What is: Presence?

Presence I define as a scientifically measurable shift of activity in the brain between the 'do-state' and the 'reflection-state' which is essential for (more) sustainable human identity creation.

Presence can be measured using an axis which expresses the level of interaction with the environment and/or body.

  • On the one hand is low interactivity with the environment and/or body. That is the state of mind when a person reports that he is not engaged in the interaction with the environment. Also called: unhappy, wondering, pondering or depressed. This corresponds with a high activity in a certain part of the human brain, called: the Resting Brain.
  • On the other hand is high interactivity with the environment and/or body. That is the state of mind when a person reports he is completely immersed in an interaction with the non-self. This is often the case while 'doing something' one really likes, like: reading a good book, watching a good movie, surfing a good wave or play sports or a computer game.

Presence is important because when people are in a high level of Presence they regularly reflect and therefore evaluate if one is still immersed in the right activity. Because what if one is doing something wrong? Than unnecessary energy would be 'wasted', would it not? People could also be growing an 'ego'.

What the exact timing and interval of reflection should be, remains to be further investigated. It probably depends on the type of mental model, e.g.:

  • Meta-mental model: How to do something, good or bad
  • Direct-mental model: Riding a bike, cutting a tree

The optimal timing and interval of reflection, in other words: low level of interactivity with the environment/body, differs per person. This means that - given that Presence could be measured 24/7 during the entire life span of an individual - a persons 'Personal Presence trend' is known. Deviations can be used to objectively determine the subjective decrease or increase of a persons/patients quality of life and if it is significant or not.

There is not a lot of scientific research, that I know of, to back-up this Presence Theory but it is definitely worth to further look into. See:

Presence at work in our daily live

Once it becomes clear what Presence is, it is easy to see the examples in the environment and life where a lack of Presence causes resource depletion, behavioural problems and/or destructive egos. E.g.:

  1. Think of Arjen Robben when kicking a penalty in the CL final; locking his mind, worrying, pondering, and looking only down to the ground. He misses. Low Presence.
  2. Think of a politician that keeps holding on to a certain opinion, even though new information should make him change his mind. (Balkenende vs Bos in Dutch politics). Low Presence.
  3. Think of Obama, who changed his mind on the same-sex marriage. High Presence.
  4. Think of people, having rolled-into a line of work, years ago, not having reflected enough, leading to: over-using certain mental models in the brain for too long. They have been living in a high state of interactivity with the world and their body. During working hours people are busy doing stuff and once free; people are busy living a hedonistic lifestyle, which consists out of: sport, sex, love, party and short holidays. Low Presence. Low activity in the resting brain.
  5. Or think of our society? Time after time in history, societies have been over-using certain political and social (mental) models, not adjusting because of egos. Striving towards one big moment of reflection, called revolution or war where everything and everybody that needed adjustment for a long time, is removed or eradicated. At the cost of many lives and a lot of valuable resources.


Presence is everywhere. The cognitive theory on Presence was inspired by:

  1. Eckhart Tolle: Power of now
  2. Daniel Dennett: The consciousness explained
  3. Diamond: The collapse of civilizations
  4. Marcus Raichle: The resting brain
  5. Henk Barendregt: Scientific approach of Meditation
  6. General Theory on Presence: Human beings also feel Presence in 3D virtual Environments
And recently added: 'desire in relationships' (Ted Talk)

Ad 1: "When Consciousness becomes Conscious of itself ...that's Presence." (Eckhart Tolle)

Ad 2: "Identity can be defined as the total amount of mental models in the brain that are the result of interaction of the organism with the environment and its own body." (Daniel Dennett)

Ad 3: Easter Island provides us the 'best documented collapse' of a civilization in history. See this story for the abbreviated version or read: Collapse by Diamond. Easter Island illustrated low Presence in an ironic way because even though the statue-building contest was depleting valuable resources they kept on building them to prove to the other people how good their mental models were. And thus by doing that, proving their mental models needed some serious adjustments and soon. But they never did. Overstressing a certain set of mental models, called ego, formed the basis of the inability to prevent the depletion of Easter Island. Their ego resulted and it still results in the depletion of human and Earth's resources.

Ad4: resting brain

Ad 5: "The human survival instinct brought our prosperity but also brings our downfall when there is a lack of Presence." (Henk Barendregt)

Ad 6: In 1997, the first: General Theory on Presence (English) was developed. This was induced by the fact that humans also feel 'present' in 3D Virtual Environments. Scientists wanted to know how this immersion worked. How little did scientists knew then. Meanwhile, the development of brain imaging equipment gained momentum. This led to an enormous increase in knowledge about the functioning of the human brain. Humans can even interact with computers by 'thinking', see: Mind Controlled Skateboard.


Presence is of vital importance for the current (Western) society because, for humanity to live in sink with the available resources on Earth, the mental models that human identities are based on, need to become more sustainable, like:

  • Mankind really was and is, a wild animal, surviving in nature (humbling)
  • A fish really is a wild animal, caught in nature (respect)
  • 1 - 1 = 0 (logic)

So the question:

  • What can we do about all those big problems that humanity faces in the 21st century?

can be rephrased as:

  • How to create more Sustainable IDentities?!

An attempt to answer this huge question and the practical implications this has for our current society, is described in the book: Sustainable-ID.

Global Presence

Sixth Implication:

Ps,ind = 'good'  IF  SUM rises(Ps,global)

The sixt implication (see: Chapter 9) shows that Personal Presence (Ps,ind) needs to correlate possitively with Global Presence (Ps,global), in order to be 'good'. This is easy to see when you think of a criminal. A criminal might feel high Presence, doing what he does, whereas the society worries about going out on the street, after sunset: low Presence.

The Sthiel

Sthiel puts this cognitive knowledge to use by gathering methods that create more sustainable human identities through increasing Presence. By putting these sustainable ideas into practise, the Sthiel tries to contribute to passing on the Earth.

Eastern philosophies are well aware of Presence (the 2nd Renaissance)

The standard Tibetan title for the "Dalai Lama" is: "Kundun". Kundun in English means: "Presence".

Sustainable IDeas?