Presence Notes, by James Westly

Bringing Presence into our daily lives.

In Search of SELF

The seeker of wisdom is in search of Self, a quality of Being where we directly experience our Spirituality, our Divinity. It is a perilous seeming, non-linear journey into the unknown, in search of a human expression of who we truly are. Non-linear means that it is a state of Being that is constantly available to any one of us at any time, under any conditions. So it’s not really a “journey” at all, but more like a shift in perception or awareness.

It is perilous in the sense that we’re not sure that our Divinity exists, so we’re taking a risk, and what is it we’re risking? Making something important that may be merely a myth, a figment of our self-delusion? On the other hand, if this is all the so-called illusion, then we’re not really risking anything that has any true substance, right?? It’s not real anyway, is it?

It’s unsettling, this internal tennis match of thoughts and feelings. This war between inspiration and cynicism, faith and doubt. We keep asking what The Truth is, as if there were some absolute answer. Our Consciousness rises on waves of inspiration and faith, only to slide down the other side into cynicism and doubt, rising and falling endlessly.

Maybe it’s all true. Maybe, our experience of this is more about the fluctuations of our consciousness, our personal reality, than it is about anything “objective”. That’s even more unsettling. Can this mean that my experience of reality is entirely dependent upon the vacillations of my inner dynamics? More and more evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, is pouring in that leads to the this conclusion, that we are the inventors of our own experience. So what are these dynamics?

Some say it is our conceptual map of things, our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, that shape the way we think and therefore perceive. Whatever is real is what we decide is so, on a moment to moment basis. If we believe one way, that is what we experience, if another, a different perception emerges.

Others contend that is has more to do with vibratory energy, at all levels. So when our energy is low, our emotions are negative, and the vibratory energy of our body is on the decline, we’re incapable, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, of attracting the vibration of inspiration (in-spirit-ation). Yet another approach claims that it’s all about awareness, our connection to the sensory experiences of our in-the-moment progress through time. How much are we in connection with, and feel a part of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual environment? Do we even know where we are most of the time? Closer examination reveals that these theories complement each other. We probably need to attend to all of these dynamics if we are to have a substantial result.

If we describe our Consciousness as directed thought, or intention, we  may notice that it decides how we will focus the energy of our attention. This energy then interacts with our personal dynamics of belief system, vibratory arousal and awareness out of which personal reality emerges. This, then, feeds back information and energy to our belief system, state of arousal and awareness in an ongoing perpetual feedback loop.

The place to start, then, would seem to be with our intention. If our intention is to experience our Divinity, it will bring the focus of our attention to our inner dynamics and we will become aware of what it is we personally need to DO to manifest our intention. This will come about as the consequence of inner self-observation. That is why the ancients advised us to: Know Thyself, to know one’s Self as a Creator.

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Consciousness, Eckhart Tolle, Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHAT IS REAL?

What is real? That is the question, that is always the question. Is it the drama, the surface results, the triumphs or disasters of life? Spiritual leaders unanimously declare, each in their own ways, that whatever happens serves a purpose at the spiritual level. “We always make a profit!” Gurdjieff, an early 20th Century spiritual leader, used to say. In the business of spiritual evolution nothing is wasted, every experience contains a treasure. This is so, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. So, where’s the gold in our travail, how do we apply this idea to our everyday experience?

One way to answer this question is to examine our attachments, the things, situations, and people, the lose of which would create the greatest pain. Where do we place our identity? Which part of our personal illusion do we hold most dear, or are we even aware of it as illusion? Where, to whom, or what, do we give ourselves away? What or whom do we think we would just die without? For, when we consciously join the spiritual path, when we decide to “awaken”, we are making a commitment to discover those areas we are stuck to like glue. They are the source of our insanity, the place where we lose it.

It’s not for nothing that many traditions call this process Work. For our personal illusion carries with it the conviction that certain events will destroy us, and, while the I AM that we are is indestructible, choosing to place our identity, our sense of who we are, in something that is transitory, and clinging to it when it vanishes in the eternal current of change, will certainly create the illusion that who we are has changed or been destroyed, an illusion that has all the trappings of reality.

