[This is a very convoluted post, which seems to happen when I move away even slightly from immediate experience and get into a disconnected/disembodied analyzing.]
Awareness is always present, and always in the present.
In a way, it is so obvious that just the act of talking about it makes it appear more confusing than it is (exemplified by this posting!).
In our immediate first person experience, awareness is always present. We may notice that the outer world is occasionally discontinuous, for instance abruptly shifting from darkness and evening to daylight and morning, but even here – I find no discontinuity of awareness in my immediate experience. In fact, any notion of continuity or discontinuity seems to not apply.
Awareness is also always in the present, by default. There are no other options. There is only what is, right now. There is only what is, the seamless whole which the abstractions “awareness” and “content of awareness” refers to. To “come to the present”, all we need is a gentle noticing of awareness itself – of being awareness. Awareness may be focused on different aspects of what is happening, and even believe and be caught up in a thought of “I” and “other”, but even here, awareness itself is always and only present. Noticing ourselves as awareness is all that is needed.
It is interesting to explore what is happening when it appears as if we are “not present”. First, I see that it is only for others that I appear “not present”, lost in thought, etc. In my own immediate experience, I am always and only right here, even when absorbed in thoughts and not aware of much else. I am present, although maybe not present to/for the rest of the world. Again, all that is needed is just noticing this – what already is. And when I am “lost in thoughts”, what is happening is that “I” become the thought and “other” becomes anything else. That is all.
It is a form of belief in the thought “I” and of dualistic functioning, which is of course why different traditions and practices emphasize “being present”, or rather just noticing that we already always and only are present.
And that is also why various mindfulness practices often emphasize a “bridge” between what is indisputably in the present (such as breath, sounds, etc.) and awareness. Just bring awareness to what is given, right here now. Allow sensations, emotions, thoughts come and go as guests.
Of course, even this splitting the world up in awareness vs. other is an overlay of abstractions, although one that can bring is to a direct experience of what is.
It can be helpful to split things up so we can explore interconnections, as long as we are aware that we are just playing around with this overlay of abstractions. It is fine to play the game as long as we are aware of just playing a game, or even if we don’t.