine balance of passive and active attention we can view the present moment through the eye of eternity, a viewpoint from which many wounds can be healed, many mistakes forgiven, many losses accepted. Whilst Great Heart cannot be grasped or understood through consciousness alone, “we can see with its eyes, hear with its ears, act with its will, forgive with its forgiveness, and love with its love” (2).

1: Sally Kempton (2011) Meditation for the love of it: enjoying your own deepest experience  Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True

2: Kabir Edmund Helminski (1992) Living presence: a Sufi way to mindfulness and the essential self   New York, New York: Penguin Putnam

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