Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 10, 2014

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Beyond Thought: The Conscious Mind

(Mind and Thought: Part 3)

Freedom in front of our thoughts has pre-requisites. First, we need a place to stand from which to see our thoughts, so that we are less likely to be carried off by them. Contact with the sensation of our whole body can serve as that place. Second, as discussed in the previous parts of this inner work series, is noticing and recognizing our thoughts as thoughts. This brings the sensitive energy to bear in our mind. It enables contact with the meaning of our thoughts and with the fact that they are just thoughts, usually thinking themselves. Third, though, we need contact with a deeper part of our mind, beneath and beyond our thoughts, a zone that brings new modes of being, yet can become readily accessible.

That deeper part is our conscious mind. It opens to us in silence and stillness, through the conscious energy. It confers peace, joy, and appreciation for the wonder of life. A classical and effective way to learn about the conscious energy is through meditation, particularly if it incorporates the three pre-requisites of freedom in front of thoughts.

We start by sitting quietly and relaxing into our body. Keeping our attention in our body, we come into contact with the sensation of having a body, into contact with our proprioception. Staying with that attention to our body, that body perception grows stronger and broader, becoming what we call the sensitive energy throughout our whole body. We are sensing our body. This gives us a platform, a place to stand in the present as we turn to the next phase of the meditation, which is watching our thoughts while staying in contact with our body.

We let our thoughts come and go, recognizing them as thoughts, as if they were going by on a screen like a news ticker. Thoughts are just thoughts. We do not need to engage with them just because they arise. We do not need to react to them, to fall into them, to be swept along by them. We sit in our sensation body and watch our thoughts come and go, come and go, on and on. We sit patiently, neither grasping any thought nor pushing it away. We let them be as they are, whatever they are. But we do let them take us or be us. We stay here and now in our body and stay with watching our thought stream. Whenever we reawaken, noticing that we have been lost in our thoughts, we just relax, reestablish our contact with our body sensation, and go back to watching our thoughts patiently.

Gradually our thoughts slow down and gaps open up between them. When we start to notice those gaps, we turn to noticing what is in those gaps. Nothing it seems. So we look further into the gaps. And still we see nothing. But we do see our mind, empty in those gaps. The mind-space around our thoughts begins to reveal itself. This cognizant stillness, which we glimpse between thoughts, is the deeper layer of our mind, the conscious layer, the pure awareness prior to any content. Here is the realm of peace and freedom. It lies beneath and around our thoughts. We are immersed in it. This consciousness at the base layer of our awareness is there, not only beneath our thoughts, but beneath all our sensory perceptions.

The more we acquire a taste for that cognizant stillness in meditation, the more we become able to be in it, both in meditation and even while going about our daily life. This peace is here in our being. We do not manufacture it, we just need to open to it, by seeing beneath all that our senses display on top of this layer of consciousness. We learn to recognize the cognizant stillness. We learn that it is not truly hidden by our sensory impressions. It remains here and available. It just takes a shift in our attention, an opening of our attention to include both the cognizant stillness and the sensory stream of life. In this way, it becomes clear that our thoughts and sensory impressions are just little waves on the surface of a deep pool of consciousness.

Learning to live more of our life in contact with consciousness has subtle but powerful impacts on us. First, it brings peace to our heart. We are no longer so reactive to our thoughts and emotions, but are even more responsive and engaged in our life. We are less easily thrown off our presence by the events of our life. We are less concerned with defending and building our ego, our self-image. We are more in contact with the reality around us, including the people in our life. We are more readily able to do what needs to be done.

And on a deeper level, consciousness opens us toward the sacred spirit that lies beyond even consciousness. In the silence of consciousness, contemplative prayer moves a step closer to the Sacred.

For this week, explore the mind-space surrounding your thoughts. Taste the peace of consciousness.


     

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