Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 29, 2009

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Sensing Our Presence

(Part 1 of 9 in the series: Stages of Becoming Conscious)

Our springboard to becoming conscious is full sensitive awareness. And full sensitive awareness begins with our body. A very important and readily available way to upgrade our awareness consists in sensing our body, or as a Thai Buddhist meditation master put it in 1936, we focus on “the inner sense of the form of the body.”[1] As we work to establish our attention in this inner sense of our body, to develop our direct, unmediated, visceral perception of it, the sensitive energy gradually builds and collects in our body, drawn there by our attention. This energy of sensation enables us to be aware of our body. Furthermore, the sensitive energy forms the lower part of our soul. The practice of sensing our body can grow stronger and stronger, as well as more constant, and has many beneficial ramifications for our spiritual path, and for our ability to live well, to live a full, productive, and satisfying life.

We begin with placing and holding our attention in one of our hands or feet. Once we can feel the aliveness of the sensitive energy collecting there, we move on to sensing entire limbs, then torso and head, and eventually to sensing our whole body. We sense the total body, not just the surface, although we do not intentionally focus on particular internal organs so as not to interfere with their instinctive functioning.

Sensing the whole body helps make us whole inwardly as well and leads naturally toward the full experience of consciousness. That wholeness gives this method an advantage over methods that focus on a part of the body, such as breath awareness. However breath awareness, just because it is more tightly focused and because the breath is always moving, has its own advantages. Each method has a time, place, and purpose. For example, we might begin a period of meditation with focused breath awareness to calm our mind and collect our energies, and then move on toward sensing the whole body.

The sensitive energy also enables us to be in direct contact with our thoughts and emotions. Placing our attention on our thoughts we become aware of them as thoughts, we become aware of their meaning. Rather than allowing our thoughts to think us, we can think our thoughts. The former happens with the automatic energy and the latter with the sensitive energy. We can focus our thoughts on a problem or situation, thinking logically about it. We can visualize and think in images. Or we can simply be aware of our automatically self-generating associative stream of thoughts as thoughts. All this is due to the sensitive energy entering our thoughts. We combine this sensitive thought awareness with our practice of sensing our body and we become even more whole.

Further, we extend our sensitive awareness to being in contact with our emotions as they arise and unfold. We notice how their feeling tone colors our awareness. We notice how the emotion manifests in our body, perhaps with tightness in our chest, a quickened breath, a particular expression on our face, or a changed posture. We notice how the emotion drives our thought patterns and vice versa. We have some choice, a modicum of control over our emotions. All this is due to the sensitive energy in our emotions.

With all three operating, with sensitive awareness of body, of thought, and of emotion, we move into a different level of wholeness and presence, a breadth of awareness that prepares us to open to the conscious energy, to being conscious. For this week, please practice whole body sensing, awareness of your thoughts as thoughts, and awareness of your emotions and their effects. We can call this practice sensing our presence.

[1] Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, The Craft of the Heart, trans. by Thanissaro Bikkhu, (printed in 1982 for free distribution by: The Abbot, Wat Asokaram, Samut Prakaan 10280, Thailand), p. 114


     

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