Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of October 26, 2009

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Conscious Presence

(Aspect 8 of 12 of the Path of Right Living)

Pure consciousness liberates us into the spacious freedom of the cognizant stillness within us. Consciousness is always there: vast, silent, and serene. But we allow the more superficial content of our senses to distract us, to mask the essential awareness underlying our sensory awareness. We pay attention to the sensory content displayed on the screen of our mind and lose contact with the screen itself. While sensitive presence forms the perfect foundation for consciousness, to be truly conscious means more than just being aware of all that our senses bring us. The energy of consciousness, the conscious energy, fuels our fundamental awareness behind all the sensory impressions, behind all the sights and sounds, body and thought, and all the rest.

Right now, as you read these words, open to the peaceful stillness within you, behind the seeing of the words, behind and between the thought-sounds playing in your mind. In that spacious stillness you can be, you are, you are yourself. The stillness need not be hidden by thoughts. Let the thoughts think themselves, while you let your attention settle into the silence beneath your thoughts, beneath your sensory awareness. Rest in the stillness, not entangled with your senses. Your eyes see, your ears hear, your thoughts think, and your emotions emote, while you remain here, within the cognizant silence of consciousness, taking it all in without it all taking you in.

This tranquil sea of silence is here within us. It gives relief, rest, and equanimity. It gives an expansive view of life. In it we readily widen our perceptions and our concern beyond the purely personal, beyond our ordinary self-centeredness. This sea of consciousness has no center, but rather a boundless, unimpeded spaciousness.

Yet because of its remarkable qualities, when we begin to recognize consciousness and experience it, we can easily fall into identifying with it, into believing that consciousness is what we are, that we have arrived at the ultimate level of ourselves and of reality. Indeed much of todays popular spiritual and new age teachings erroneously put forward the notion that our deepest nature is consciousness, even that God is consciousness. Those who have seen deeply enough, however, report otherwise. Even on the level of ordinary logic, we can readily understand that consciousness does not choose, that the one who chooses, the one who directs our attention is deeper than consciousness. The extraordinary freedom found in consciousness can seduce us into abandoning any further search, a condition known in Buddhism as a false enlightenment.

Nevertheless, to understand consciousness experientially and to live in consciousness, even temporarily, is to live in a very refined and marvelous state, one that marks a significant milestone on our path toward the Sacred. Consciousness, as it turns out, is the boundary between our ordinary worlds and the higher spiritual realms. We address the way beyond consciousness in the latter aspects of the Path of Right Living.

But even for conscious presence, consciousness does not tell the whole story. Conscious presence means more than the presence of consciousness, it means the presence of someone who is conscious, namely you, your I. The presence part of conscious presence refers to the action of your will. In conscious presence, we not only are here and now, we know we are here now, and we are the one who is here now. Thus the core of conscious presence consists of the presence of I, that I am here in this cognizant stillness, that I am here as my will-to-be, that I am in contact with all my sensory impressions, that I am the one who is doing what I am doing, that I am acting as my will to act, that I am at peace.

For this week, practice being conscious, inhabiting the spacious, cognizant stillness within you.


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