Imagine yourself floating in space with outspread limbs. Thus suspended in midair your recumbent form gives itself over to a delicious languor, and one by one your senses close down. The eyes cease to see and the ears cease to hear. Smell and taste go dormant. Afterimages linger for a time, but in the absence of new stimuli the eidola that haunt the halls of memory slowly fade into oblivion. The void that surrounds you now pervades you. You are dead to the world—and yet you live.
The practice of presence is no easy task and, spiritually, it is perhaps the most elusive of all practices. Imagine for a moment being fully present to yourself and to your situation. That is, imagine being fully aware of all that passes through and within you and also simultaneously aware of all that impacts you from the surrounding environment—people, places, atmosphere, sensory sensations, integrated with inner thoughts, feelings, memories, and bodily reactions.
Smell is the oldest, most magical sense. In ‘In Search of Past Time,’ Proust tells how, returning home for a visit one cold winter’s day, his mother offered him a cup of lime blossom tea with some plump little cakes, called “madeleines,” molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. At first, he declined, but then, for no particular reason, he accepted. As the lime-tea-soaked crumbs touched his palate, a strange emotion overcame him. The world stopped, and an exquisite, transcendent pleasure, like the effect of love, filling him with joy, suffused his senses.