Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 7, 2009

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Body Sensation: Stronger

(Aspect 1 of 12 of the Path to Presence)

Self-awareness matures into an essential component of presence. But as soon as we begin to make serious efforts at self-awareness, we discover that awareness to be fleeting and unstable, despite our best intentions. Our attention all too readily falls away from self-awareness into whatever distractions pop up. For example, if you attempt to watch your mind, you soon find yourself slipping into and then washed away with the stream of thoughts. Try as you might, the siren song of that self-generating, associative flow of thoughts, so familiar and so intimately tied to you, pulls you out of your more centered self and into its less aware, automatic and more passive mode of living and experiencing. But there is hope, there is a way out of this conundrum. That way consists of increasing awareness of our body through the sensitive energy.

If you put your attention into your right hand and hold your attention there, your direct awareness of your right hand gradually grows stronger. Your hand may feel more alive, more substantial, more energetic, more there. Stay with this for a time. Then compare your experience of your right hand with your current experience of your left hand. See the contrast between the two: the left being relatively less alive, less substantial. This marks the presence of the sensitive energy in your right hand. We say that you are sensing your right hand and that it is full of sensation.

Now the great advantage of working with sensation is its relative stability. It does not evaporate immediately. It does not disappear as quickly as our attention might flit away. Because of that, sensation creates a wonderful basis for presence, a foundation for self-awareness that begins with our body and gradually grows to include heart, mind, self, and higher energies. Body sensation forms the very foundation of presence.

The more you practice sensing your body, the more sensation you have. This is only partly due to your growing familiarity with sensation. Even more importantly, the practice of sensing your body gradually develops an inner vessel, a container in which the sensitive energy accumulates. Little by little, the sensitive energy collects and stays with you. At unexpected moments during the day, body sensation spontaneously rises to the foreground of your awareness, awakening you toward presence, toward being here and now more fully. That inner vessel of sensation forms the foundation of our soul.

So our role consists of making repeated efforts to sense our body. We start with sensing parts like hands or feet, then move on to larger parts like arms or legs, then we include torso and head. In sensing the torso, however, we do not try to sense particular inner organs so as not to interfere with their instinctive functioning, but rather we sense our torso as a whole. Also, we refrain from sensing in situations that crucially demand our full attention, like driving or chopping vegetables.

Making persistent efforts to sense our body pays enormous dividends. All levels of spiritual experience begin here and now. And sensing is the premier way into being here and now. And not only that sensing trains our attention, more finely attunes us to the needs of our body, partially frees us from domination by our automatic thoughts and destructive emotions, expands our present moment, makes life much more vivid and rich, increases our confidence in the spirit by providing an ongoing experience of greater depth than ordinarily possible, and it creates a platform for higher spiritual energies to enter us. All these possibilities come to fruition through our efforts to sense.

For this week, practice sensing parts of your body and, in particular, staying with it to strengthen that sensation, to draw more of the sensitive energy there. If sensing comes to you spontaneously during the day, use the opportunity to strengthen that sensation by bringing your attention to it and staying with it.


     

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