Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For week of June 1, 2015

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Sensory Flow

(Living in Flow: Part 3)

The river of life, as we experience it, is an endless stream of sensory impressions. It includes the standard five senses that enable us to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. It also includes their inner counterparts, wherein we see mental images and hear our thoughts, as well as the inner sense of touch that branches into feeling our emotions and sensing our body. Further refinements of that inner sense of touch bring direct perception of inner states and various energies.

As this river of our sensory life cascades through time, our relationship with it determines the extent to which we live in flow. There are two primary ways we stop ourselves from living in flow. The first is by putting obstacles into the stream and the second is by letting ourselves be carried away by the stream.

The second issue comes down to whether we allow ourselves to be carried along in this sensory flood so that we flow away with it, or do we stand still, like the land surrounding a river, so that it flows through us. In the first mode of living, we are buffeted and knocked around by all the stuff in the river; we live in time. In the second mode, we live in our fundamental, unchanging awareness that allows everything to flow through; we live in flow, in the timeless. The sensory river is the river of time. The timeless land is our consciousness. Instead of being a prisoner of time, such as when we become impatient, we live in the timeless. Instead of being lost in the flow of our senses, we stand in an awareness that both includes and transcends the sensory flow.

Can we stop jumping into the stream to block it, to hold onto a piece of it or push some other piece away? Can we stay present and let the river of life flow right through us, clean and unchallenged, without mistaking that river for who we are?

Training in mindfulness meditation helps. In it we practice moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness. We begin by relaxing into our body, into full contact with our whole body. That gives us an anchor in the present, an anchor that keeps us from drifting off with the sensory flow. Then we open our sensory doors to whatever is present in this moment. And we do that without passing judgement on anything our senses bring us, without grabbing or grasping an object, without pushing away, running from, ruminating about, or otherwise engaging with an object of our senses, and without mistaking any object of our awareness, such as our body or the thought I, for who we truly are. We let the sensory river flow unimpeded, while we abide here and at ease. When we notice that we have gotten lost in the sensory flow, we just return to our body and start again. When we can just be present, and remain in simple, immediate contact with the flow of our senses, then we are living in flow.

Paradoxically, to live in flow, we need to break our identification with the flow of inner and outer events. When our controlling ego goes at least temporarily quiescent, we can let everything in our sensory field just flow in its own time, while we flow in the timeless. Just as a river cannot be a river without its banks, we enter wholeness in flow, wholeness that includes both the sensory and cognitive levels of our mind, both time and the timeless. Mindfulness meditation enables us to enter the cognitive stillness at the base of our mind, eventually opening a wide field for awareness and being, in the midst of life. The non-judgmental awareness we develop in meditation opens out into that cognitive stillness. These two levels, the inner stillness and the simultaneous contact with our senses, together make our life more vivid.

For this week, please practice opening your awareness to the whole stream of sensory perceptions, inner and outer. Practice staying in the present and open, in the ease of letting time and sensory impressions flow on.


     

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