Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of November 14, 2011

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Breadth of Presence

(Developing Will: Aspect 6 of 10)

While we do find great value in training our attention to focus tightly on one small aspect of experience, we also benefit from a broad reach of attention, from mindfulness of all that our senses bring us. Clearly, presence means being in contact with the full range of our immediate experience, both inner and outer. This broad, open, non-selective, non-filtering mode of awareness can be called bare attention or simply mindfulness. As with any mode of presence, breadth of presence, or mindfulness, is an act of will. We choose to be here in this moment, in touch with all that it offers. Our will directs our sensitive energies into all our senses and awakens us to the conscious energy, which serves as the cognizant umbrella tying it all together.

To get a taste of this, open your visual awareness to include not just the center of focus but also the peripheral, so that you see all that your eyes bring you, your entire visual field. Try the same with your hearing by opening to all the sounds coming into your ears, so that you are listening to the whole auditory field. With your body sense, open to awareness of your entire body at once. With your mind sense, notice the thoughts and fragments of thoughts streaming through your mind. In all these cases, our sensory awareness grows inclusive and broad.

Behind that, the cognizant stillness of consciousness, that boundless, sentient field, provides the versatile, pre-experiential substance that becomes awareness of this and that. Consciousness is the ever-present, all-pervasive, timeless, blank screen on which the ever-changing impressions of our senses appear. We can even become conscious of consciousness itself by opening into it, by recognizing it for what it is, the substrate of experience. One practice that takes us toward consciousness consists of becoming aware of the space around us. Like opening to our entire visual field, opening to the space that surrounds us and permeates us brings a sense of wholeness and even peace. Space just is. Likewise, consciousness just is. Consciousness pervades space and us.

Something in us never changes. That something is consciousness. Although the degree of our contact with it does vary, consciousness is always with us as the essence of experience. We have the same consciousness now that we did as a child. All the intervening events of our life have passed through this consciousness, yet here we are in the same consciousness.

To practice breadth of presence, we cast a wide net across all our senses, inner and outer. We enter that broad river of experience. We are here in contact with all of it, without being taken by any piece of it, without losing our self in attraction to or repulsion from any particular arising element of what we see or hear, think or feel. Not to be taken by anything in our experience requires an ongoing act of will, the will to be and to stay here and now, the will to be and to stay fully aware.

Though we cast a wide net of awareness, we practice breadth of presence, not breadth of awareness. The difference is that we are not only broadly aware, we also here and present in the center of that broad awareness. We do not lose our I in the sea of our senses. First and foremost we remain ourselves; we remain the one who is experiencing all this, the one who is doing what we do. We abide in the whole of our immediate awareness. Will transcends time and space, and so do we, our I. We can inhabit the whole of our experience at once by practicing breadth of presence.

For this week, please explore broadening your awareness and your presence within it.


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