Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 29, 2014

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Transcending Our Thoughts

(Transcendence: Part 2)

I think, therefore I am, as Descartes is often quoted. We believe our thoughts and we believe in our thoughts. They certainly seem like the most intimate and personal expression of who we are. Daydreaming, ruminating, pondering, judging, planning, obsessing, rehearsing, rehashing, and just plain letting our thoughts run on by association it all seems to be me. Our thoughts tell us what we want and we do not want. They tell us our opinions and our goals. They tell us the story of our life. They speak to us, as us, in an endlessly changing, yet always familiar stream, driven by our ongoing experiences. The time we spend in school is mostly directed toward training our thinking mind. Given all that, it is natural that our world view and our notion of ourselves is bounded by the frame of our thoughts.

And although we have a good deal of freedom within the framework of our thoughts, it turns out that the boundaries of our thoughts are the walls of our prison. We buy into our thought frame and allow it to convince us that this is the reality of who we are and what we can know. Our belief in our thoughts limits our experience to our customary mode of awareness. Our thoughts claim supremacy in our inner world. They claim to be me. The thought I has us completely convinced that it is who I truly am, that we need look no further to find ourselves.

However, there is more, much more. There is a great spiritual world within us, behind and beyond our thoughts. The thought I is just a thought. But it does point toward the reality of who I am, which is my will.

Of the many practical methods developed to transcend our thoughts, we will look at two. The first is sensing our body. This is a matter of direct, intentional awareness of our body, first of parts and later, with practice, of the whole. This sensing practice then moves beyond body awareness to building up the sensitive energy in our body, which in turn enhances our body awareness. Thinking plays no role in sensing; it can only get in the way. Sensing is a direct perception of our body and the sensitive energy. It bypasses our thinking mind. In so doing, sensing teaches us to understand that we are not our thoughts. In sensing we have an inner action that does not involve thinking. Sensing gets us out of our thinking brain. It shows us another possibility of being in the world, of being ourselves, without being our thoughts.

Another method toward transcending our thoughts involves seeing into the gaps between thoughts. This is best practiced in sitting meditation. We begin with relaxing our body, sitting comfortably. Then we start noticing our thoughts, seeing them as thoughts. We do not try to stop them and we do not respond to them, think them, emote about them, or take a ride on them. We just sit on the sidelines of our thought-stream and let it roll on as it will, watching it all the while in a relaxed manner. During this we stay in contact with our body, which helps keep us grounded in the moment and not losing ourselves in the thoughts

Gradually our thoughts slow down. Gaps open up between them. At first these gaps seem empty, just an absence of thought. But then we begin to see that we are still cognizant between the thoughts, that even though our mind is silent, we are still there, alive and alert. In that cognitive stillness, first revealed to us in the gaps between thoughts, we find a deeper part of our mind, we find our true consciousness. This is the awareness behind our thoughts, behind all our sensory perceptions.

With practice, with returning to this cognizant stillness again and again, with steeping ourselves in that quiet mind, we become able to open to it even when there are thoughts. We are in the great stillness while thoughts drift by like small clouds in a vast sky. Even during the day, when we are not sitting in meditation, we become able to be in that stillness, in the midst of activity, in the midst of thought.

This is transcending thoughts. And it brings a special, unexpected freedom. We are no longer driven by our thoughts. We no longer feel compelled to act on, or respond to, or counter our thoughts. We no longer necessarily believe our thoughts. And we longer believe our thoughts are who we are.

To transcend our mind means taking another, yet deeper step. It means transcending our consciousness itself. We address that in a later part of this inner work series. For this week, please practice seeing your thoughts as thoughts, seeing that you are not your thoughts.


     

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