Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 17, 2014

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Freeing Our Mind

(Mind and Thought: Part 4)

The more we can live in the open mind-space of consciousness, the fundamental pure awareness that is here with us always, beneath all our perceptions, the more freedom we enjoy. Inner freedom is the first freedom, because so many constraints are imposed on us by our habits of mind, by our reactions, by our desires, by grasping and rejecting. All this clutters and obscures our mind-space, encumbering us like so much baggage. Inner freedom releases the grip that our mind-baggage has on us.

The first steps, as discussed in the previous parts of this inner work series, are to see our thoughts for what they are, namely just thoughts, mostly self-generated and all without inherent power over us, and to get a taste of another way of living, of another possibility, namely the spacious mind of pure consciousness, prior to and beneath thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions. For the first step, we need to observe our thoughts objectively. For the second, we can turn to meditation.

Having made those steps and having seen that we have within us a deep, all-pervasive pool of peace, of cognizant stillness, we soon find ourselves falling back into passively riding along in our thought-stream, buffeted by our emotional reactions and desires. What then?

Seeing a truth once is not enough: we need to integrate that realization into our life. Like the practice of meditation, we can in our daily life, whenever we notice that we are identified with some thought-stream or reaction, return to being in contact with our sensation body and from there with the spacious mind of consciousness. Though we may want to be free, when in the grip of some compelling set of thoughts or emotions, we find it hard to imagine that a deep pool of peace and consciousness lies just beneath all that, and even harder to actually turn toward that peace.

Yet for every one of us, that peace of consciousness is there in every moment. It is part of our standard equipment as human beings. Just as we have our body always with us, part of us, we also have the unformed elements of our soul. That ocean of peace is one of those unformed elements. We can just relax: first our body and then our mind. We relax back into awareness itself, into seeing, into being the one who sees all that we perceive. In that seeing, we are in consciousness, in the cognizant stillness whose nature is peace and wholeness. Nothing is missing and nothing is amiss. We feel complete and content. Equanimity pervades us through and through.

When totally under the influence of some persistent series of thoughts and emotions, the memory of freedom gained in meditation might jog us into wishing for that freedom in the present. Knowing that the cognizant stillness is here in us, presents us with an alternative to being pushed along by our thoughts and emotions, and gives us a place to turn toward. If we wish for it, know the direction, make the choice, and take the necessary inward action, we can slip beneath our thought-stream, slip out of its grip and into our spacious mind, a welcoming place that feels like home.

And then we fall back again into identification with the contents of our mind. So we repeat our movement into peace. This process recurs during our day just as it does in formal meditation. It is one of the practices we can fruitfully carry into our life. The more we do this, the more confidence it gives us that inner freedom is and is possible for us, and the more live it. Our inner constraints weaken and our inner mind-space opens up. We can breathe again and flow with our life.

For this week, work on freeing your mind, by stepping into your body and into the cognizant stillness beneath the contents of your mind. Your thoughts do not define you and need not limit you.


     

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