Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 5, 2011

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Living in Consciousness

(Living in Presence: Aspect 4 of 7)

We will use the word consciousness in a very different way than its usual meaning of sensory awareness. Instead we view consciousness as the awareness behind sensory awareness, the pure cognition prior to and beneath all sensory content. In meditation, when our thoughts finally slow down, a gap opens between thoughts, a gap of silence and stillness. Yet this silence and stillness is not a void, for we are still here and still aware. That awareness, that cognitive stillness is consciousness, the conscious energy at work in us. As our thoughts subside in meditation, they fragment into a soup whose medium is the cognitive stillness of consciousness. Yet not limited to meditation, consciousness is always here with us, behind our awareness of thoughts and emotions, behind our sensory awareness. It is the perceptive film, the blank slate, the screen on which all our ordinary experience is displayed.

While consciousness is always here with us, we are not typically with it, for it is hidden from us by the very content of our sensory experience. We see the clouds, without realizing that our mind is the sky. Our sensory perceptions form a seamless layer that distracts us from being in our underlying consciousness. But in meditation, sitting quietly, we come to know the stillness underneath all that goes on, our unchanging cognitive faculty that perceives all, yet remains still and silent. We come to know it, to soak in that stillness. We see that cognizant stillness is a substance, the palpable substance of consciousness. And in entering that stillness, we cross the first threshold into the realms of the spirit.

With that comes the important opportunity of learning to be, learning to open to our true consciousness in midst of daily life. The familiarity with stillness gained in quiet meditation can carry over into our life, as an effortless calm, the surface of a deep pool of peace, the peace of stillness, the peace of consciousness, the peace that knows no boundaries, inner or outer. More meditation brings more peace, until it permeates our life, creating an undertone of being.

The peace of meditation can carry over into our life not only as an effortless calm, but also intentionally, yes consciously. Sensation, particularly full-body sensation, provides a foundation for consciousness. And consciousness provides a foundation for presence. While we may feel peace and calmness in our ordinary activities, that does not necessarily bring with it the awareness of awareness that is consciousness. Even after soaking in the stillness of consciousness during meditation, the experience tends to be momentary and fleeting during our day, in activity. We can awaken by intentionally coming back to ourselves, but it quickly evaporates.

That instability of our contact with consciousness can be addressed through the practice of full-body sensation. The wholeness of full-body sensation resonates with the wholeness of consciousness, and brings more stability to our contact with consciousness, giving us the possibility of living in consciousness. Of course other factors enter, principally the stability of our will, our intention and attention. When we lose our immediate intention to stay in the wholeness of body sensation and of consciousness, we fall out of it.

Though its contents continually change, consciousness itself is timeless and unchanging. This is a principal reason why we feel the same over time, why we feel that we are the same person we were as a child or teenager. That sameness we feel over time also extends to other people, for consciousness has no boundaries: it is everywhere. Consciousness is not in us, we are in it, in the vast field of consciousness. We all share the same consciousness, the pure cognition underlying our individual contents. The deeper we go into our own being, the deeper and more intimate is our contact with nature and with people. Indeed, in consciousness the wall between us and them, between inner and outer, begins to dissolve.

For this week, practice whole-body sensation, sensing from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. Let that sense of wholeness extend to the wholeness beneath all your sensory perceptions, to the wholeness and peace of consciousness.


     

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