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On Being

I write and speak about ‘being’ with considerable frequency. Sometimes I refer to “my being”, or to “your being” or just to “being” itself. In all my writing, though, I’ve never directly answered the question, “What is Being?” Martin Heidegger wrote a book that is 610 pages long to address the question: Being and Time. It is almost the definition of a tome. I prefer Merleau-Ponty’s book, Phenomenology of Perception, which I’m reading now, and which is four pages shorter. I’m going to address the same question with something less ambitious: two paragraphs. It may not stand as a classic in the field, but it might prove helpful to those with an interest in my work. Here we go:

When I speak of “your being”, I’m referring in the simplest terms to your body and all that can be felt through it. So your being doesn’t stop at your skin, because the sights and sounds and vibrations and smells of the world pass through your body and are felt there. They are part of it. In that regard, your being includes everything you discover when you are fully present. Such a state of presence cannot be achieved with your conscious awareness – it is rather a felt attunement to the present that is achieved in the body, and which requires a surrender to its intelligence. The body processes a billion times more information than we can be consciously aware of. Of course, you can dull yourself to its sensitivity and the information it accesses; but every time you do, you diminish your sense of being. You exile yourself from its natural spaciousness. You contract your sense of self to be confined within the barrier of your skin.

meditate, lake, mood

To speak of 'your being', then, is to speak of every attunement to the present that lives within you and is felt; but it is also to speak of every aspect of the present that is revealed by that attunement. Your being is your felt life in this living moment. It is your felt experience of the whole. As such, your being, like wholeness itself, is without an outer boundary. Embedded in the whole, your being is your unique attunement to the whole. And what is the whole? It is all that is – and as such cannot be objectified, although we strive in many ways to name it. But even as we might call it Being, or The Present, or God, we risk tempting ourselves to believe that by being so named it can be known. Like your personal being, it is beyond objective knowledge; but it is always there to be felt.

2 thoughts on “On Being”

  1. Philip – do you have a personal concept of Sacred, and if so, would you include, or even perhaps equate Being with Sacredness?

    1. Philip Shepherd

      Hi Jenny – thanks for your question. I don’t so much have a personal concept of Sacred as a personal experience of it. And if Being isn’t sacred, I don’t know what might be. i do feel the sacred living and breathing through all that is. Hope that helps!

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