Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 22, 2014

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The Sensitive Energies

(The Way of Wholeness: Part 3)

To understand ourselves and to understand how to approach our own spiritual development, we need to understand how we perceive. I am here and aware of seeing these words on this screen. There is subject, I, and object, the screen, the words. What mediates between the two is a particular and important class of psycho-spiritual energies that we call the sensitive energies. They are also known as prana in Yoga and qi in Taoism.

The current scientific way of looking at visual perception is to consider the eyes, the retina, the optic nerve, and the visual cortex of our brain. But that puts it all into the realm of functional knowledge, of bits of information we can store in books or in memory. For our spiritual development, knowledge can help, but only in a secondary manner. Primary is experience, our own direct experience. And as it happens, that experience contains elements not understood or even approached by science.

So between subject and object of perception, we have these energies. You might object that true spirituality goes beyond subject-object dualism, as is certainly the case. But that belongs to a later stage of the Way. If we try to start there, without being grounded in fundamentals, our experience of those higher states will likely prove both imaginary and fleeting.

So we begin with the energies of sensory perception, the sensitive energies. We not only need to understand them, we need to accumulate, organize, and integrate them into our very being, into our soul. This takes no special aptitude. We are all equipped for this work. We need only make the effort to develop it.

The three types of sensitive energy are associated with perception of our body, our mind, and our emotions. In the body we call the sensitive energy sensation. In the perception of our emotions, we call it feeling or feeling energy, and in the perception of our thoughts, we call it cognitive energy.

To incorporate the subjective experience of our body into our spiritual practice, we become aware of having a body, of being in our body, moment to moment. Take the example of your right hand. Put your attention into your right hand and hold it there. Notice the life in your hand, its visceral aliveness. Staying with that for a couple of minutes, your experience of your hand grows vivid. Now notice the difference between your experience at this moment of your right hand and your left hand. This shows the sensitive energy, the sensation in your right hand. That energy was drawn into your right hand by your attention to that hand.

To incorporate the subjective experience of our mind into our spiritual practice, we intentionally notice our thoughts. We put and hold our attention on our thoughts, on the endless series of thoughts coming and going through our mind. By noticing them, we become aware of their meaning. We see one thought leading to another. We see that we are not driving our thoughts, that we are not usually thinking them. Rather they drive themselves. One thought inspires the next or some random sight or sound sets our thoughts off in a new direction. Usually we are only half aware of the thoughts meandering through our mind. We live surrounded by air, but we normally do not notice the air. Similarly, we live in thoughts but normally do not notice them. Our thoughts think us, drive us, pretend they are us. But when we pay attention to our mind, we bring the cognitive energy to bear, enabling us to be in contact with our thoughts, to see them as just thoughts, to know their meaning. They have their value, but they do not define us.

To incorporate the subjective experience of our emotions into our spiritual practice, we pay attention to them. When we have a strong emotion, our attention is automatically drawn to it. But we can expand the reach of our attention to include the manifestations of the emotion in our body: our facial expressions, posture, gestures, tone of voice, sensations in our chest and solar plexus, and tensions in our shoulders and abdomen. We also open to how the emotion affects our mind, how it drives and colors our thoughts, and how our thoughts feed the emotion. When our emotions are absent or mild, we just bring attention to our chest and solar plexus region, the home of our emotions. If nothing in particular is happening, then we just be there in the emotion of equanimity. In so many of our life events and interactions, a mild emotion of one type or another arises. We open our awareness to that. In all of this, we are working with the sensitive energy of feeling that enables our contact with our emotions, enables us to see our emotions as just emotions. They have their value, but they do not define us.

Why work with these sensitive energies? Doing so makes our life more vivid. Doing so provides us a measure of freedom, as we shall see. And doing so builds our soul, directly. For this week, please work on the sensitive energies in your own being, on becoming more aware of them and accumulating them. This practice proves invaluable both in sitting meditation and whenever we have spare attention as we go about our day.


     

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