So this is really about “letting go” and “going with the flow”. Ideas that are no longer novel, perhaps, but continue to be valid. Work, in this context, is not the drudgery that we normally define it to be, but rather is concerned with the struggle to bring conscious awareness to as much of our daily life as possible. The practical ramifications of this are enormous, when it is taken seriously. It requires us to release our identity from everything and everyone that we value, while still continuing to value them. A seemingly subtle, but significant distinction.

Life takes on a different hue when we decide to Work in this way. At times, it looks like we signed up for experiences that our surface self would prefer to avoid, which is really the heart of the inner conflict awakening ignites.

What is real then becomes, who am I, which is really the perceptual ground for the first question, what is real. Our perception of our identity profoundly impacts our perceptions of everything else. It is this question that defines Life’s Mystery, a question that we must live without expecting an answer.

The mystery is unknowable, but it is possible to know who we are not. For instance, we are not what people think of us, or what we think they think of us. Certainly we are not our possessions, our clothes, our money, our careers, nor even our accomplishments, and certainly not our relationships.

We can begin to find solace for this ache in some simplicities, moments when we feel a deeper connection, when we actually have a fleeting experience of truer Presence. There at least we can feel closer to the Mystery. We can teach ourselves to seek out these moments. They can become our focus of attention.

Imagine a life where this becomes the top priority, the search for closeness with the Mystery. 

 

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dividing Attention

The things we attend to in life determine our personal reality. If we choose to pay attention to superficial  material strivings, which are, by their very nature, impermanent, then the focus  and quality of existence will correspondingly be superficial, material and impermanent. Should we choose to attend to Inner World development, then Life’s experiences take on a different meaning. All is determined by the power of attention, making the study of attention an important aspect of Inner Development.

ATTENTION IS ENERGY. To confirm this assertion, simply direct your attention toward someone. Even if they are not looking at you and are across the room, they will turn and answer your gaze, having felt the energy of your attention. It is an energy produced by the body and focused through the sense organs, particularly through sight and hearing. Attention is so powerful that, were we to have complete mastery of it, we would be able to perform super human feats. As we are, though, this potential is virtually untapped.

The realization of our relative inability to control attention is an important first step. If we sincerely wish to be able to live more in the Now Moment, we must begin to see how allowing our attention to disperse itself into the past and the future weakens this intention. The creation of Presence involves developing the ability to focus attention exclusively into the Present while being aware of one’s existence in that moment.

The physical present moment offers a myriad of distractions, all attempting to capture our attention. We easily become lost in fascination, losing self-awareness, forgetting to also attend to our Inner World. WE FORGET OUR SELVES!

Accessing our power requires attending, not only to the moment of the external world, but also to the moment of our inner world, simultaneously. In this way we become able to monitor the effects external events have upon internal reality. When we allow ourselves to indulge in fascination with external events, we choose to ignore their  internal effect. In so doing we place ourselves at the mercy of these events and become victims. Then our personal reality is structured and conditioned by the chaos of the external.

Begin monitoring the impact of incoming sensory data upon your internal environment and you will create a new relationship to your physical existence. When you expend the energy of attention upon the creation of an integrated and harmonious inner world, your external world reflects that inner growth. Then the relationship between the inner and outer worlds is reversed and your outer world experience is structured and conditioned by the awareness of your inner environment.

Directing attention inward while simultaneously attending to external phenomena is a simple concept, yet difficult to perpetrate, for the stimulation of the external is compelling and distracting. This is what Christ meant when he instructed to “be in the world but not of it.” Shakespeare defined the territory when he wrote: “To Be, or not To Be, that is the question.” Disciplining the mind to chose Being over non-Being is an essential element to inner development.

February 1, 2014 Posted by | Consciousness, Eckhart Tolle, Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surrender: The First Step

Somewhere along the path of inner development we eventually, of necessity, encounter the concept of Surrender and are compelled to confront its personal meaning. We all have an imaginary picture of what we want from Life, whether it is becoming a movie star or becoming Self-Aware. It’s all the same. We dream of what we will “become”, what we will be in some imagined future.

