Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of June 22, 2009

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Stages of Becoming Conscious

Some may find the title of this inner work series, “Stages of Becoming Conscious,” puzzling. Other than when sleeping in bed at night, aren’t we already conscious? In the special way we shall use the term, the answer to this question is no: we rarely rise into the full experience of consciousness. In our better moments, we do rise to a step below full consciousness: sensitive awareness of the content of experience, in contact with our body, mind, and surroundings. Usually, however, we operate at a level below sensitive awareness, automatically, as if wearing blinders and responding to life in a robotic, programmed fashion. These three levels of living, the robotic, the sensitive, and the conscious, can be thought of as non-conscious, half-conscious, and fully conscious, respectively. A particular quality of inner energy characterizes each, namely the automatic energy, the sensitive energy, and the conscious energy.

The practice of full body awareness, of sensing our whole body, along with sensitive awareness of our thoughts and emotions, enables our transition from automatic, robotic living. This inner work series, “Stages of Becoming Conscious,” addresses the next major transition, from sensitive awareness to being fully conscious.

The conscious energy forms the all-pervasive, underlying substrate of awareness, the pure, cognizant stillness that provides the context for all our experience. To enter the conscious energy is to emerge from time into timelessness, from body into spirit. The conscious energy marks a spiritual threshold, as the lowest of the sacred, higher energies. So while the conscious energy remains several steps removed from the Ultimate, it is nevertheless an important and necessary part of our path toward the Divine. To enter the conscious energy is to enter a high world and a gateway to the even higher, sacred worlds.

We will study the transition from sensitive awareness to being fully conscious in a nine-stage series of inner work practices, as follows:

      1. Sensing Our Presence
      2. Allowing All As Is
      3. Opening to Conscious Energy
      4. Spaciousness, Peace, and Equanimity
      5. Perceiving Consciousness
      6. Inhabiting Consciousness
      7. Concentrating Consciousness
      8. Being Conscious
      9. Beyond Consciousness

In the coming weeks, we will take up each of these stages in turn, working to develop a new perception of consciousness and learning how to live in it. At first these should be practiced as a nine-part, formal, seated meditation. But later, as we gain the experience, the understanding, and the taste of it, we can also take these practices of consciousness into our ordinary, daily life.

By way of preparation, for this week, please return to the practice of full-body sensation, of being in direct perceptual, visceral contact with the whole of your body. You can practice this while seated in formal meditation and while going about your usual daily activities. Whole-body sensing sets the stage for all that will follow in this series on becoming conscious.


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