Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the Weeks of March 14 & 21, 2022


Behind Sensations 

(Into the Stillness: 1)

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There is only one spiritual stillness, but it manifests at different levels, with different energies, and in different ways, corresponding to how we approach it. Each approach can open us to some aspect of the stillness, while every aspect opens to the one stillness.

A powerful way in is through something we all share: our organic, visceral, physical presence.[1] This is immediate for every one of us. It is simply the bare fact of being in our body, in this moment, experienced directly, by the unmediated contact that we all have with our body. This transcends any particular bodily sensation. It does not depend on the size, shape, or posture of our body. It transcends our experience of the sensitive energy in the body. It is simpler than all that and accessible to everyone without any particular training. Because it is from the inside, it is not about the spatial extent of our body. It is the formless perception of being in our body.

We open our attention to our body, to being in our body now. We have arms. We have legs. We have a torso. We have a neck and head. The firsthand sense of our body is built-in from birth. We open to this intrinsic sense of our whole body. It is so obvious that we often ignore it, giving our attention instead to external senses, thoughts, and emotions. The practice here is merely to be with that inherent sense of our whole body from inside it, allowing ourselves, our awareness, to relax into and stay with that. Here there is a layer of silence. Behind what our inner and outer senses bring us, here within our body it is quiet. Behind all our movement, behind all our talking, here it is still and quiet.

That is how this simple sense of our body can take us behind our senses and into the stillness. If we can meet our life, whether in sitting meditation or going about our day, from this overall, inner, visceral sense of our body, we may find ourselves living in peace. And through that peace, all the spiritual qualities can come: kindness, joy, compassion, generosity, wholeness, and the rest.

As we stay with this visceral sense of our whole body, that grounding in physical presence gives us confidence, underscoring our aliveness in this moment. Yet further, by sinking into our body, soaking in its quiet peace, we get the sense of that peace as part of a vast stillness that surrounds us, a continuum of silence underlying everything. We come to experience our grounding in our body as a grounding in the boundless silence that embraces all, a grounding in the warm stillness that welcomes us all. This is the spiritual quality of the stillness, no mere absence of something. The emptiness leaves room for the Sacred, which transcends the duality of thing and no-thing. Here we are, at rest in the quiet. In this true quiet, our ego, our separate-self-ness, does not stir. With no boundaries, there is no distance. Beneath the surface , there is no separation. With no center, there is no other.

Simple physical presence opens straightaway into that vast stillness. For this week, please practice being in your body, in contact with the immediate visceral sense of your body. And extend your stay here, in this body. Extend into the stillness surrounding and permeating your body.

[1] With gratitude to Hugh Ripman for his book "Questions and Answers Along the Way," which alerted me to this practice of entering the silence through the body.


     

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