The problem with most of these dreams is that they hardly ever turn out the way we imagined. We forget that we’re actors on the world stage in a play with an unknown ending. Yet we spend time and energy worrying about how the story ends.

As we advance in age we begin to arrive at some of the endings we imagined earlier in Life. Here we encounter a difficulty that can be the cause of much unnecessary anguish. The outcomes we dreamt of do not occur as we expected, or, if they do, they contain unforeseen elements. So we suffer, we deny. We become angry, sad, depressed, confused, disheartened, dis-illusioned (the illusion being “knowing” how the play will resolve itself).

All this suffering is a choice we make, albeit unconsciously, nonetheless, we choose. When we choose to suffer we have given our power away to events, people and outcomes over which we have no control. In our society psychological analysis has become popular, we may look to our up bringing, family influences and cultural surroundings for the source of our pain. We look for someone or something to blame, people, places and things outside of ourselves, and we continue to resist the truth of our lives, choosing instead to indulge in various types of negative emotion and destructive behavior. All these things and more comprise the path of least resistance. The fatal moment to moment compromises, the lies that veil the truth, the pretense that everything is fine, all combine to enfold us in a prison of our own making. Life becomes flat, dull and meaningless.

The act of Surrender requires us to look upon the realities of our life unadorned, working to see it as it is, not as it “should” be, nor as we would like it to be. To surrender also means that we let go of the illusions we have concerning our ability to control events and people, and to become aware that the only potential control we have can be over how we internally relate to external reality.

When we begin to have mastery over our inner process, its meaning and purpose will emerge. This is the shift in attitude connected to the Surrender process. In effect, we become more intelligent in our understanding of our life circumstances and how they relate to our inner growth. Everything we experience, no matter how painful or traumatic, adds to us, building wisdom, strength and being.

Remember, everything is connected. This means that all the people, circumstances and events of your life serve to facilitate spiritual development. It remains, then, for us to study our lives with the awareness that it contains all the answers we seek. My individual life and yours contain the only real meaning possible. Without working to access this meaning through Inner Self-Observation, the true substance of our lives as individuals will remain an unsolved mystery. The first step is Surrender, acceptance of things precisely as they are, total acceptance of the Moment. This is the essential act required if we wish to attain anything of substance.

January 6, 2014 Posted by | Consciousness, Eckhart Tolle, Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Power of Perception

Expand the envelope! Move out of your comfort zone!  Phrases we’ve  heard many times. Sounds exciting. Open to new horizons. Realize your potential. What are we inviting when we declare this to the Universe? What must we be prepared for?

This is not an ominous thing, and these questions are not intended to elicit fear, but to facilitate contemplation. We are naive in our understandings of consciousness development and its requirements. We don’t know what The Journey will bring. It is an adventure into the Unknown, a Mystery.

The greatest preparation we can make for this journey is to release expectation, the tendency of our minds to formulate images and ideas about future events and processes. I have worked on my Consciousness now for 36 years. While I feel I have come to something for myself, I also know it is a forever process. I used to believe that if I became more conscious my faults and failings would disappear. What I have found is that they don’t disappear, but my relationship to them changes. So much for expectations.

Much of the resistance we have toward the present moment is that it often contains the unexpected. Our automatic programmed response to this is to resist, creating negativity. “What is the value of being in-the-moment when it fails to contain what I want, or planned?”, we may ask.

In the synchronicity of language, we find that the word “present” is also defined as “gift”. One of the things we learn in the process of inner growth is that the things we experience as “reality” are not accidental events. Thus, whatever shows up in my experience has purpose, and is related to my personal experience of The Mystery. Often what one viewpoint would define as my worst nightmare, is revealed as a priceless treasure when I shift perception. When I embrace What Is, my resistance disappears and a new reality emerges. This is the awesome power of choosing what shows up. Now I  realize I possess the ability to transform the negative emotions of resistance into the joy of learning.

