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Self-Remembering, by Robert Earl Burton

Being Present

There is no greater miracle than being present. Everything begins and never ends from this.

What does the term self-remembering mean? It means that your dormant self is remembering to be awake.

Endings are an illusion, because the present is eternal. To be present where one is is the simple story of one's life.

Each inconspicuous moment is our life; just sitting, trying to be present.

It's difficult to be present, yet throughout our life everything remains uncertain except the present. We look to the future, thinking there is more there than here. Man bypasses the present by pursuing the elusive future or dwelling on the past. What we should want is the present, but what the machine wants is anything but the present. We have to keep endlessly retrieving the present-we have dedicated our lives to that.

You can't be present at your destination if you're not present en route.

When I have `I's that wish to be somewhere else, I have learned to immediately convert them into being present, because the machine is never satisfied with where it is. In a way, we're fortunate that the `I's repeat themselves and are so clearly insubstantial. They make the substance of life obvious, because the most absurd things will try to take us away from the present. The more absurd they are the better, because then we know there's no point in pursuing them.

The machine cannot be present, so it searches for alternatives; that is its lot. Although the machine is usually displeased with the present, this day is as important as a day thirty years from now-at least today is certain.

An interesting `I' came during the concert: "What do you want?" And the answer was, "Just to be present, that is all." Nothing compares with self-remembering and nothing truly exists without it. Sometimes, with self-remembering, everything one sees turns into poetry, echoing heaven: the flowers, the light falling on the grass. Just think how many subtle shades of green there are in nature.

Our dinners are like being on a ship at sea-there's nowhere to go, and we just settle down into the present. One of the most enjoyable aspects of dining together is being here and not having the machine discontented with the moment, not wanting to be anywhere else. The four lower centers are more agreeable now to the presence of something higher. Consciousness has degrees, and our consciousness is higher now than perhaps at any other time today. We are still trying to be present, and this moment will never present itself again.

We haven't mentioned self-remembering tonight, but it consistently looms behind our actions. When one is trying to be present it doesn't matter if one is speaking about Rilke's Duino Elegies or a student's wheelchair, as long as self-remembering permeates one's actions. This is why the Fourth Way primarily occurs in the midst of ordinary life.

We work hard each day to be present, and you should never make light of your efforts at the end of a day. We have each done all we can for our self, our school and Influence C. We can't change events, but we can change ourselves. Focus without words; don't identify with events-transform them and be present.

Everything is relative and subjective except one's self. When one is present, one is objective; that is, one has no other object but one's self.

It is important to work diligently on being present, but not to press too hard, because you can stand in your own way. Do everything you can to be present, but don't become too tense because that is another way to thwart self-remembering.

What was the most important thing you learned on your recent journey?

To be where I am-and to accept it. If I were not present when I travel, there would be no need to travel, because there is truly nowhere to go but the present. When one travels one objectively witnesses the subjectivity of man.

How can one stop hurrying? - By realizing that the next moment is not greater than the present moment.

How can one keep from criticizing oneself about not being present? - Self-deprecation `I's are not self-remembering. They are yet another waste of time and in reality reflect a lazy mind.

Emotional upheavals provide an opportunity to be present and make progress. While you are experiencing a strong negative emotion, remember that it will subside. We often wish we had remembered this during, rather than after, the storm. You do not exist when negative emotions engulf you. Also, remember that the noble king of hearts is designed to fail eventually so that your divine higher centers can emerge.

Try not to twist the present into something it is not; accept it on its own irrefutable terms.

Plutarch said, "The present offers itself to us only for the second and then eludes the senses." The present eludes the senses because consciousness is not functions. Our higher centers are not of the senses, but we try to use the senses to create higher centers. Just looking at an arrangement of flowers, remaining aware of your self, produces higher centers.

One gains many treasures as one changes one's level of being, and the greatest treasure is the ability to penetrate the present more frequently and deeply. One can have everything if one is content with the present, nothing else is as exciting. There is a great victory to be attained, and we are winning.

The present is eternal.

One reason it is so difficult to remember ourselves is because the present is so near to us. We rarely look in front of ourselves for what we are seeking.

In certain respects I have a terrible memory-from trying to be present and not in the past or future. Many things are forgotten, but this is a small sacrifice compared to being present. We don't sacrifice anything of value when we try to awaken-death is the miserable lot of life, but all the moments in which we penetrated the present are indestructible. As for the rest, it is only wasted time. I try not to be enticed by reminiscence. When pleasant or unpleasant memories try to occupy the living present, one can glance at them for a few seconds, or ignore them, and then return to the present.

