Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of April 22, 2013

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Deep Thinking

(Developing Wisdom: Part 3)

Our functions can operate at different levels, depending on the quality of inner energy at work. This certainly holds true in our mind, in our cognitive function. With the automatic energy our thoughts run by association, one thought leads to another, which in turn leads to yet another, endlessly. Or our thoughts arise as a reflex to some sensory event. We do not control or direct our thoughts. Though we may be fully immersed in, enthralled by our automatic thoughts, the secret voice of our personality, we are not aware of them as thoughts. Instead we are just lost in them. In that automatic state, we are not ourselves, rather our thoughts are us. Automatic thoughts are not intentional. We may let them roam, we may know what they mean, but we are not thinking them. They are thinking us. This is the usual state of our mind.

Sensitive thinking is what we use in school or at work, what we do in addressing an issue or problem that requires some consideration. With the sensitive energy, we are in contact with our thoughts and we are thinking them: our thoughts are intentional. We drive our thoughts along lines we choose. We notice and assess each thought, discarding unpromising avenues, seizing on solutions and new insights, and reverting back to topic when our thoughts stray too far afield.

Sensitive thinking also occurs when we listen carefully to someone speaking. We let their words act on our mind and shape our perception. When we notice our attention straying away from listening, perhaps onto some automatic train of thought initiated by something said to us, we just come right back to listening. We do not particularly need to think. We let the speaker’s words be the thoughts of our mind. We just listen. We just open our mind to hear what’s being said. We do not need to judge in the moment. We do not need to be inwardly engaged in assessments and rebuttals. We just listen. Without raising defenses or filters, our critical faculty will nevertheless play its role in the background. In the end we may agree or disagree or neither. But in any case, we will have fully taken in what the person said, we will have a better understanding of them or the message they were communicating. This is sensitive listening, the sensitive energy at work in our mind in the act of listening.

With the conscious energy, we can occupy our mind, not by putting some thought or image into it, but by putting ourselves into it. We can be there in the pure cognition, which is prior to and broader than thought. This is the great cognizant stillness, the field of pure awareness that contains all, including our thoughts. Our ordinary thoughts, though they may be occurring, do not interfere, do not touch us when we are conscious. We abide in the context, in the container of all experience. Everything passes through this container. But we are more than all that particular content of our life. In the conscious mind, we may shape the boundaries within which our thoughts play out, but we do not think in the ordinary sense. Rather we see, we address situations, people, and subjects by direct perception, without our thinking mind acting as an intermediary, as a filter, categorizer, commentator, or narrator. We just see things as they are, simply and directly.

This is not as mysterious as it might sound. When you look at a situation or listen to a person, you can let your thoughts come and go, without buying into them. You just abide in looking. In doing so, you see in an unfiltered, unbiased manner. This is true seeing. This is your mind in the conscious energy.

Sensitive listening leads into conscious listening. The difference is that in conscious listening we no longer have a separation between the speaker and the listener. Our consciousness embraces the whole situation. The other person and what they are saying occur within this field of consciousness, which we and they both occupy. Their words act as our thoughts, but our perceptions open into the cognitive stillness which surrounds us and through which thoughts and sounds and everything else pass like small clouds floating by.

The higher the level of energy at work in our mind, the deeper our thought processes, the deeper our insights. We can, for example, sit or walk in contemplation of some theme, issue, or problem. We allow our mind to mull it over, yet we do not fix on a particular solution and we do not direct our thoughts. We let our thoughts come and go as we keep our inner vision on the topic at hand. Gradually our mind quiets down, with fewer thoughts coursing through it. We enter the silence and just see. When thoughts do come, they do not disturb or obscure the silence or the seeing. We let them pass. In this cognizant stillness, insights may come directly, intuitions become more evident. This is deep thinking, beyond ordinary thinking.

Take a question or a subject you care about, one that you want to understand for yourself, one for which you want to come to your own viewpoint. Decide to contemplate that question or subject for a week. Then do so. At times during the week, sit in silent contemplation of the subject. At other times, see how the experiences your life brings you that week impact the question or shed light on the subject. Even if you have definite views on some aspects of the subject, stay open to learning more about the other aspects. A major part of deep thinking is to have an open mind, not to be too fixated on your established opinions. The assumption here is that there is Truth and that by contemplating a specific issue we can come closer to the truth about it, even if that means acknowledging after a week of searching that we know and understand very little about the question we have chosen.

Because so much of our life and experience is bound up with our thoughts, wisdom certainly has a role to play in regard to our thinking. Wisdom sees rather than thinks. In this sense, wisdom operates as consciousness in our mind. For this week, notice the quality of your thought processes. Practice deep thinking through slow consideration, listening to your intuition, and silent contemplation.

See also: Thoughts and Thinking


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