Moving out of the self-assertive, cause and effect, linear mode of perception into an integrative, nonlinear, mode requires releasing our hold on rational thinking, and moving toward an intuitive thought process. Logic deduces linear conclusions from known facts and premises. The mind cycles information, perceiving itself to be the singular dominant force, and seeks to control the heart, which it doesn’t understand. In the integrative approach, the mind has to come to recognize that it’s true ability lies in listening to and translating the knowing of the heart. Teach it to learn the discipline of silence, a receptive silence that truly listens, without attempting to impose concept or structure.

Analysis of information is replaced with synthesis of emotional perception, thinking becomes holistic rather than reductionistic, and personal experience becomes the central focus. Truth, with a capital “T” gives way to a lower case, personal “t” that looks to no one but itself as an authority. Personal feelings, perceptions and experiences come to be recognized as the axis upon which personal reality turns.

With new thinking comes new value structures. The expansionist tendencies of personal self-assertion give way to an interest in conservation. Competitive, win-lose scenarios come to to be seen as less valuable than cooperation, where all contributions are valued, and win-win becomes the basic philosophy of human interaction. Then quality of life, working from the inside out, rises in value over quantity of production.

It is out of these new ways of thinking, through synthesis of new values, new belief structures, that our old ways of perceiving are transformed, and a whole new world emerges.

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lying, an Obstacle to SELF-Awareness

The path to greater Self-Awareness is a perilous journey that requires complete sincerity from the traveler. This path is strewn with many obstacles or challenges to test the mettle of the seeker. One of the greatest of these is our lack of sincerity, our reluctance to see things as they are without distorting them.

Our tendency to lie is not intentional, nor are we even aware of it most of the time. It is something that we acquired as part of our conditioning, our psychological training. Notice, for example, how, in our desire to please other people we don’t express our true feelings or opinions. We rather attempt to determine how the other person feels and then respond “appropriately”. When we consider that each person is doing the same, each person to some degree is holding back the truth out of fear of loss of approval, we begin to see that all our interactions are based on lies, that no one is telling, or is capable of telling, the truth.

Remember the story of the emperor’s new clothes? Every person in the kingdom was afraid to express the truth for fear of losing the approval of each other and the emperor. Instead, they formed a consensus reality which began with the emperor himself. He denied the truth so as to not look bad in the eyes of the tailors. Each person he encountered thereafter agreed to lie to not embarrass the emperor, and soon the entire kingdom was believing the lie. each person was lying, adding lies to lies, and moving ever further from the  truth. It took the innocence of a child to express that truth.

Our lives are exactly the same. We fear expressing the truth out of our concern for losing the approval of others, or looking bad. We build lie upon lie, until we completely lose sight of the beginning of the chain, and our personal truth ends up having no foundation in reality.

The story of the emperor’s new clothes was about expressing feelings, opinions, and perceptions. How can we expect to be able to explore and master our inner world under these conditions. Obviously, if we continue the unconscious habit of lying, of deceiving ourselves, all our efforts in other areas of awareness development will come to nothing. Everything we think we now know about ourselves is, in some way, built on a lie. We must start from the assumption that we know nothing about ourselves, and that everything we think we know is a lie. This exercise will cause us to question everything, every premise, every underlying assumption.

Personal evolution is a stripping away process. To find the truth we must be willing to give up the lies that form the foundation of our consensus reality, the reality founded upon mutually agree upon deceptions. Gradually, organically, we remove layers of falsehood, progressing by degrees toward a more truthful perception of our own existence. We learn to let go of our need to be accepted by others and develop the courage required to express our personal truth of the moment. As we acquire more self-respect through truthful expression, we in turn, attract people who respect us for our truthfulness, other people like ourselves who are engaged in the battle with deception. The people who require lies will disappear from our reality.

Remember, the recurrent theme of inner development is penetration of the moment. Experiencing the moment at ever deeper levels requires that we experience truth at ever deeper levels. The Eternal Moment is only realizable through a direct experience of the truth. Thus, as we work to increase sincerity, we’re also working to create Presence.

November 18, 2013 Posted by | Consciousness, Eckhart Tolle, Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality, Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

What is THE TRUTH?

