Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 21, 2021


Mind Presence

(Creating Our Soul: 4)

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In earlier installments of this inner work series on Creating Our Soul, we engaged with two of the major elements of presence: developing and living in our sensation body and living with heart. Now we address the mind, which tends to be a very busy place, full of potential. Our intentional mental, cognitive capabilities are among our most important: reasoning, problem-solving, foreseeing, planning, empathizing, storytelling, reading, writing, speaking, listening, remembering, recognizing, assessing, analyzing, synthesizing, judging, weighing alternatives, and so on.

Yet non-intentional elements, like comments, narration, rehearsals, criticisms, ruminations, obsessions, plans, daydreams, images, and all manner of self-talk, seemingly fill all other available slots in our inner cognitive space and time. This appears to leave no room for presence, which is pushed aside by that ceaseless, inchoate, self-generating mind stream.

However, it is not always like that. Sometimes our mind quiets down, if only briefly. Such moments are not merely an absence of inner noise; they reveal the quiet presence of mental awareness, the sensitive energy in our mind. This has been called the thought energy, which is an appropriate term for it when that energy takes the form of thoughts. But when our mind is quiet, that same energy enables us to be in touch with our mind even without thoughts. In that case, it can better be called the cognitive energy. Instead of using those two terms, we will use the single term "mind energy" for the sensitive energy in our mind in both its major manifestations.

The sensitive energy takes the form of the energy of sensation in our body, feeling in our emotions, and thought or cognition in our mind. When you turn your attention to your body, the energy of sensation enables you to perceive your body. When you turn your attention to your mind, the mind energy enables you to perceive your mind.

Thoughts are so close to us, so intimate, that we often consider our thoughts to be who we are. We are immersed in them. Our consciousness is immersed in them. In that way, our thoughts obscure the rest of our inner landscape, sucking all the attention to themselves.

How does this happen? Inner energies can be classified into different levels or qualities. In particular, the conscious energy is higher than the sensitive energy, which is higher than the automatic energy. A higher energy can organize a lower energy. A lower energy can disorganize a higher energy. The difference is whether and how our will participates. When we, as our will, are passive with regard to our mind energy, the automatic energy drives the mind energy into a fragmented stream of associative thoughts, each one leading to another, with the occasional intervention of some random sensory perception that deflects the stream into a new direction. The conscious energy becomes passively submerged in this mind stream. This is the ordinary and usual state of our mind. This is not how we are meant to live.

In contrast with that, when we intentionally put our attention into our mind, we bring the conscious energy to bear on and blend with the mind energy, which then relegates the automatic energy in our mind to its proper role, namely serving up knowledge, skills, and memories when they are needed. The result is an orderly mind. In cases where we are intentionally thinking about or pondering something, our thoughts stay focused. In cases where we are simply attentive to our mind, without a particular agenda for our thinking, then our thoughts subside, our mind grows quiet, and pure awareness comes to the fore. Instead of being passive, the conscious energy raises awareness of our thoughts, granting them some immunity from the disorganizing influence of the automatic energy. This yields clarity of mind.

This beneficial state also occurs when mind energy becomes more substantial by intentionally blending it with energies from the air, usually causing the thoughts themselves to weaken toward quiescence. At that point the mind energy raises our cognitive capacity, our knowingness. But mind energy is not to be confused with the conscious energy. Mind energy operates within our mind, while conscious energy is global, enabling the wholeness of body, heart, and mind together. Though thoughts can travel into the past and envision the future, consciousness transcends time altogether, being in the timeless, boundless present.

Sensation gives us contact with the present moment through our body. Feeling energy enables the emotions appropriate to the moment and establishes a vehicle for the sacred emotions like hope, faith, and love. Mind energy, when it is quiet and transparent, rather than taking the shape of particular thoughts, gives us a primary point of contact with the conscious energy. Mind energy supports much of our inner work by allowing us to visualize and imagine various inner actions, such as drawing energy from the air, an act enhanced by intentionally imagining gathering the particles of energy and bringing them into us. When we imagine a light in our head, that is the mind energy in the form of light, which we can then move into our heart to blend it with the feeling energy. These and other forms of inner work are crucially supported by the mind energy.

The mind energy can be problematic for our inner work, like when it passively gives way to the automatic energy to fall into a stream of thoughts bouncing off each other, luring us away from ourselves and into that stream. But this is not inevitable. If we are well-rooted in our body sensation, and in contact with our emotions, we still can open to consciousness even in the midst of a raging thought stream. Such thoughts need not impair the cognitive stillness of consciousness, which is deeper than any thought. We do not need to stop our thoughts to be present. They become part of our experience, just as the sensations of our body and the emotions of our heart. Within all of that we can be.

Our mind is powerful. But no mental gymnastics can perceive or act in the spiritual realms. For that, we must go beyond our mind, beyond even consciousness. A quiet mind does not detract or distract, and leaves us open to the other, deeper possibilities. Silence itself is the harmonizing element of our inner world.

For this week, please work with the mind energy. Experiment with it and get to know your mind in a new way.


     

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