Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 24, 2012

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In Body, Mind, and Heart

(Learning to Be: Part 6)

The three flavors of the sensitive energy offer us the foundation on which to build our being. Those flavors correspond to awareness in body, heart, and mind respectively. This energy is a generalized sensor, ready to detect and report to our awareness all kinds of sensory phenomena: internal and external, physical, emotional, and mental. The more of this energy we collect and stabilize, the more vivid our moment-to-moment experience and the stronger our being.

In our body, the sensitive energy manifests as a vibrant plasma that mediates our visceral contact with our body: touch, kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses, pain and pleasure, hot and cold. It also puts us in contact with the other body senses of taste, smell, vision, and hearing. We can work with the sensitive energy in the body by practicing contact with any and, preferably, all of these body senses. But the most straightforward and clearest approach is through contact with our body itself, with arms and legs, torso, neck, and head, feet, hands, fingers and face. We give our attention to our body and through that attention we discover this vibrant, mobile, sensitive substance wherever we place and hold our attention.

Usually we are only vaguely aware of our body. Unless we have some strong sensation, say of pain or pleasure, we have little direct contact with our body. Yes, we are always in our body, but we do not always know it. We donít really feel our arms or legs or face most of the time. So our practice is to put our attention on part or all of our body and hold it there. Gradually we begin to be aware of the sensitive energy in our body. We call this practice sensing. Through sensing we can be in contact our body at any time and with extended, persistent practice, a good deal of the time.

You might ask why, why do this? Is there some reason for sensing, beyond making our bodily experience more vivid? Indeed there are deep reasons. First, sensing lays the foundation for presence, which makes our whole life more vivid. In presence we live more, we are more. And beyond that, sensing lays the foundation for building our soul, the lower part of which we can think of as an inner body made of the sensitive energy, our sensation body. For that, though, much practice is required to accumulate and stabilize our sensation. Put simply, sensing can transform our life, for the better, with many side benefits to its primary benefits of growing our being and moving us along the spiritual path.

Our sensation body needs a mind, a cognitive faculty, also made of the sensitive energy. For that, we work with the sensitive energy in our mind. The method is straightforward: we put our attention into our mind and practice awareness there. The most prevalent content in our mind is, of course, our thoughts. So we pay attention to our thoughts and mental images. The sensitive energy enables us to be in contact with our thoughts, to know their meaning, to notice our thoughts as thoughts. Our usual relationship with our thoughts is to be lost in them, to believe we are our thoughts. Being cognizant of our thoughts, through the sensitive energy, puts us in touch with their meaning, with the fact that they are thoughts, just thoughts, passing through our mind. And this reveals another benefit of sensing our body: if we simultaneously sense our body and cognize our thoughts, the body sensation grounds us in this moment and helps keep us from being swept away by our thoughts, helps give us an inner place to stand, a perspective. With sensation in our body, we can stay aware of our thoughts, stay in our front row seat at the theater of our thoughts.

Then we come to awareness of our cognitive faculty itself, beyond thoughts. We begin to notice gaps between our thoughts. We can be in our mind, in our big mind, and not be lost in our thoughts. They come and go, passing through our mind, while we stay here in this inner mind space.

Our sensation body and mind, need a heart. So we notice our emotions as well. Again, rather than identifying with them, our sensitive contact with our emotions shows our emotions as emotions, as feelings passing through our inner heart space. Just as we can be in sensitive contact with our mind even when there are no thoughts, we can be in sensitive contact with our center of emotions, in our chest and solar plexus, even where there are no obvious or particular emotions occurring. That contact tends to transform our emotional life, freeing us from losing ourselves in the more self-centered egoistic emotions, and opening us to a warmer, more heartful approach to life, to ourselves, and to the people around us.

Working with the sensitive energy in all three, in body, mind, and heart, we gain a broad and stable basis for presence. When one falters, the work on the other two spills over and picks it up by reminding us. And it has the great advantage of accessibility: we can work in this way at any time. For example, once we gain some familiarity with sensing, we find that we can sense during our normal daily activities, without interrupting them, in fact enhancing them. We do not need to be sitting in meditation for a certain period to sense. We can sense anytime, anywhere. It is accessible and verifiable. Once we have the taste of it, sensing is unmistakable. We know if we are sensing and we know whether it is stronger or weaker. This brings our spiritual practice into our daily life in a real, direct, and effective way. It clearly delineates one leading edge of our personal, spiritual journey: how often, for how long, and how strongly can I sense my body today? That clarity of direction proves invaluable.

For this week, work with the sensitive energy in your body, your mind, and your heart.


     

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