This is the question many of us who consider ourselves seekers ask. We’ve been asking it for some time, perhaps. We’ve searched high and low for the elusive answer, and have, at times, thought we found it, the answer, only to have that layer of the onion peeled away like all the others. I used to think there was some “objective” answer out there, somewhere. Objective being an answer that was accurate for all circumstances, transcending the personal point of view. I even spent twenty years learning, applying, and teaching a particular answer, all the time living in the belief that it was “The Truth”.

Although I still consider those years well spent, I’ve returned to square one with a whole new perspective. That perspective, however, is not the answer, but the same question at another level. My current take is there is no other answer but my own personal answer. There is no Truth, capital T. There is only me, experiencing.

When I realize my “Truth” is a mental model, a tool, I release my judgement of the “Truth” of others, and lose my attachment to the need to be “right”. Although this too is a mental model, it at least has the latitude to allow for the existence of other truths, lower case “t”. Just imagine how our society would be if we all could actually do this, respect and acknowledge each person’s truth as being as valid as ours, without conditions, or limits. Imagine what this would do to legislated morality. And this is just the proverbial frosting.

The most important thing such a shift in consciousness brings, in my opinion, is the placement of attention on the understanding that the most important truth is my own personal truth, my own light, or the lack thereof. When I move to this point of view, I am released from the burden of being concerned about the opinion of others.

Each new level of realization, however, brings with it a new level of challenge. So, now that I’ve realized the most important opinion I can experience is my own, I have to have one. Up to this point, I may have been so focused on the opinions of others, I may have neglected to form my own.

Suddenly I am thrust out of the illusion of certainty in to the abyss of incertitude. Am I ready for such responsibility? I’ve been blaming outside forces all my life. Now I discover that everything is really what it seems to be, for what “seems” is generated from my personal beliefs, and what I choose to filter into my consciousness through my perceptions. This interaction between my beliefs and what incoming data I choose to make important, forms my experience, my personal truth.

If I consider my beliefs to be nothing more than habitual thought patterns operating below the level of my surface awareness, and my perceptual patterns to be learned habitual responses or reactions, I have in my hands the raw material for intentional reality creation.

It may not necessarily be easy to install new beliefs, or unlearn conditioned responses, but it is possible. Even the idea that it’s not easy is a belief. Maybe things don’t need to be as difficult as we make them out to be.

Anyway, the important first step is to make our personal experience, our personal perceptions and opinions, first priority. This doesn’t mean that everyone else is “wrong”, but stresses the importance of intentionally formulating our own point of view and placing primary value there. If it is really true that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, that we are all equally creators, then the only true guiding light we will ever find is within us.

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Analysis Leads to Paralysis

Presence Practice is chiefly concerned with disciplining the mind to focus energy and attention into the Present Moment. In an undisciplined state, the mind frequently tries to perform operations it is incapable of doing, things like “figuring something out”, predicting the future or analyzing a situation. We may have questions and want answers, and we expect our mind to produce a solution to what ever problem we are confronting.

We think, and think, and think, continuing to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. If you recognize a common definition of crazy in this formulation, know that crazy is exactly what we become when we attempt to use our mind this way. It plainly does not work. Most people I ask agree, they do not “figure things out”, although they say sometimes they do, but not often.

The constant churning of the mind in thought drains us of vital energy. Obsessive thinking in search of a solution drains us of this vital resource. Ever think about something to the  point of exhaustion, then fall asleep and awake with an answer? Most I ask this of agree to the truth of it. They fall asleep thinking and wake up with an answer. Then their mind takes credit. “I finally figured it out!”

Consider that what really happened is that you stopped thinking when you fell asleep, opening a space for the answer to be given. How that actually happens is a mystery. The process is commonly called intuition, or gut instinct. I say it is Inner Guidance. Whatever you call it, it is clearly not a product of thinking, but more an inner knowing, perhaps even, our direct personal connection to whatever you define as a Higher Power.

Everyone I ask about this acknowledges there is something within them that knows what is best for them that they have occasion to ignore to their detriment.  Whatever you believe about what this is or where it comes from, it seems clear that listening to the promptings of our Inner Guidance is a wise thing to do.

