Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of January 21, 2019

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The Allure of Thoughts

(Spiritual Dynamics: 5)

The ability to think appears to be the crowning achievement bestowed on us so far by evolution. More than any other factor, thinking has enabled the wildly successful run of homo sapiens. What is true for our species, also holds at an individual level: the ability to think clearly and cogently, coupled with a mind trained with sufficient specific knowledge, gives a person the possibility of excelling. Yet in certain fields, sports for example, thinking plays a secondary role to physical skill and ability. In the field of spirituality, thinking is a mixed blessing, as both a help and a hindrance.

The usefulness of thinking extends to nearly every domain and takes innumerable forms: knowledge acquisition, planning, analyzing, synthesizing, creatively imagining, visualizing, foreseeing, deducing, concluding, conceptualizing, inventing, speculating, calculating, evaluating, classifying, naming, surmising, opining, pondering, communicating and many more. All this occurs as thoughts in the form of words we can hear with our mind's ear or of mental images we can see with our mind's eye. Our thinking brain is a truly remarkable instrument. It has enabled us collectively to create this unfathomably complex civilization we live in.

Even so, we give our thinking mind much more consideration than it is due. The fundamental issue is that our thoughts cannot take us or accompany us into the deeper spiritual realms. They may support our journey there, as with prayers, but to enter we must leave our thoughts behind. The difficulty is that we believe in our thoughts to such an extent that we even believe we are our thoughts. That private, intimate voice inside our head, the one that sounds like us, the one that says "I," that is who we think we are. Because our thoughts build themselves from the stuff of our experiences and because the great bulk of our experience is focused outward, our thoughts orient themselves to the concrete, physical world, with abstractions from that. So believing in our thoughts and believing we are our thoughts, keeps us firmly and exclusively attached to the material world.

The inner silence beyond thoughts is the gateway to the deeper spiritual realms. Firstly, it is the gateway to ourselves. In the stillness we discover the boundless, pure awareness that is consciousness. This, along with the sensitive energy, forms our inner body, our home. And within our home we discover ourselves: the one who sees what we see and does what we do, the one who chooses my choices and directs my attention, the one who directs my thoughts when they are intentional, the one who is aware.

Deeper still and we come toward the Sacred. But for now, we look at how our thoughts both mask our true self and pull us away from it. Abiding in the stillness, we see our thoughts come and go. If we can stay in the stillness and not float away with our thoughts, we grow accustomed to living in consciousness as ourselves, as our I. And we see our thoughts stay on the surface, while we occupy this entire inner space. This freedom from identification with our thoughts is part of our transformation. No longer are we ensnared and enslaved by every passing thought.

Yes, we still think intentionally when necessary, in any of the many ways mentioned earlier. But then it is clear that we are driving our thoughts, that our thoughts are not us even when they say "I," and that our thoughts do not have the power to drive us unless we abdicate to them. We can abide in the cognizant stillness, even when thinking intentionally or when self-generating, associative trains of thought are running by. We need not stop our thoughts to be ourselves, nor could we in any case. Even when we are not thinking intentionally, automatic thoughts just keep coming unbidden, while we remain.

For this week, our work in this dynamic arena is to see our thoughts, while we abide as ourselves in the stillness, not drawn out and away from ourselves by some enticing thought stream.


        

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