FEBRUARY 2005 • Vol 2, No 2
Presence • Awakening • Higher Centers • The Beloved • God
Being Present

A publication of the Fellowship of Friends

Focusing On Presence

At a recent teaching event, Robert Earl Burton, founder of The Fellowship of Friends, commented that, historically, the greatest mistake men have made is to think that there is somewhere to go other than the present; and that there is something to do other than to be present to one’s own life. The event was a formal dinner during which Mr. Burton kept emphasizing the need to divide attention and be present as much as possible to each moment of one’s life.

The dinner began with a quote from Bahauddin, father of the Persian mystic and poet, Rumi: “If there is no divine dimension [no divine presence] to what we are doing, then whatever we do is merely killing time. On the other hand, if the presence of God [higher centers] overlaps simultaneously with whatever we are doing, then anything we work on performs eternity.”

This elegant description of divided attention set the tone for a concentrated hour of trying to be present while listening to Mr. Burton speak about the urgency of promoting presence, and about the countless things that distract us from presence and cause us to lapse into imagination. For instance, every three seconds a new or recurring ‘I’ appears in us. Unless we are making a conscious effort to divide attention, our awareness gets pulled downstream by this constant flow of ‘I’s. Although we cannot stop the ‘I’s, we can—with self-remembering—swim to the shore of presence.

As Mr. Burton says, it is when we listen to the ‘I’s that we get into trouble. He often reminds us that, although the system teaches us about the many ‘I’s, we still spend too much time observing the ‘I’s and not enough time separating from them. In this context, he enjoys two related quotes, one from Rumi and the other from George Gurdjieff. Rumi said, “Fast from thought,” and Mr. Gurdjieff said, “Do not be a taxi.” They both refer to prolonging presence by not indulging in or holding onto each ‘I’ that comes along.

Even when we know about self-remembering, it is common for hundreds of mechanical ‘I’s to pass through us before we produce an ‘I’ related to self-remembering. In the language of the system, ‘I’s that we introduce with effort to intentionally promote presence are called work ‘I’s; those that occur automatically without effort, and which inherently oppose and displace presence, are called mechanical ‘I’s.

Mr. Burton keeps emphasizing that when we are not making efforts to promote presence, whatever we are doing is simply thwarting self-remembering and displacing presence. The literature of the Sufis repeatedly stresses this truth, although it is easy to miss their message by taking the words literally. For example, when the Sufis speak of love, they are speaking about efforts to promote presence.

Mr. Burton also points out that the knowledge of the Sufis derives from the same objective source as the Fourth Way. After all, Mr. Gurdjieff himself was in direct connection with the Sufis of his time. Clearly, the Sufis understood that being present is the door to the miraculous, and that tremendous discipline is required to continuously focus on the effort to promote presence. One of the Sufis, Abu Said, wrote: “Do not occupy your precious time except with the most precious of things, and the most precious of human things is the state of being occupied with the present.”

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Other links of interest on our web site
• Videos of Robert Earl Burton teaching
Suggested reading about Fourth Way ideas
• Esoteric keys to understanding The Bible

Introductory lectures — monthly
We offer a series of free introductory lectures in cities around the world. To register:
• Call our USA information line (1-800-642-0212),
Find a center nearest you.

1— The foundation of the Fourth Way
• Self-remembering · divided attention · consciousness
• Man as a machine · the many 'I's
• Barriers to self-remembering · working in a school

2— The theory of centers (requires lecture 1)
• The 4 lower centers
• The sex center
• Higher centers
• The soul, the spirit

3— Promoting and prolonging presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• Practical ways to introduce and sustain self-remembering

Membership information
The Fellowship of Friends is a Fourth Way school with centers worldwide. Membership is monthly. For details:
Find a center nearest you.
• Email contact@beingpresent.org.

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

Statue of an eagle. Collection of the Fellowship of Friends.

Thoughts on presence
Moments of consciousness are very short and are separated by long intervals of completely unconscious, mechanical working of the machine. You will then see that you can think, feel, act, speak, work, without being conscious of it.
George Gurdjieff
One moment you are aware of yourself, another moment you are not: you do things, you speak, you write—and you are not conscious. We never realize that we are present, that we are conscious, that we are here.
Peter Ouspensky
Accept what the present brings and live in that. If one is not established in the present then one is nowhere and nothing is possible.
Rodney Collin
It is difficult for one's work ‘I’s to emerge from the chaos of imagination, because the many mechanical ‘I’s compete to prevent them from rising to the surface. Until your last breath, your work ‘I’s must oppose your mechanical ‘I’s. This is the esoteric meaning of the Philokalia when it says, 'Expect temptation till your last breath.'
Robert Earl Burton
Make the divine present your destination.
Al Ghazali  
Give value to your time, live in the present moment. Do not live in imagination and throw your time away.
Ibn Arabi
Each moment fills my chalice with presence; this is my wine, I drink the present moment.
Attend upon the Lord without distraction.
Corinthians 7:35
This most subtle awakening comes about through moment-to-moment attentiveness.
Be attentive with the awareness which does not think.
Zen Master

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