Our lives are no more than each step we take and each moment that passes, but our machines persist in thinking that life should be other than the present. At times I pause, and wherever I find myself, in familiar situations or unusual ones, I think, "The events of this day constitute my life." Behind all questions looms the enigma of how to be present, and the greatest happiness for a rational man is the ability to be present to his own life.

This moment offers as many possibilities as any other time of the day, or any other time in your life. You must work well with whatever the present offers. Don't be deceived-the next moment is not of greater value than the present one. Indeed, you can't experience the future without penetrating the present, for the present is the future.

Each age offers the present, which is all it can ever offer. How sweet and clear the present is; how perfectly contented it is with itself.

Ironically, one can add to one's false personality if one acquires the act of self-remembering, rather than self-remembering itself.

As the years go by one lives more and more for each day, and self-remembering and friendship become the ultimate achievements. Horace said, "Happy the man and happy he alone who can call today his own."

One of the best ways to be present is to listen. As I was listening to the music and working with self-remembering, no useful thoughts came along until an `I' said, "It is enough to be present."

William Shakespeare's statement, "To be or not to be," is composed of six words, five of which contain only two letters. This economy of language represents the idea that awakening is an essential process. The highest dimension of being occurs when one's self remembers to be.

Tonight is not a bridge to anything, tonight is itself. The words we have spoken don't lead us anywhere but to the present.

Self-remembering means embracing the present, whatever it contains; that would mean tasting one's wine or looking at the beautiful arrangement of white tulips. Mr. Ouspensky said that "all the ideas of the system revolve around this one idea." Self-remembering is the hub of the wheel, all the other ideas are spokes.

Influence C has cast us together-let us try to enjoy ourselves. Anyone can be in imagination, anyone can be despondent, anyone can be negative. Try to avoid imagination, identification, negative emotions. We have the present.

Johann Goethe had a remarkable life, and is a conscious being. He completed his task on the first day of spring, symbolizing that he had found the eternal fountain of youth. During his last days, he seemed to an observer to be free of many illusions and to no longer live for the future or the past, but in the lucid present.

The purpose of meditation is to be present, and being present is not reserved for special occasions or special environments; it must occur wherever one is, regardless of one's circumstances.

One definition of success is being present as much as you can each day. You also must measure how much you were able to externally consider others. Take this idea simply, as all profound ideas are simple. If two people are passing through a door, and you choose to be the second to pass through it, you have been externally considerate. A day is a long unit of time, and there are many small opportunities like this to apply the different tools of the system. External consideration is one work tool; you can be using it, and a moment later be struggling with keeping accounts against the same person. Our lives are composed of moment-to-moment struggles to be present and we grow in proportion to our ability to give, which is why conscious beings are characterized by compassionate actions that elevate humanity.

There is no greater activity than presence in silence-it cannot be imitated.

Whole groups of `I's on alluring subjects try to draw one away from the present.

Everything but the present is illusion.

Most men think they don't have time to be present; they imagine that it's designed for special circumstances. Try to be where you are and not allow the past to permeate the present. The past is but a word, while the present is a shifting reality. You can only leave the past through the present, and through the present you work for the future. Our work is always now. We have nowhere to go but the present, for all roads lead to the living moment.

Relentlessly focus on the present as best as you can. If it is a few seconds or a moment each day, be grateful. The present need not be more, nor other, than it is. As we grow older, we have to separate from our inability, at times, to be present. One of the best ways to be present is to separate from the disappointment that comes from realizing we have not been present. Our hearts are so resilient.

When I first started to be present, I couldn't speak and be present at the same time. It took a while to be able to do that. When self-remembering began appearing, I didn't concern myself with which state it was, I just let it be and experienced it. I did not want to be pulled away from it. I wish nothing more than to be present in this moment.

As long as one can breathe it is time to remember oneself. One's self-this common word belies the incredible nature of the achievement.

Can you tell us what we need to do to be present? - You have to find the environment more interesting than imagination.

It is important to fill centers, but not as important as being present.

Be grateful for the present.

Will-that is the best power, and the rest is just mechanics. Will is self-remembering, and being present is will power.

You must reach a point where you stop expecting to receive messages about being present. You must grip self-remembering and stop talking about it; you must be present!

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robert e. burton: self-remembering

York Beach, Maine: Red Wheel/Weiser, 1995.

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