This brings me to a further point in my ruminations about Presence and spirituality. What makes me wariest of all about this business of Enlightenment/Presence/Being is the practically unlimited potential for pride that can creep in undetected like a cloud of carbon monoxide. Those who are affected by it are often never aware until it is too late. Pride is the most subtle, and therefore the most deadly of all human sins.
Yup...gotta be on the watch at all times. And there are some who succumb to the fumes of the carbon monoxide (I really like how you put that), just as there are many in all religious/spiritual movements who do likewise. This is one of the most off-putting things when found in the context of religion/ spituality/ awakening. A "spiritualized" ego is one of the most stubborn egos to dissolve because its elevated view of itself gets so entrenched.
How to avoid it? Never believe that you've "made it". Believing anything puts you smack dab back in the middle of duality. On the other hand, while consciously in presence the capacity for believing anything dissolves - there is "no one" left standing who can formulate any belief.
This is perhaps the biggest reason I don't trust an all out journey to penetrate the very core of my inner "being". This overwhelming seduction of pride has in times past, torn my soul with such ferocity that I have abandoned my spiritual journey for years at a time for the fear of encountering that terrible beast in an even more subtle and powerful form the next time.
Or this lack of trust can be looked at like this: the last vestige of the egoic identity to hold onto the control which it finds so seductive, so powerful, and so essential for its own
survival - a very effective strategy indeed. Ego's fear of annihilation (especially when seriously confronted with annihilation) will stimulate it to come up with all sorts of reasons not to let go, most very reasonable in the context of duality. But waking up isn't about remaining comfortable with the status quo, it's about damning the status quo in the name of a truth
that won't let itself be denied, especially once a taste of it has been experienced.
I find it a little troubling that I have not seen any references to prayer among any of the writings of Eckhart or here on this site. I refer here primarily to prayer for others. I can readily see how awareness itself can be considered a state of prayer. The New Testament even exhorts Christians to "Pray without ceasing". What, if any role does prayer for others play in the the awareness of Presence?
Given your background it's not surprising this troubles you. Do you see how you are carrying expectations for how things should
be, expectations that flow from a beloved belief system? Expectations of every kind are a denial of the present moment.
When you wake up in the morning do you lament for the dream characters that are now realized to be self-creations within the dream state? You now realize that they were actually coming from one consiousness - yours
. Awakening is similar, for it is realized that all "others" are mental creations that exist only as thought forms, and that beneath and beyond this illusory patina lies the one consciousness. This doesn't mean compassion has dissolved too, because this compassion spontaneously expresses in various ways in how they relate and act toward others. Within this world of form spontaneous and compassionate conscious
action trumps returning to a re-creation of dualism for the sake of "imagined others". One now acts, but without a heavy heart, without a yearning, and without an investment of energy in maintaining a separate identity. One acts as though "other" is himself, because it is seen that this is
the case. "Love your neighbor as yourself" is one of the few bible quotes I remember - awakened action seems to be supportive of that quote.
On a personal note, it was this "praying" thing that most subtly troubled me. Somehow "praying" no longer felt like the "right" thing to do. Whenever "I" prayed I suddenly felt separate from everything else
. I automatically created a distance between "me" and "god" and "others" that now felt alien. It took me a while to catch on to this and to let even prayer fall by the wayside. Did this leave me less compassionate, less loving? No - it increased those things.