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FEBRUARY 2006 • Vol 3, No 2
Presence • Awakening • Higher Centers • The Beloved • God

Being Present

A monthly newsletter for putting Fourth Way ideas into practice.

publication of the Fellowship of Friends, Inc.

Listening With Presence  

A practical way to promote presence is to listen with divided attention: to consciously notice the sounds around you, such as cars passing, people walking, doors closing, the wind blowing, the refrigerator humming, and so on. The main thing, however, is to hear these sounds while simultaneously being aware of yourself hearing them. With divided attention, listening becomes a catalyst for establishing and reestablishing presence.

One sound that we often hear but do not really listen to is other people when they speak. We may catch the general meaning of what they say, but we do not listen to each word and we are not simultaneously aware of ourselves listening. This is because we are behind the veil of imagination, in varying degrees of the second state of consciousness. Instead of just being present to what is said, we are caught up in our reaction, or anticipating what we will say as soon as we have the chance, or we are entirely distracted by thoughts about something else. ‘I’s from the four lower centers are constantly interfering with presence. As Robert Earl Burton, founder of the Fellowship of Friends, has pointed out, “The intellectual part of the instinctive center manipulates the four lower centers and will keep you in imagination by not listening to others when they speak.

When imagination is extreme, we do not hear anything at all, just as we do not see anything at all. The cloud is too thick, awareness is too dim. It is shocking to snap out of imagination—to wake up—and realize that, even though our eyes and ears were open, we were completely shut off from what was happening in the moment.

Something that helps divided attention when listening to others is to look at the speaker gently, not intensely. Another thing is to allow the person to finish talking without interrupting them. You can even go one step further and not respond when they finish speaking. Instead, try to remain silent for at least a few moments. Doing so can heighten presence and prolong it. It is what the Sufi poet, Rumi, meant when he said, “Close the language-door, and open the love window.” The window of presence.

Listening to other people is a technique, and the same technique can be used while listening to music. For example, turn on some instrumental music with the aim to hear each note with divided attention and to deflect all thoughts that get in the way. Try this for five minutes at a time. You will see, as Mr. Burton says, how “The lower self will offer up a lavish buffet of tempting subjects to lure you away from the present.” You will probably not notice the point at which you get lured into imagination, but you will be aware of returning to the present. At that point, when presence comes back into focus, try to acknowledge it and prolong it.

Professional musicians hear music better than most of us because they listen with trained attention, but even they do not listen with divided attention. The arrow of their awareness is still pointed mainly one way, toward the music. Without divided attention, they are not simultaneously aware of themselves listening, so there is no conscious transformation occurring.

Transformation refers to essence: the simple awareness that each of us is born with and which is still visible in very young children. Essence is a wordless, uncomplicated state that simply looks and listens without thought patterns. When this state self-remembers—when essence becomes present through divided attention—it consciously transforms itself and this transformation of awareness leads to higher centers.

A foretaste of the clarity of higher centers can actually be experienced by just looking and listening with presence, nothing more. As the Sufi, Hafiz, advised: “Listen to what is around you—right now.”

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Useful links on our web site

• Video clips of Robert Burton teaching

Books by Robert Burton and Girard Haven

• 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— An introduction to the system
• The system is ancient, objective knowledge
• The microcosmos man can transcend himself
• Schools use precise methods for awakening

2— The four lower centers (requires lecture 1)
• How the lower centers function
• How the lower centers displace presence
• Using lower centers to reach higher centers

3— Promoting and prolonging presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• The steward and intellectual parts of centers
• The instinctive center as the ‘mind behind the machine’
• Specific ways to promote and prolong presence

Membership information
The Fellowship of Friends, Inc. is a school for spiritual awakening with centers worldwide. Membership is monthly. For details:
Find a center nearest you.
• Email

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

Gilded statue of Victory. Collection of the Fellowship of Friends.

Thoughts on listening
If you listen to something, you have to do it with a free mind. If you go on with your own thoughts at the same time, your mind will never be free to listen.
Peter Ouspensky   
Some people take in outside impressions very easily but just as quickly pass them out again—in talking.
Rodney Collin   
Listening to music is generally much more beautiful an experience than listening to one’s many ‘I’s. One way to remember oneself is to listen to others when they speak.
Robert Earl Burton  
When the words stop and you can endure the silence, that is the time to try and listen to what the Beloved’s eyes most want to say.
Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening.
Jalaluddin Rumi 
Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.
St. Benedict
Listen constantly.

In the silence of presence you will find the spark of life.
Jalaluddin Rumi

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