presence: “… The present moment is presence itself…”  ~ Joan Tollifson

present moment presence tollifson quetzal costa rica

Joan Tollifson says “… When I look for what I know to be true beyond any doubt, what I come to is presence itself, the simple fact of being here …” or as Thich Nhat Hanh says: “This is the only moment that is real. To be present and enjoy this moment is our most important task” or “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is a wonderful moment.”

Indeed, our presence is all there is … and the present moment is all there is: profound and simple phrases that have – sadly – become somewhat cliche’d … but we’ll leave the cliche’ aside 🙂 … and instead consider the deeper meaning …

awake in the heartland ecstasy of what is joan tollifsonBy taking a dive into this presence .. this present moment that we are … in this part 2 … of our multi-part series exploring Joan’s 2022 edition of Awake in the Heartland: The Ecstasy of What Is (original edition 2003) through chapter excerpts …

… in Part 1, we set the stage for the series with the 2022 Preface and the first two sub-chapters – A Sea of Jewels and This Is It

All italicized text below is from Awake in the Heartland: The Ecstasy of What Is by Joan Tollifson (2022 edition by New Sarum Press) and is published here with her generous permission.

AND, Here are all of Joan’s posts on Stillness Speaks … and her website – full of deeply insightful and valuable content for your journey.

Presence: You Are the Present Moment

We are conscious of only a tiny fraction of the information pouring into our senses every moment. Moreover, there is a half-second time delay in transmission, so that all perception is actually of the past. We are the present moment, but we can never perceive it. We can only be it.

presence sunset beach tollifson

The present moment is presence itself. It is inconceivable.

This is not just another intellectual tidbit to file away. This is mind- shattering, world-dissolving: everything, without exception, that you perceive, think and experience is the past. It has no reality. Contemplate this deeply. Let it sink in. It destroys everything. It leaves nothing. This is horrifying news if you imagine that “you” are located “inside” the bodymind, looking out at an independent “real world.” To suddenly realize that everything you see and think is nothing but an unreliable and partial printout from the past leaves you with no way out.

Your whole life has been about finding a way out. You’ve tried therapy, coaching, meditation, bodywork, creative visualization, positive thinking, network marketing, blue-green algae, everything you can possibly try to save you. And suddenly you realize there is no way out.

There is a complete stop. You are simply here. There’s no escape. Right here is the possibility to discover that you are not trapped inside the bodymind at all. You are a dream. The bodymind is a dream. The world is a dream. Spirituality is a dream. Everything is a dream. Only this is real.

What is this?

No words can capture it. Bare presence is tremendously alive. It is pure energy. Fall into it, and you fall into nothing. Nothing is inconceivable. The mind finds this frightening. The mind is uncomfortable with anything that seems unpredictable, unknowable and out of control. There is no “me” in bare awareness, no story, no drama, no future, no hope, no meaning, no purpose, no body. To the mind, “nothing” is a terrifying idea: a barren, desolate vacuum, a nihilistic vacancy. It sounds dreadful, like death, like being buried alive. What could be worse?

bare presence tollifson thunderstorm sea

And so, we pull back from bare presence. We keep very busy. We avoid this terrifying nothingness that lurks just under the surface of everything. We avoid silence. We avoid gaps in the conversation. We turn on the radio or the TV. We read books. We have “meaningful” careers. We raise families. We go on vacations. We chase gurus. We drink. We smoke. We consume. We talk. Anything to avoid this dreadful nothing.

But if you allow yourself to stop running away, and you let yourself fall into nothing, and be nothing, what do you actually find? Is it the desolate vacuum that you have been imagining and running away from? You may be very surprised!

The only way to find out is to do the experiment. No one else’s results will mean anything to you. You have to take the leap for yourself. And the paradox is that there is no “you” to do that, and no distance to be covered. The “leap” is the dissolution of that entire mirage.

If the character is no more real than a dream, what is it that is dreaming?

Can You Find A Boundary?

Right now, close your eyes and simply be aware of all the sounds and sensations that are here, listening openly to the whole thing. What happens if you try to sense where “you” begin and end? Can you actually find a boundary?

You can think about some boundary, like “the skin,” but in simple open awareness, can you actually find it? Does it have any real substance? Or is your actual experience the undividedness of everything?

Are the sounds you hear right now inside or outside you? Again, you can think that they are “outside,” but in your actual direct experience, if you listen openly, is there a boundary? Can you find the place where “inside” becomes “outside” and visa versa? Is anything outside or separate from awareness? Is there a “you” apart from, or other than awareness itself?

~ Joan Tollifson


Stay tuned for more from Joan’s book … the next sub-chapter titled: Who Am I?

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Embracing presence or the present moment naturally leads to appreciation of our oneness … of being kind and being there for one another … and in that spirit let us minimize (& hopefully dissolve) the current humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine … by helping in whatever way we can … and to that end here are some options:

1) NPR: Want to support the people in Ukraine? Here’s how you can help

2) Washington PostHere’s how Americans can donate to help people in Ukraine.

3) Go Fund Me: How to Help: Donate to Ukraine Relief Efforts.

4) USA Today: Want to support the people of Ukraine? These apps and websites can help you send money.

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We are all facing financial challenges but IF your situation allows you to donate and help then please do so …


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Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote from This Moment Is Full of Wonders by Thich Nhat Hanh..
Images (edited & Logo added): 1 & Featured) Resplendent Quetzal, Savegre in Costa Rica with green forest in background. Magnificent sacred green and red bird. Detail portrait of beautiful tropic animal. Bird with long tail by OndrejProsicky, 2) Cover page from Joan’s book – New Sarum Press 2022 edition, 3) Young man walking outdoors watching the sunset at a beach by mhcollection, 4) Lightning and storm on sea to the sunset – bad weather by rfphoto, 5) Silhouette of a man standing on top of a hill, watching the Milky Way by astridsinai. #2) provided by Joan for free use on our digital assets. All (except Joan’s book cover image) are purchased from depositphotos, all are for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post).


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