Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 2, 2014

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Whole Presence

(Deepening Our Inner Life: Part 9)

The transition from non-presence to presence and back tells us a fundamental but nearly always overlooked fact about our life. We suddenly come-to. But from what? A moment before we were not here, we were not in contact with our surroundings, with our body, with ourselves. And now we are. For a precious few moments, we are here, alive in our awareness. And then the kicker: we fade back into non-presence. We do not notice that happening, because in non-presence we do not really notice anything. Sensory impressions come in, get handled by the automatic working of our body and mind, and do not touch us. We can rightly caricature this usual state of ours as a zombie-like existence, empty of real life. This is a fact.

Now we might protest: “I’m no zombie!” And that’s true, a least for that moment of protest, while the affront to our self-view awakens us. But then we all-too-quickly drift back into autopilot.

Fortunately, we can do something about this situation: we can practice presence. Unfortunately, that takes persistence, a great deal of persistence, a lifetime of persistence. The spiritual traditions have developed and taught many methods for presence. All the methods though, if they truly promote presence, share the characteristic of training us to make and be in contact with our inner and outer sensory experience. But, while necessary, this is only half way to presence. The rest of the way requires us to be ourselves, to be in contact with our very self. This cannot be taught directly, but must be inferred from all our first-half practice of presence and discovered by our own introspection and exploration of our inner world.

We practice sensing our body, being in direct, visceral contact with our body and with the sensitive energy in our body, as much as possible during our day, during every day. We extend that to being in contact with all our senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and with our inner sense that enables us to be aware of emotion, thought, and mental images. This persistent grounding in our sensory experience, this mindfulness, keeps us in the present moment and enriches our life enormously.

Yet, the question still arises: who is aware of all this? We might say “I am.” But then who or what am I? Here a different level of presence begins to open, one that is deeper than our sensory experience and the sensitive energy. We start to notice our inner home of pure awareness, of consciousness. This vast, boundless, cognitive stillness, the plenum and screen on which all our sensory experience gets displayed, feels like home. It is pure peace. We can rest in that.

And still the question arises: who is it that is aware of consciousness? Who is conscious? And we see that though consciousness is a deeper energy, a cognitive energy, it is not who we are. This is a subtle but important realization, for it leads to further heights of the spirit. It leads us first to realize and be the one who is doing what we do, the one who is experiencing our life. So, while grounding our practice of presence in contact with our body and senses, we extend that practice to being the one who is present. Gradually we learn to let our body remind us to sense and let our sensing remind us to be. We become ourselves.

This latter cannot become automatic, can never become a mere habit. It directly involves our intention, our will to be. But what does happen is that when we are not ourselves we begin to miss being ourselves and that prompts us to return. The more we do that, the deeper and richer our inner life becomes. We can truly say “here I am.” And along with mindfulness of our sensory experience, this completes our presence.

For this week remember that presence has two parts, contact with our senses and being our self, being the one who is in contact with our senses, the one who does what we do. Please practice whole presence.


     

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