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

Being Present

A monthly newsletter for putting Fourth Way ideas into practice.

copyright Fellowship of Friends, Inc.

Being Present and Talking  

Learning to be present internally—to be the wordless state of presence—often begins with being quiet externally, by talking less. For instance, talking less often, less rapidly, less forcefully, and for shorter periods of time. Such efforts, accompanied by divided attention, increase our ability to promote and prolong presence. This is what Mr. Ouspensky’s protege, Rodney Collin, was referring to when he wrote, “It is extraordinary what doors the abandonment of talk, or words, seem to open.”

Words and expressing ourselves through words have an especial tendency to obscure presence. For one thing, words give form to the many ‘I’s and externalizing them in talk adds to their weight. Suddenly, the spoken word seems more substantial than wordless presence, to the point that it overpowers divided attention. As Robert Earl Burton, founder of the Fellowship of Friends, has observed, “The more you speak, the less possibility you have of actualizing what you are speaking of, because speech has a tendency to displace reality.”

This is also true of internal talk, which is a fence that some of us hide behind without knowing it. Although we may not be outwardly talkative, our inner talk and reactions can displace presence as much as, if not more than, external talking. In this regard, the Sufi, Al-Antaki, advised: “The most harmful time for speech is when silence would be better for you, and the most harmful time for silence is when speech would be more fitting for you and more necessary.”

About external talking in particular, Mr. Ouspensky said, “We talk and talk and talk, and never really notice it because it gives us pleasure and fills our time. Trying to avoid useless talk—this is work on being.”

And it includes talking about the work. As Mr. Burton has said: “When you begin speaking about the system, you must be careful because you will begin rambling and lose self-remembering.” He has also commented that, “The instinctive center likes to hear the sound of its own voice,” referring to how the intellectual part of the instinctive center will use talking to lure us away, and keep us away, from presence. It will do this even when someone else is speaking, by interrupting them with the imagination of our own inner talk.

To value and prolong presence while talking, we have to go beyond the urge to express and defend and justify ourselves with speech, as well as beyond the need to hide behind silence. In both cases, we have to remember the significance of self-remembering: that neither internal nor external words are presence itself; that functions are not consciousness; that we are asleep whenever talking and not talking occur by themselves, without divided attention.

There are also some useful methods (in addition to the ones listed at the beginning of this article) for promoting presence while we are talking. One method is to introduce work ‘I’s before speaking. For example: “Speak with presence.” “Value presence more than words.” “Listen to your own voice with divided attention.” Establishing presence at the start is the best aim, but it is also possible to catch ourselves in mid-sentence and insert a work ‘I’ internally: “Come back.” “Be here when you speak.” “Don’t sacrifice presence.”

Another method for promoting presence while talking is to minimize our physical movements. For instance, not to overly sway our body, move our head, or gesture with our hands. The purpose is not to be rigid with these movements, but to monitor the moving center’s tendency to distract and displace presence.

This also applies to the instinctive and emotional centers which often work together to obscure presence; for example, with extreme facial gestures and tones of voice, or with expressions of criticism, sarcasm, and wit. These may seem like small things, but if you observe closely you will see how they boost imagination and displace presence.

As the Sufi, Abu-Bakr, said, “Silence is not confined to the tongue, but concerns the heart and all the limbs.” And as Robert Burton teaches, “Try to be present when you speak, and when you finish try to be present in silence. Presence in silence prolongs self-remembering.”

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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:

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

Bronze angel. Collection of the Fellowship of Friends.

Thoughts on presence and talking
We say a good deal too much. If we limited ourselves to what is actually necessary, this alone would be keeping silence.
George Gurdjieff   
Passing time in chatting and laughing is one of the most mechanical things. One man may be able to resist everything except good food; another all except talk.
Peter Ouspensky   
Loose talking always has bad effects—most of all upon those who talk.
Rodney Collin   
When you look around without words, you prolong a state without words. You also have to guard against groups of ‘I’s that have a history of displacing self-remembering.
Robert Earl Burton  
The highest state is beyond the reach of thought.
Avoid gesticulation in speaking.
The lover of silence draws close to God, and God reaches out to him, and enlightens him.
John of the Ladder  
The first step toward spiritual freedom is to control the mind, to stop idle chatter, to keep silent.
Do not talk unless your talk means something.
Ibn Arabi

Shh, no more words. We are beyond words.
Jalaluddin Rumi

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