Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For week of August 31, 2015

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Inhabiting Our Mind

(Presence Tools: 8)

We tend to believe that our mind is defined by our thoughts, that our mind is our thoughts. In those fleeting moments when there are no thoughts, it seems as if we have no mind. But we also, and more accurately, consider a moment of no thoughts as indicative of an empty mind, which implies that our mind is more than our thoughts. We rightly say that thoughts run through our mind.

Generally we are not present in our mind. The thoughts usually run on their own, thinking themselves in an automated, reactive, self-generating, and haphazard way. Except when we intentionally focus our thoughts on some problem or issue, we are at best spectators, passively aware that thoughts are running on, and we not fully present in our mind.

When we work to be present in our mind, to inhabit our mind, several different modes are possible, with varying results to match. The most obvious is when we actively impose ourselves on our mind. Consider the mind to be like an ocean, whose surface waves are the thoughts. Active presence quiets the surface from above. It is as if we sit on the surface of our mind and pacify it by force of will. This can work for a brief time, but then our energy wanes, our intention wavers, and suddenly we vanish again.

Passive presence takes a different approach, entering the ocean of mind from below. We relax into our mind, without an active agenda. We let the thoughts run on as they will, while we slip between, behind and under them into the peaceful, deep waters. This can be wonderful, giving us a glimpse of freedom. But the very passivity of this state leaves us vulnerable to getting attracted by and taken into the surface waves of thoughts. One moment we are relaxed and at ease, and the next we are drifting away on the current of thoughts.

A middle way opens to a substantive and more sustainable presence. We enter our mind in a relaxed way from below, while remaining vigilant to be in this moment in our mind rather than carried off with thoughts. This fusing of active vigilance with passive relaxation, gives a distinct third approach. We are here, in the whole of our mind, surface and depths. We are relaxed enough not to burn through our energy reserve too quickly, and even to allow more energy to well up from the depths. At the same time, we are vigilant, present. We do not need to suppress the thoughts that do arise. Instead we see them as just the surface phenomena that they are, while we inhabit both surface and depths.

Practicing this is easier at first in seated meditation. Begin by using some technique to focus your attention and allow the rush of thoughts to subside. Then bring the passive relaxation and active vigilance. Later, you may find yourself able to access this state as you go about your day. The question is: do you own your mind? Or is it owned by every passing thought?

For this week, please practice inhabiting your mind.


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