Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of January 12, 2015

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Conscious Wholeness

(The Way of Wholeness: Part 6)

Each moment of life serves up a stream of impressions, inner and outer. These varied fragments of our life do not constitute a whole, nor do they render us whole. But if we can receive that stream with consciousness, then the consciousness that receives it certainly is a whole.

Why if? Arenít we always conscious, always noticing the impressions of our life? Though it seems that way, this is largely an illusion for two reasons. Firstly, much of the sensory input we receive does not rise to consciousness. Nature gave us this economy of perception to enable our nervous system to function efficiently.

The second reason, though, is more subtle and profound. We confuse and conflate detail with context, part with whole, sensory awareness with global awareness, sensitive energy with conscious energy. The sensitive energy can bring us vivid contact with the sensory details that make up our life in any given moment. Our senses give us the stuff of life, and this seems to be all the stuff of life. But there is more.

Moments come when our inner world grows quiet. A prime example occurs in meditation when gaps appear between thoughts and we abide in the luxurious stillness of our mind. In those quiet moments, little or no content crosses our mind, just the context of our cognition, our mind knowing its own stillness. In those same moments, our emotions may be quiet as we rest in our psychological/spiritual heart. Again, no emotional content, just the context of our feeling heart. Our body may be relaxed and at ease, giving us the sensory experience of having a body, of hearing what we hear, and seeing what we see. Yet this occurs in the context of our whole body with all its senses alive. Is there something deeper behind all these various ways of seeing and cognizing, behind the surface appearances that make our life?

We have in us a kind of seeing or cognizing that goes beyond seeing with our eyes, beyond cognizing our thoughts or ideas, beyond feeling our emotions. It is the root of all seeing, all cognition. This root of cognition is like the sensor in a camera, receiving all that comes its way. We call it consciousness, a cognitive stillness made of the conscious energy. It has no content of its own and it has no boundary. It is pure awareness. Consciousness sees all, sees our thoughts, emotions and all our senses; every perception arises on the cognitive backdrop of consciousness. Because it opens to all impressions coming to it, because it does not exclude anything, and because it has no boundaries, true consciousness is complete and whole. Indeed, one of its chief qualities is wholeness.

We can and do live without contact with consciousness. But that mode of living immerses us in a two-dimensional life, confined to the surface of what we see, hear, and perceive. In our better moments in that flat world, we intuit an opportunity passing us by. Something is missing. In consciousness, nothing is missing.

To experience consciousness more, the best place to start lies in quiet meditation, allowing our mind to settle into quiescence. The pure awareness that remains is consciousness. It comes to the fore when the stream of our senses slows down. We discover that even in the absence of thought, emotion, sights or sounds, we are still aware. That gives us a taste of consciousness. With that taste, we can aspire to a more conscious life. At any given moment, we can move toward a more contextual awareness. Without giving up contact with the sensory details of our life, in fact enhancing that contact by diminishing our distractedness and identification, we open to the backdrop of awareness, the consciousness that receives all our senses, including thoughts and emotions.

Any time we can relax into the moment, we can open into consciousness. Relaxing into the moment brings us more contact with the contents of awareness, with the sights and sounds, body sensations, thoughts and emotions. All this and more is happening. Relaxing our grip on these particulars, or relaxing the grip that any particulars have on us, we look at our experience in this moment globally, we open to the entire stream of awareness now. The kind of openness that can take in the whole of our immediate experience in this moment, that can look at all of it together, is consciousness. We relax back into that cognitive stillness that underlies, surrounds and permeates everything. Even in the midst of activity and all the many impressions of life, that cognitive stillness is here. Within that stillness, we can be. Within that stillness, life is complete and we are whole.

For this week, please practice opening to the cognitive stillness of consciousness.


     

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