Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


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Presence Tools

Introduction

To actually change our level of being, two possibilities present themselves. We can leave it to the normal course of our life. Every life has its share of triumph and failure, love and defeat, health and sickness, gain and loss, pain and pleasure. Through all of that, we inevitably grow into some measure of wisdom, life wisdom, and along with it some transformation of our being. It is a slow process.

There are ways to intentionally accelerate our transformation. Principal among these are the various spiritual traditions and paths. What makes the difference between the journey in life and the journey in life on a path is the application, personally, directly and repeatedly, of spiritual practices. This requires effort, within our mind, heart, and body, and is thus often referred to as inner work.

One important subset of inner work practices deals with presence, becoming more present, more often and for longer periods, more broadly, more deeply, and more intensely. There are many, many practices that can and do prove effective. Some work for certain people, and some suit others. One person typically needs more than one practice to develop various aspects of presence and to ensure the practice does not become stale or perfunctory. We ourselves must be directly, viscerally engaged for the practice to be beneficial or effective. So we try various practices and go deeply into one that fits us. And then while keeping up our work with that practice, we also learn and work with another. Gradually we master several practices, at least to the level of being able to enter them at will and in almost any circumstance. Eventually we establish a whole toolkit of practices familiar to us and at our ready disposal. Of course, we use common sense and refrain from inner work in life critical or dangerous situations, such as driving or chopping vegetables, that require our full attention.

Continuing our inner efforts, coupled with our own creative and persistent application, the practices reveal their deeper levels to us, while our being grows and deepens. In contrast to this high goal, some of the practices will seem like trivial tricks or gimmicks. Yet in those cases, it is their very simplicity and concreteness that enables us to respond directly and quickly to the inner impulse of awakening that reminds us to practice presence. That impulse vanishes rapidly, so we need to be ready for it by having one of presence tools in our pocket, as it were, and immediately engaging with it. We refrain from wasting energy on upbraiding ourselves for having forgotten to be present and instead, as soon as the impulse of awakening arises, we respond by picking up our practice yet again.

This series of Presence Tools will offer short descriptions of various presence practices, with a brief rationale for each. The rationale matters, because our way is one of understanding, born of experience. It is necessary to know, in theory, what the practice is and why we engage in it. More than that cannot be written. So for our understanding, and being, to grow, the theory needs to be coupled with the actual, sustained, and repeated experience of the practice. Because it is impossible to reduce an inner experience and all its nuances to words, the tool descriptions will of necessity be incomplete and have holes. Through creativity, intuition, trial and error, we fill in those holes and fill out our understanding and our being.

Presence Tools:

    1. Having Feet
    2. Living Like You Mean It
    3. Arms and Legs
    4. Thought Awareness
    5. Whole-Body Sensing
    6. An Emotional Life
    7. Inhabiting Our Body
    8. Inhabiting Our Mind
    9. Inhabiting Our Emotions
    10. Inhabiting Body, Heart, and Mind
    11. Being Conscious
    12. Total Presence
    13. Leaning into Presence


        

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