Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of August 18, 2014

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Consciousness: The Metacognitive Energy

(Energy Practice: Part 6)

Consciousness is often misunderstood by mistaking the sensitive energy for the conscious energy. There are two major reasons for this confusion. First, the sensitive energy is much easier to know, understand, and control. We notice our sensory perceptions: that we are able to see, hear, taste, smell, sense our body, and be aware of the contents of our mind. When looking into ourselves, these perceptions are the most obvious ones and we assume that this is what consciousness is. But that is only partially the case and brings us to the second reason for confusion about consciousness: that the sensitive energy and the conscious energy nearly always appear to be mixed in us. The sensitive energy mediates our perceptions, bringing that information to consciousness, providing the contents of consciousness. So consciousness is involved in our ordinary perceptions, but gets hidden behind the more obvious sensitive energy.

The situation is similar to watching a movie at a theater. The screen itself is like consciousness. All the images on the screen are like the sensitive energy. When we watch a movie at a theater we are rarely aware of the screen as a screen. Rather we are engrossed in the images, the sounds, and the story, just as we are in our daily life. The sensitive energy effectively masks the conscious energy.

Fortunately, we can train ourselves to look behind the scene of our senses, thoughts, and emotions to the source of awareness, to pure consciousness. One effective means toward that is the meditation style sometimes called choiceless awareness. It can also be called non-doing or just sitting. In this meditation it is always best to begin with some preparatory practice that grounds us in the moment, in our body. So we might practice sensing our body or awareness of the sensations associated with our breathing, or counting breaths while being aware of the sensations associated with them. After becoming focused by this preparation, we can let go of those efforts and just be. We notice whatever comes for what it is: our thoughts as thoughts, our bodily sensations as sensations, and all our sensory perceptions as sensory perceptions. We do not try to shape our experience by running after or pushing away any particular thoughts or other perceptions. We just sit and be, letting everything, letting all the constantly changing contents of our awareness come and go without our interference. This non-judging, non-doing, choiceless approach to our immediate experience gradually allows us to become that in us which sees the whole parade passing.

If we are sitting comfortably in a quiet place with our eyes closed, our thoughts will gradually slow down, as will our sensory experience. Gaps will open up between thoughts. Empty gaps. Sitting in those gaps, it appears that nothing is there in them. Nothing. And indeed no thing is there, no content to latch onto. But after all the content of our experience temporarily recedes into the background, we notice that these gaps of nothing are still filled with our awareness, our consciousness. This basic silence in our mind, at the root of our mind, is cognizant, a cognizant stillness. We come to rest in its peace, not lost in the contents of our mind. We have relaxed into just being, into our consciousness. This continuum of simple awareness is the conscious energy.

Practicing this type of meditation, so that again and again we soak in the peace of consciousness, we become familiar with it. We acquire its taste. Then we can start to recognize it in the busy midst of life. We see that beneath the whirl of our senses and thoughts, beneath our actions and emotions, that cognizant stillness is still there, is always there. All our senses, thoughts, and emotions no longer mask consciousness. We have seen the screen behind the movie of our life, and we can be that screen. We find it possible to base ourselves in the cognizant stillness, even as we go about our daily activities. This transforms our experience and our life. We are rooted in consciousness, in the metacognitive energy that gives awareness of our sensory awareness. We have peace in our mind and equanimity in our heart. We can just be ourselves.

Because pure consciousness is so wonderful, so transformative, it is misunderstood in yet another way: that of assuming that consciousness is the highest energy, the ultimate, even the Divine. That assumption is not valid. Nevertheless, if we could come to live in consciousness, our life certainly would have entered a deep transformation.

For this week, please practice entering the cognizant stillness within you.


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