Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of February 8, 2010

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Cognitive Presence

(Aspect 9 of 12 of the Path to Presence)

Cognitive presence means presence in our mind, in that part of us that cognizes or mentally registers perceptions and especially thoughts. We practice cognitive presence by putting our attention into our head and being there in our mind. Doing so attracts the sensitive energy of thought, the sensitive energy of cognition, into our mind. Just as the sensitive energy in our body enables us to be in contact with our body and its sensations, and the sensitive energy of emotion enables us to be in contact with our center of emotion and our emotions, so the sensitive energy of cognition enables us to be in contact with our mind and its contents.

But presence of mind means more than contact, because contact implies a division: something or someone who is in contact with something else, an observer and an observed. Body presence means inhabiting our body, being in our body, at one with it. Emotional presence means inhabiting our center of emotion, being in our chest and solar plexus region. And cognitive presence means inhabiting our mind, being in our mind, owning our mind. We are not standing back as an observer of our thoughts. We are right there in our mind no division and no separation. But we are there intentionally and in sensitive awareness of our mind. Here I am in my head, in the place from which I cognize, know, think, and see.

This is a far cry from our typical mental state of being lost in thought, which operates on the automatic energy. In cognitive presence, such automatic associative thoughts may continue, but now you are present in them. The thought stream, whether associative or intentional, occurs within the mind you are occupying. Cognitive presence means being the one who is aware of and standing in the thought stream and, more generally, the one who is cognizing, knowing, and seeing.

The sensitive energy of cognition tends to raise the level our thoughts. Rather than arising by their typical automatic associations, our thoughts become more relevant to what we are doing, to our situation of the moment. We have less mental clamor and chaos. With cognitive presence we are more able to focus on a topic, more able to think clearly and logically, more able to see into the heart of matters. When automatic thoughts do arise, we are aware of them as thoughts and less likely to be swept away by them.

Cognitive presence is not about intentional thinking, but rather about intentional awareness in the context and contents of our mind. While this may include intentional thinking on a particular subject, it is not limited to that because you can be cognitively present in the absence of thoughts. You can be there, in your mind, knowing and cognizing without necessarily thinking.

The practice of cognitive presence works best when coupled with body or emotional presence. On its own, cognitive presence all-too-readily gets carried away in the stream of associative thoughts, opinions, daydreams, commentary, self-talk, attractions and repulsions. The sensitive energy of cognition thins out and scatters, leaving us adrift in our usual automatic mind. But when, along with cognitive presence, we simultaneously practice presence in our body or our center of emotion, we have a better chance at sustaining cognitive presence. Our body or emotional presence helps keep us from falling prey to the thought stream. Thoughts may come and go, but we stand anchored in body or heart and see our thoughts arising and passing. Here in mind and here in body, or here in mind and here in emotion, we are.

For this week, practice bringing your attention into your mind. Enter your mind. Inhabit it. Emerge from floating down your thought stream to anchor yourself in the present. Let the stream pass through you without passing with it. Become the context of your mind and aware of its contents. Be the one who cognizes, knows, thinks, and sees through your mind. Be the knowing, the cognizing, the seeing. Be your mind.


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