Sorry it's taken a while to respond. Every time I start pondering these questions I get distracted. I can not seem to focus on them for more than two minutes at a time. I've also realised that whenever I've thought about them I get lost in thinking about how best to word my response to them. I get tangled up in language, it lures me in to a thought stream.
I've had 2 attempts at responding now and am going to include bits of both for 2 of the questions because they both seem like parts of the whole, so I hope this makes sense.
Is there ever not here right now?
Is there something to do to become present?
Ultimately I am always present, however it doesn't always feel that way. Often thoughts are about the past or future, seeming to take me away from the present. So exercises like 'what is here right now?', becoming aware of thoughts etc help to bring my focus back to the present.
Well, there are several exercises that I (appear to) use to become present - taking a moment; asking 'what is here right now'; dropping language; just be; non conceptual knowing; getting out of thinking, etc. BUT I'm wondering if all these activities are just happening by themselves anyway, and so maybe there is not actually anything for ME to do at all.
Is there someone that is or is not present?
Unfortunately there does still seem like there is someone. I have definitely identified the fantasy separate self, though possibly not completely. I can see that the character in the mind movie is definitely not me. I can also see that I often can function from this place without awareness for a time, until some part of me seems to wake up to it and I become present. But when I am present I also seem to feel a sense of 'me'. Is this just another deeper layer of the separate self? This present 'me' is definitely not the character that I find myself playing, it is more like the essence of me. Very calm, peaceful.
This is the question that keeps stumping me.
I feel like I'm fighting against an old, old belief that I am somebody. When I am truly aware of myself I know that I am not a person but I'm still experiencing life through this body. Ah! It brings up the attachment to the body again. I've realised that one of the questions you asked me a while ago 'Are you in the body?' was really difficult for me to answer but I eventually could see that I couldn't be in the body. I've seemed to forget that seeing.
Reminding myself of it now gives a different perspective to the question 'Is there someone that is or is not present?'.
Claire always feels not present. As soon as she becomes present, she disappears! Oh! I'm wondering if the 'I'm not present, I should be doing something to make myself present' thought/behaviour is actually a mind game in itself, that is distracting me from just being present?
What happens when attention goes to past or future stories?
It feels likes I'm sucked into a dream or movie. A thought or an image arises, is followed and identified with. A mind movie then plays where I'm the main character. This can happen at any time. It's like there's an invisible screen. Feelings get triggered.
Where is the exit from being sucked into them?
Recognising them for what they are allows me to distance myself from them now, and get out of them more and more quickly. Recognising that they are just thoughts and I don't have to believe them, or indulge them, helps. Getting out of thinking. Realising that I'm actually always present.
As you can see these questions have really tied me up in knots this week! Hope you can make some sense of this. If not just let me know and I'll have another try.
Much gratitude x