Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of November 30, 2009

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The Path to Presence

The quality of our presence determines the quality of our life. The more present we are, the more profoundly we experience our life and the more effective we are, both on the surface and in the depths. To go from our fragmented, intermittently aware level of being, marked by self-generating associative thoughts and memories, reactive emotions, physical habits, and conflicting desires, to a level of being characterized by full, extended, and unified presence is an eminently worthwhile, major and, above all, practical undertaking. Practical in this sense means the persistent and frequent practice of presence in its three major building blocks presence in body, in heart, and in mind.

Over the coming weeks, we will create an opportunity to engage in this enterprise of strengthening and deepening our presence, through a weekly series of twelve groups of practices aimed at developing presence:

    1. Body Sensation: Stronger
    2. Body Sensation: More Frequent
    3. Body Sensation: Wholeness
    4. Emotions as Emotions
    5. Thoughts as Thoughts
    6. Letting Go
    7. Inner Energy Flows
    8. Emotional Presence
    9. Cognitive Presence
    10. Triune Presence
    11. Conscious Presence
    12. I Am Present

The basic dimension of this practice of presence, as noted above, involves presence in the body, in the heart, and in the mind. Another dimension concerns noticing, understanding, and raising the level of energy with which our body, heart, mind, and awareness are functioning. We will see the various energies in action within us. Such seeing matters to us because it confers understanding and purification of will, while supporting development of being.

The two levels of energy which will concern us for most of this series are the automatic and the sensitive. In preparation for studying how these energies work in us, we can look this week at the action of the automatic energy in our body. For the most part, the automatic energy provides an essential service to us physically. It enables our body to carry out numerous learned actions and skills without our having to mentally direct each movement.

We walk without having to decide which foot to move when and exactly where to put it. Our body automatically takes care of the details of walking, with only some high-level directional input from our mind. We speak without having to consider how to shape our mouth and tongue, how much tension to apply to our vocal chords, or how to breathe to make the sound of each phoneme. Our body automatically looks after all those details with only some high-level direction from our mind and heart on what words to say and what intonation to use.

This remarkable body of ours does so many things automatically and does them so well that our mind, our attention and intention, and our awareness need only participate peripherally in most of what we do. That is the beauty of the automatic energy: it enables a hierarchical style of control.

The other side of that coin, however, is that we succumb to the temptation to abdicate our life to the automatic energy. We let our life go on without much awareness and without much actual choosing on our part. Our physical actions go almost exclusively by learned patterns and habits. We sleep-walk through much of life, letting it all happen in its own preprogrammed way automatically responding to stimuli. This automatic living is flat and dull. We live by rote, unengaged. To have any hope of improving matters, we first need to see the extent to which such unawareness characterizes our life.

For this week, notice the degree to which your body acts without your direct involvement.


        

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