When we work to focus our entire attention into the one time and place Life is actually happening, Here/Now, to the point where our mind becomes Still, then listen to and follow this Inner Guidance, then Life cannot help but become all it is meant to Be.

November 30, 2012 Posted by | Consciousness, Eckhart Tolle, Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Clear the Deck

Practicing Presence is the simple act of focusing one’s entire attention into the present moment.  A no brainer you might say. It seems so simple. Just BE where you are, where your feet are rooted. How is it that we find it so difficult?

Ever notice when you walk through a cluttered room in your home how the clutter calls to you.

“You need to clean me up! This stuff is a safety hazard!”

The clutter is distracting, not to mention unattractive. We wish it would go away, but we’re too busy, or too lazy to deal with it. It keeps growing. Put one piece of junk mail on a table and soon  there are a hundred, overwhelming us. It becomes a big deal, so we pretend it is not there. We try to ignore it, but each time we walk by it generates thoughts. We find those thoughts troublesome so we become insensitive to them. We seek to block them out with addictions that numb our senses, or rationalize our unfocused attitude. Maybe we blame someone else for the mess, avoid responsibility.

Consider this to be a metaphor for the condition of our inner world. It may include years of thought accumulations: upsets over past traumas; regrets over what we judge to be poorly made decisions (how could I have been so stupid!); ruminations over past interactions (I could have said it better this way); fears about future catastrophes (What if _____ happens!); concerns over what people think of us (Don’t let the neighbors see your mess); the list is endless.

The problem with this strategy is that thoughts evoke bodily reactions. We label these reactions emotions. If I fear being harmed at some point in the imagined future, my body immediately reacts, even though nothing is happening in this Now. Adrenaline levels rise, muscles tense up, frown lines appear on our faces, heart rate accelerates, blood pressure rises. All due to our “concern” about the clutter.

We become so preoccupied with these dysfunctional thought patterns we lose contact with the Source of Life, our participation in Life as it is happening. We are so “concerned” with our mistakes of the past and our fears of the future we lose the Precious Present, the one place and time Life is actually happening, NOW!!

So clear the deck, take out the trash, release attachment to what was, let go of fear over what’s to come, and passionately participate in the simplicity of the PRESENT!!  IT’S A GIFT!

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Consciousness, Eckhart Tolle, Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Self-Remembrance

If you are a reader of this blog, it is likely you have had occasion to ask: “Who am I? Why am I alive?” Many of us have spent lifetimes attempting to answer this question. My first attempts centered around my vocation, my job, my career. In the beginning, I did not like my occupation, I had a negative identification toward it. I rebelliously decreed “I am not my job”, thinking that if I had a job more in tune with my interests, I would be more content, happier.

When I took action on this notion and began earning money practicing my creativity, I became annoyed with the demands the public made on my creative skills and developed another negative identification. This left my question about my true identity unanswered.

I even tried not working for a few years. I discovered that the Universe would support me if I remained fearless and focused, but I still had no clue about my true identity.

Then I began reading about consciousness, and shortly thereafter entered a school for the development of higher consciousness, where I discovered I was looking in the wrong place to find my true identity, my Self. There I learned that if I made a list of all the ways I could complete the sentence: “I am ___” about myself, you  know, I am a driver, I am a man, I am a business person, I am a photographer, …etc, that none of those nouns were who I was, they were simply roles I was playing.

I further learned and experienced that, if I enacted those roles with conscious awareness and non-identification, I was able to play them all more effectively. What was I doing differently? I was Remembering My Self, living in the awareness of being a unit of consciousness traveling in a body, an Eternal Being taking human form for a period of time called Life.

I AM not my name, nor my behavior, but an actor on the stage of life. When I live my role consciously I Remember MySelf, when I live my role unconsciously, I forget my Self. When I forget my Self I suffer unnecessarily and get lost in the details. When I Remember MySelf I connect to my life’s meaning and purpose.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Consciousness, Eckhart Tolle, Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality | , , , , | Leave a comment

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