Awareness Arising in Presence | SelfDesign Integral Principle

SelfDesign BookBrent, with River Meyer, wrote the book, SelfDesign: Unfolding Our Infinite Wisdom Within which is available in print or digital format to explore and describe SelfDesign.

Brent also completed a doctorate at the University of British Columbia in 2010, submitting a dissertation entitled SelfDesign: An Inquiry Into Authentic Learning And Co-Inspiration.

Brent identified fourteen ‘integral principles’ of SelfDesign in this study. We will feature a number of these in this blog during the coming months.

Integral Principle #0 – Awareness Arising in Presence

Zero is the numerical reference point for a system, and it is the reference point, the still point at the essence of the human system. It is the centre of aliveness and awareness at the heart of human essence. If love is defined as the affinity of a being for a being, then this essential centre of human beingness is the source of love (Teilhard de Chardin, 1959). This affinity is further defined by Maturana and Bunnell (1999) as ‘seeing the other in legitimate co-existence with oneself.’ The self is defined not as the ego, which is the centre of consciousness, but as the harmony between the unconscious and conscious aspects of mind. The experience of zero is presence, the timeless now and here.

We live in the present moment, yet modern rational thinking takes us out of the present into the future, the past and the disassociated. While it is important to develop our conscious mind to its fullest potential, it is important to rediscover our original or childlike worldview. The experience of presence is that aspect of being that experiences, from an unchanging essence, the flow of the world and its changes. In order to be in an open and fully connected relationship with a child, we need to be able to attune to this state, the original mind of the child.


I propose that as observers, each one of us for ourselves is at the center of the universe, an ontocentric universe. While the Big Bang is the center of the known universe, our awareness is the center of the experiential or ontologic universe. What we know is a construction of experiences into a conceptual abstract; what we know is an artifact of our imagination. What is, is what we experience. What we experience is our perception and it is this perception that creates the existence of the universe. It is an epistemological error to confuse conceptions with perceptions and vice versa.

Upon regaining my ability to experience myself at the center of a universe, I was able to observe my daughter at the center of her experience, and her experience at the center of her universe. I had lost this ability gradually during my schooling years and at the completion of university decided to find what I had lost without being aware of what I had lost or how to find it. Between the ages of 20 and 30, I was able to rediscover my centricity and return to the present moment and to experiencing myself at the center of the universe.

This occurred during several transformative experiences that broke me through the thinking barrier and allowed me to rediscover the ‘original mind’, the preconscious state. There are many techniques related to yoga practice, meditation, tai chi, fasting, spiritual practice, drug experiences, etc. that provide paths back to this original state. Because I had rediscovered this state, I believe I was uniquely able to attune to my daughter’s worldview and to learn about how she learned as she learned. I did not know how to explain or talk about this state, nor how to readily and easily access this state, until about 1985 when a colleague on SelfDesign’s not-for-profit society board, Sean Mills, introduced me to his long time mentor and friend, Douglas Harding.

From Harding’s work, SelfDesign had developed an entire set of subjective experiments, including those meant to bring the experiencer into an associated state and to dissolve any considerations other than the present moment. As adults, we live our lives overlooking this always accessible and unconscious glimpse of self as the invisible essence. In parenting and consultant workshops over the past 20 years, I have shared a glimpse into the forgotten and overlooked point of view with amazing results. Historically, when it is glimpsed and truly considered, it has been at the center of much deliberation by scientists, poets, mystics and philosophers over all of recorded history (Harding, 1996).

Harding devoted his entire life to sharing his experience of enlightenment with others and verified that mystical and spiritual writing from all traditions seemed to verify his findings. The experience of embodiment and presence is imperative in having one’s own universe, one’s own point of view, and I find it interesting that in our society this fundamental perspective has been lost through our current cultural perspective, part of which is a consequence of our modern education system.

As infants, we are all in the present moment, experiencing the world before language and time. We live in an infinite now in a sea of sensations without boundaries or distinctions. It is only through innumerable experiences and engaging interactions that we begin to construct a world of things, contexts and relationships. Names for meaningful things distinct from their meaningless contexts become the driving force of language when the child wants a glass of milk or a chance to touch the kitten. The pairing of name to object and the discovery of patterns of behavior that also can be named give us the basis of language.

Our metaphoric experience in language forms the basis of our conscious understanding. The pairing of qualities of being to various experiences gives us the metaphors to understand the world. The simultaneous experience of filling a glass of water with the experience of up and down gives us the metaphor that more is up. The experience of friendship and safety with the closeness of another gives us the metaphor that close is warm (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999).

Being present and aware in our selves, we become the author of our lives and experience a sense of integrity and authenticity in both living and learning, grounded in now and here. Living in our bodies and having adults acknowledge our inner realities through their attunement to our neurological process allows children to remain in a sense of presence.

Creating relationships that allow a child to be the author, in collaboration and co-inspiration with others, generates a sense of belonging that is necessary for a child to learn acceptance of self and others.

We are born to breathe and be nourished; we are born for relationship and engagement so that the development of our bodies and our minds unfolds towards maturity and self-actualization as a natural progression.

You can learn more about the ‘Roots of SelfDesign’ on our Blog>About SelfDesign

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