Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of March 22, 2021

Conscious Presence

(Reclaiming Our Life: 11)

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To understand conscious presence, we need first to see the distinction between the sensitive energy and the conscious energy, between sensitive awareness and consciousness. Sensitive awareness is all the perceptions brought to us by our outer senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, as well as our inner senses of thought, emotion, and physical sensations. This is all the sensory content of our life. The sensitive energy enables all those sensory perceptions. The more sensitive energy present in us, the more vivid our senses.

We can regard sensitive awareness as the content of experience, like the images on a screen. The screen itself, we can regard as consciousness, the context or background of experience. Whereas sensitive awareness has many pieces, e.g., the sensations of a hand and the sight of a tree, consciousness ties that all together into one seamless whole. Consciousness is pure awareness and is prior to any sensory content within it. We can practice being conscious, being in the conscious energy, the pure seeing prior to anything seen, the pure cognition prior to any thought or mental image.

For example, in meditation, with our eyes closed, in a quiet space, our body relaxed, our emotions tranquil, and our thoughts and mental images slowing down, there is little content being thrown on the screen of consciousness. In that stillness, in those gaps between sensory perceptions and with fewer surface phenomena to distract us, we can more easily open to the pure consciousness behind the surface, to the conscious energy. This is a vast field of consciousness, the boundless and spacious container of all experience, not just our own. Whenever we focus our attention, we are concentrating the conscious energy, we are drawing it into us, which is also possible by direct action on the conscious energy. The latter requires deep familiarity with the cognizant stillness that is the conscious energy.

There is, of course, an intimate relationship between the sensitive and conscious energies. So intimate that we ordinarily make no distinction between them. But there is a distinction, one that matters for our spiritual life. Through our inner work, we can build up and organize each of these energies, gradually creating our soul thereby.

By attention in our body and by breathing the energy from the air, we can increase the quantity of sensitive energy present in us. We can also work to stabilize it, so that we have more of the sensitive energy more of the time, within our being. This creates a platform on which we can build up the conscious energy. A stronger and more stable sensitive energy makes for a stronger and more stable conscious energy in us. And vice versa. The two are mutually reinforcing. They can work together and blend together to create our being. This happens to some degree in anyone who lives a focused life. However, the process can be greatly accelerated through sustained, intentional inner work.

So much for the conscious part. What about the presence part? Energies alone do not make presence. For that, there must be someone who is present, not absent, not fragmented, and not vaguely flittering around haphazardly and disjointedly.

Because it is less enmeshed with our material nature, the conscious energy has a stronger affinity with will than does the sensitive energy. When we pay attention, our will entrains the conscious energy. The question of interest here is, when we pay attention, who is paying attention? The who is you, who you really are. This points to how we can find ourselves and be ourselves. We can be our attention. We can be the one in us who directs our attention. By paying attention to our attention, we can work our way toward its root, its source, to find ourselves, to find and be our I.

When we, our I, put ourselves into this present moment, we establish conscious presence. The conscious energy comes, drawn by our act of attention, our act of willing to be here and now, in and with the whole of ourselves, in the midst of our immediate surroundings and situation. When we can say Here I Am, with the full meaning of those words, with the full backing of our intentional act to be here, with having jumped into this moment with both feet, then we are in conscious presence. The world is alive and we are alive in it, wholeheartedly.

Besides the vividly full experience of and engagement in life that conscious presence brings, does it matter beyond us? Is there anything truly spiritual about it? Because consciousness has no boundaries, if we enhance the consciousness that is in us, it boosts the consciousness available to others. And because the conscious energy enables inner peace, boosting the consciousness around us promotes peace in others. These effects may be small for any one of us, depending on the strength of our engagement with the conscious energy, but they do add up. The more conscious we are collectively, the more peace there will be among us. More personally, in consciousness we can recognize the same consciousness in other people, recognize our sameness in the sense of both of us living in the one, boundless field of consciousness.

In a deeper effect, our I is our will. The source of all will is the Sacred. Thus, to the extent we can be our I, be our unified will, we can begin to open to higher levels of will, open to our own fundamental, direct, and unique connection with the Sacred, and through That with each other. The natural result is more compassion, more kindness, more love.

For this week, please practice conscious presence.


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