Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of February 28, 2011

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Non-Directed, Sensitive Will

Vigilance, Noticing, Mindfulness

(Modes of Will: Part 8 of 11)

Our senses continually send streams of information to our brain, yet much of that goes unremarked by us, in part due to the sheer volume of sense data. The raw data gets aggregated, filtered, and interpreted by our nervous system to draw our attention to the most important or interesting items. One example concerns the immediate categorization of sense perceptions. Rather than live in our senses, we live in the labels that our mind automatically applies to objects of sense. We experience the thought “arm” rather than the raw impressions of that part of our body.

But we can alter that filtering process to let more through to our awareness. By being vigilant we enter direct contact with our actual arm and with all our senses. Vigilance means actively staying in touch with our senses, through the sensitive energy, but without directing that contact toward a particular object. This is a form of the ancient Greek practice of common sense: simple, direct, immediate awareness of all our senses, actively driven by our will. We will ourselves to be in contact with all our senses, which naturally rouses the sensitive energy of awareness to mediate that contact. Vigilance transforms our life from flat shades of grey to vivid, full-color 3D, with layer upon layer of unexpected textures.

Whereas vigilance requires an active, outgoing movement of will, noticing adopts a receptive stance. We allow our senses to bring us all their impressions and we notice the most prominent of them. Rather than maintain an across-the-board, active vigilance of all our senses simultaneously, in noticing we let our sensory filters do their job. And then we inwardly acknowledge and fully experience our sensitive contact with whatever rises to the top of that filtered heap. We see what we see and hear what we hear. We let it come to us and when it does, we take in the impression; we notice whatever it is for what it is, in real time. We can only respond to what we notice, so the practice of noticing enables us to be more effective in life.

Combining elements of vigilance and noticing brings us to the synergy of mindfulness practice. Active vigilance, tempered by receptive noticing, centers and anchors us in the stream of our senses, in mindfulness. Active in the sense of being intentional, mindfulness does not happen accidentally or on its own; it requires intention, even when it becomes effortless. Receptive in the sense of not dwelling on preferences, not choosing among the many objects of awareness, open to it all, mindfulness is sometimes called choiceless awareness.

Established in the sensitive energy, we are mindful of what’s happening in and around us, moment-to-moment. The synergy of mindfulness ushers a new quality of freedom into our will. No longer are we just pushed along by the sensory stream; we are here with it, in it, but not constrained to react to it. We see and notice the hot-button items and we can let them flow on. Everything arises and everything passes, but we stay here, in this moment, in ongoing mindful awareness. To be mindful of something means to be in contact with it, to be in direct awareness of it. Yet the state of mindfulness stays open and non-directed. Whatever arises, we are here.

For this week, practice non-directed contact through the sensitive energy, actively by vigilance, receptively by noticing, and synergically by mindfulness.


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