Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 2, 2019


Intensity

(Advancing Our Practice: 5)

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The intensity of a moment of inner work depends on two interrelated domains: energy and will. The greater the quantity and quality of energy in us, the more intense our presence. The more our typically fragmented will of body, heart, and mind becomes instead integrated and whole, becomes one unified will that is who we are, the more intense our ableness to be and the more intense our presence.

For example, when all our attention is entirely focused, with no outlying, non-participating chunks, then we have the possibility of being entirely here. So when we come to a moment of presence, one way to practice is to raise the level of intensity of our presence, so that we are even more here. But we take care not to confuse tension with intensity. We do not become more intensely present by raising our tensions, inner or outer. That would waste energy. We aim to be intensely present, totally here, and relaxed.

The clearest way to work our way into living more intensely is through the unified will of one-pointedness in whatever we are doing. When we engage in doing something, can we bring all our parts to bear? Can we be in our whole body, doing what we are doing? Can we have feeling in our heart for what we are doing? Can we enlist our entire mind in what we are doing? Can we bring every last iota of our attention fully behind our focus? Can we be here totally, as our attention and intention, with the whole ourselves?

All of that creates and derives from one-pointedness. We can work at being one-pointed by choosing to be totally into what we are doing in any given moment. We can start with our self as a whole and let all our parts awaken and join in. Or we can build it up piecemeal by addressing body, heart, mind, and self sequentially and cumulatively. Either way, the result is being all-in for what we are doing. Furthermore, being all-in, having our unified will in action, draws new energy into us, and also transforms our energies to a higher quality.

Beyond the initial efforts to be whole and here, the practice involves stopping the leaks. When we are acting with some degree of one-pointedness, distractions inevitably challenge us. Some new, unrelated thought starts up a series of extraneous thoughts and part of our attention is grabbed by that. Some random perception from the world around us grabs another piece of our attention. As long as none of those constitutes an alarm requiring immediate action, we stay with our all-in task, despite the distractions. To be and stay one-pointed, we remain true to our focus. That plugs the leak and brings the shards of distracted attention back to what we are doing.

Despite the alluring story of the Zen Master who can both eat and read the newspaper while fully present, multi-tasking is problematic. We tend to fall mainly into one of the activities, leaving only a little attention for the other. The result is that we are only partially present in either and thus half-alive. Better to do time-division multi-tasking, where we give our whole attention to one thing at a time. Say we start with the taste, aroma, and texture of the food of the food we are eating, and then we leave that to give our whole attention to what we are reading. We switch back and forth, but we do so with the whole of ourselves.

For this week, please practice living as the whole of yourself. This is living intensely.


        

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