Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of October 16, 2017

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One Attention

(Personal Unity: 1)

Please try this. Sit in a quiet place. Put your attention on the physical sensations of breathing at and just below your nostrils. Breathe normally. Hold your attention there to keep awareness of the breath flowing through your nostrils and crossing the area just below your nose. To help in this, count your breaths up to ten, and then start the count again at one. If you lose the count, or you go beyond ten, or you lose contact with the breath at and below your nostrils, then simply start again at one. The primary focus is awareness of the sensations of breathing, with the counting being soft and secondary in a supporting role. The counting may displace some of the thoughts that might otherwise pull your attention away. The point here is to keep your attention steady in that place, one to ten, and one to ten, and one to ten, moment to moment, breath to breath, count to count. Just keep going.

This may feel like work, because it is work, inner work, an important form of inner work. Like going to the gym to work out our body, the exercise of focusing and maintaining our attention works out our soul. Attention is our principal tool, both for everyday living and for our inner life. The ability to direct and hold steady our attention underlies so much of what we do and how we are.

The breath counting exercise might surprise you. It sounds and is so simple. Yet you may find that you lose your attention and the count much more quickly than you might have expected. So we begin again every time, as soon as we notice that we have lost the contact. That is also part of the effort required: focus, sustain, repeat. We exercise our attention and slowly improve it.

Our attention is core to who we are. Our attention is our will. We choose what to focus on and send our awareness there. That is an act of will. Keeping that focus is an ongoing act of will. Keeping the count is an ongoing act of will. Starting over whenever we lose contact with the exercise is a repeated act of will.

And those three, attention, will, and self, are one and the same. This is the connection between the sacred, our innermost self, our body, and the world we act on through our body.

Our attention defines us. We are our attention. If our attention is scattered, we are scattered. If we are scattered, our attention is scattered. To be able to focus intentionally and to stay focused intentionally is to be whole, unified. Fortunately, this is something we can work on, as in the breath and counting exercise. When we come to be able to sustain it unbroken for multiple cycles of ten breaths, in that moment we feel whole and here. A unified attention makes a unified person.

This particular exercise also serves as an excellent warm-up for any meditation session. It can quickly collect, center, and focus us: settling our awareness and preparing our attention to enter whatever meditation practice we choose.

For this week, please work to become unified through your attention.


     

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