Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of January 5, 2015

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Body, Mind, and Heart

(The Way of Wholeness: Part 5)

Whole-body awareness marks the first rung of the ladder of wholeness. Each step up that ladder is like moving outward in a set of Russian dolls, toward ever greater, more encompassing wholeness. To our body wholeness, we now work toward adding mind and heart. Notice that we are not referring to these as thoughts and emotions. Letís take a look at why.

Our mind is filled with thoughts. Each particle of thought represents something stored in memory, perhaps a concrete thing, an event, or some abstraction. These particles combine and recombine in rehashing the past, judging the present, pondering the future, or ruminating over ideas. Nearly all this just happens in automated, preconditioned manner without our intentional direction. To the extent that we identify with them, our thoughts so dominate our inner life that they define and delimit our world, keeping us in their narrow, confined orbit. Being mesmerized by our thoughts is an impoverished way to live.

Our thoughts do not perceive; our mind perceives. We refer to this by saying that our mind sees or cognizes. Of course the principal thing that our mind sees is the stream of thoughts passing through it. The important point is that our mind is not our thoughts, rather it sees our thoughts. When we relax back into our mind, we dis-identify with our thoughts and move beyond thought into just seeing. Thoughts may come and go, but we are here seeing. We do not try to stop our thoughts or engage with them. We let them come and go of their own accord, while we remain in the encompassing cognition of our mind. To help with this, we also abide in whole body sensation, giving us stability in the present, from which to be in our mind and see our thoughts as just thoughts.

In a similar way, our psychological/spiritual heart experiences emotions. This heart is our center of emotions and all the various emotions we have pass through it. Most of our emotions are in response or reaction to some life event or situation. Some emotions are pleasant and some are unpleasant. We naturally prefer the former to the latter, which leads us into rejecting part of ourselves. Taking this down one level shows that our emotions themselves are mostly about our preferences, what we want and what we donít want, again rejecting part of our life. Much of our emotional life thus divides and separates rather than moving us into wholeness.

If our emotions so dominate our life as to interfere with our functioning, then we need professional psychotherapy, typically talk therapy or prescription drugs or both. That can help bring our emotional life to a range where we can function normally. Whether we start out that way or get to the normal range through psychotherapy, we very likely still have a good deal of work to do in bringing true wholeness to our emotions. At that point, rather than try to reform our emotions, to keep the pleasant and banish the unpleasant, which in any case is not possible, we seek wholeness.

Emotional wholeness means not rejecting the emotions we experience. We honor, respect, and embrace how we are, how we react. Emotional responses are part of our equipment in this life. They give us information that matters. They enable us to act effectively. They enrich our life. But this certainly does not mean we must act on every emotion. They are just as conditioned as our thoughts, set in old and sometimes destructive patterns. So, as with our thoughts, we allow our emotions to come and go, while we remain in our psychological/spiritual heart that feels our emotions. We can be in our heart, even when there are no particular emotions. In that place, we discover our heart of peace, our fundamental equanimity that allows all to be as it is. Then whatever emotions come, they arise in the context of our heart of peace. To help with this, we also remain in whole body sensation, giving us stability in the present from which to be in our heart and feel our emotions as just emotions.

Just as our thoughts pass through our mind, our emotions pass through our heart. And just as beneath our ongoing thoughts, we can remain in our all-seeing mind, so beneath our ongoing emotions, we can abide in our all-feeling heart. In both mind and heart, we rest in non-rejecting, undivided wholeness, an open-armed welcome to ourselves and everything about ourselves. Here we begin to experience the connection between wholeness and love.

Continuing our work on whole body awareness, for this week please add the welcoming, abiding wholeness of mind and heart.


     

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