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Center for Enlightened Leadership


  Adam Sokolow
  Adam Sokolow
Senior Advisor

Some 2,500 years ago the Greek philosopher Aristotle advocated living within the “Golden Mean” by practicing virtue by doing the right things for the right reasons via the application of “Practical Wisdom.” In India, meanwhile, Gautama Buddha illuminated the Middle Path through his insightful discourses about living in an upright and centered way, and in China, Lao Tzu spoke of yin (Shadow) and yang (Light), and poetically hinted at the mystical “Tao”—“the way” of living in accord with the naturally opposing forces of nature.

But what is practical wisdom? And how do we fathom the mystical calculus of living in accord with natural forces of nature? Furthermore, how do we arrive at the insights that confirm the benefits of living in an upright and centered way? The key to doing so rests upon our willingness to attempt to gain a deeper spiritual understanding about who we really are and the nature of the world in which we live.

Although the words of these sages come down to us from very long ago, there is a timeless commonality in what they said that is relevant to us today. For they, each in his own way, held that both our internal and external worlds are constantly changing, animated by the tension between the polar opposing forces of nature. They went on to give advice on how we could develop the knowledge and skills to remain centered and balanced in a world where everything is continually moving in and around us. Finally, they showed us how we could enrich our own lives, as well as those around us, by learning how to attune ourselves to the higher truths that become self-evident when we develop the strength and clarity of mind to recognize them.

This tension between opposites operates in every part of our lives: in the diastolic and systolic movements of our hearts that keep the blood coursing through our veins; in the revolution of the earth on its axis that turns our day into night and our night into day; in the fact that we are hungry when our bellies are empty and stop eating when are full—and in the contentions that seem to be ever present between people. Up and down, hot and cold, in and out, creation and destruction—the tension between opposites is omnipresent.

Remaining relaxed and balanced in the midst of this ever-present tension requires an ongoing commitment to mastering some form of disciplined activity that promotes both mental and physical strength and flexibility. I have found that yoga is an excellent means of accomplishing this balance. Hatha Yoga has recently become very popular, perhaps because people are intuitively seeking it out as personal counterbalance to their experience that the world seems to be speeding up and becoming increasingly complex.

Hatha (Ha-Tha, in Sanskrit) means Sun and Moon, which represents the polarities inherent in all natural forces; Yoga means to join or integrate. So the discipline of Hatha Yoga helps us remain balanced and centered by promoting a relaxed wakefulness.

And it is upon this layered foundation of both the recognition that everything is always shifting because of the pull between polar opposites, and our ongoing effort to remain balanced within this instability, that we can begin to discover what our sages were leading us to discover for ourselves. From the Eastern spiritual perspective, it is referred to as “Presence.”

So what is “Presence”? Here it would help to become familiar with the word “Tantra,” which is a combination of two more Sanskrit words: “Tanoti,” which mean being receptive and attuned to the infinite intelligence of the universe, and “Triati,” which means bringing this global awareness down and then skillfully applying it within our everyday lives.

Therefore, we develop presence when our personal self, or ego, is being informed or guided by our higher self, or soul. ’This is basically an expansive spiritual take on the familiar saying, “Think globally and act locally.” This occurs when our ego (in which the focus is on our own identity and the use of our skills to accomplish what we want and push away what we don’t want) is informed by our higher self (the transpersonal part of us, which is directly connected to the divine power, however you envision that to be, that engenders the profound insights that we are interdependent and interconnected and inspires us with a global feeling of positive regard for everyone).

So, what does ‘Presence’ look like? It manifests as authenticity through our embodiment of a relaxed wakefulness, which enables us to maintain a centered global awareness (Buddha).

And, what is its power? “Presence” is an elixir of the soul that has the power to heal through the alchemical integration (Lao Tzu) of the wisdom of heaven (our higher self) with our earthly power (our ego), which empowers us to do the right things for the right reasons (Aristotle).

This has been a very brief technical montage encapsulating what I’ve come to understand about “Presence.” I may have raised more questions than I’ve answered—which is actually a good thing because curiosity compels us to scratch below the surface to reveal treasure concealed in plain sight. The reason that we honor these sages after so many centuries is they used their genius to show us some rather simple truths. Despite the technical terminology used to describe how we can discover them, they are nonetheless elegantly simple truths which any good-hearted person would naturally apply without a second thought.

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