Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 15, 2021


Three-Centered Presence

(Reclaiming Our Life: 10)

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We have a body. We have a mind. We have emotions. To what extent are we aware of and present in our body? To what extent are we aware of and present in our mind? And to what extent are we aware of and present in our emotions? Further, to what extent are our body, mind, and emotions each living their own independent, unrelated lives? If there is no unity among these three principal parts of ours, then we suffer a fundamental fragmentation of our experience. But before there can be unity, there must be something to unify. Thus, we begin by building awareness of and presence in each of these three centers of action and experience.

The key to this is the sensitive energy, the foundation upon which we can build our being. This energy can appear in three forms, as sensation in our body, feeling energy in our emotions, and cognitive energy in our mind. In the first case, it puts us in visceral contact with our actual, living body. We call this sensing our body. We do not seek an imaginary spirituality divorced from our body. We build our spirituality on the foundation of our body. This means practicing awareness of our whole body, as often as possible. Bringing our attention to parts of our body and then to our whole body arouses and generates the sensitive energy, which enables that connection with our body. In addition, we can accelerate the process by drawing the sensitive energy from the air around us. All this can grow very strong, to the point of our whole body being saturated with the fine and salutary vibration of the sensitive energy.

But to be present in our body, requires a further step, that of inhabiting our body, so that we ourselves are actively in our body, not just receptively aware of it. We occupy our body. We reclaim it as rightfully ours, moment to moment. We live in our body, not by default but by ongoing choice.

Yet for a complete spirituality we must be whole, and to be whole requires more than awareness of and presence in our body. We also need our mind and heart. The sensitive energy in our mind is brought on by and enables contact with the contents of our mind. We can call this knowing our thoughts or cognizing our thoughts. We are aware of our thoughts, as thoughts. We are aware of their meaning. We are aware of the process of our thought stream, endlessly associating, each thought giving rise to the next, with sensory impressions inspiring other thoughts, which in turn induce more thoughts, on and on and on. Unless we are intentionally thinking about something specific, our practice is to just watch the stream of thoughts and let it be, without trying to stop it or shape it and without letting it sweep us along with it.

Sensing our body helps in this, because it gives us a place to stand and watch the thought stream pass by. Drawing the sensitive energy from the air also helps, because some goes to our body, some to our emotions, and some to our mind. The further step of presence in our mind, inhabiting our mind, builds on our sensitive awareness of our thoughts by putting us in touch with the stillness underneath the thought stream, with the cognitive context of our mind.

Our emotions inform us of and relate us to our situation in their own unique ways. By bringing our attention, and with it the sensitive energy, to them, we can be aware of our emotions as emotions and recognize what we are feeling when we are feeling it. We can call this feeling our emotions. As with our thoughts, this and body presence can help prevent us from being swept away by our emotions. Simply seeing our emotions for what they are, gives us some inner emotional space, opening the way for the higher emotions such as joy, compassion, and love. The seeing connects us with the underlying peace, at the root of our emotional life. Sometimes though, when we buy into some difficult emotion, it gains momentum too quickly for our seeing to put it into the context of our inner vastness. In those cases, the emotional storm may indeed rule temporarily. But we keep up this practice of awareness and seeing our emotions, and gradually the seeing gains strength.

In none of this, however, do we attempt to distance ourselves from our emotions. To live a full and balanced life, we need our emotions. We see our emotions, not as from afar, but by being in them. We feel what we feel. We respect ourselves and honor our feelings, even when they are driven by egoistic impulses. We widen the reach of our inner life to include all that we feel, and thereby we move toward wholeness, with no part left out. In the process, our self-centered emotions may relax into the peace at our core. By being in our emotions, we inhabit them, we bring presence into them. We are here in what we feel.

However, with some highly-stressful emotional states, to prevent ourselves from being overcome and losing valuable energy, distancing from the emotion may be the only workable option.[1] In such cases, we do what we need to do to manage our state. But this, hopefully, is a rare occurrence. We approach our normal range of emotions with an embrace toward wholeness that includes feeling what we feel.

The glue that unifies our body, mind, and emotions is presence. At the core of presence is our I. When we inhabit our body, our mind, and our emotions simultaneously, we unify them, we unify ourselves, for that moment. When we practice presence, we strengthen and unify our I. Prior to that, our I gives itself over to every passing whim, emotion, or thought. This effectively fragments our I, breaking us into a thousand pieces. But presence reclaims all those pieces, bringing us together, into one unified will, one I. Then there is only one of us. And when that one inhabits our body, mind, and emotions, our total being is one whole. This is three-centered presence: simple, direct, and whole. Here I am.

For this week, please practice three-centered presence.

[1] For distancing methods see for example Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross, 2021


     

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