Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the Weeks of May 16 & 23, 2022

Three-Centered Presence

(Stable Presence: 2)

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The practice of whole-body sensing is inherently more stable than sensing part of our body and leads naturally into the next stage of presence: three-centered presence. If we allow it, whole-body sensation, being aware of our entire body and maintaining that contact, spills sensitive energy into our feeling center in our torso, as well as into our intellectual center in our head. This enables us to feel what we are feeling, putting us in touch with our emotions. It enables us to be in contact with the thoughts and mental images running through our mind, and with their meaning.

This is not our usual state, wherein most of the sensory stream, including of our body, goes barely noticed, our emotions stay beneath but color our awareness, unless they break through and take us over, and our thoughts drive themselves automatically by association. One aspect of presence is being able to notice our senses, thoughts, and emotions, and not be lost in any of them. A closely related aspect of presence is being able to see what we see and hear what we hear without our thoughts, emotions, and attitudes filtering, coloring, or intercepting what our senses bring us, effectively putting blinders on us unnecessarily. To see things as they are takes practice. For most people it takes good deal of practice.

The most direct approach is through simple awareness practice. We sit quietly, paying attention to whatever is coming from our senses, from our mind, and from our emotions. We simply watch each perception arise, change, and fade. In this way we learn to notice any mental or emotional personality reactions to our sensory perceptions and learn how not to react to our reactions, again just letting them be, letting them arise, change, and fade.

This watching reveals things as basic as the largely unconscious habit of assigning a mental label to each perception. We see a chair. Our mind says chair. But that label is superfluous and distracting, inviting us to think about the chair, to judge and evaluate it, inviting us to live in our thoughts rather than our senses. By noticing that process of labeling, without judging it, we see it is not usually necessary. When brought to light in this way, our labeling and other mental chatter slowly lose steam and we are left in the clarity of just seeing. We just see the chair.

If a thought comes, we just hear the thought passing through our mind. Rather than follow that thought with another somewhat related one, we just watch it come and let it go. The same goes for any emotions that arise. The practice is to notice them, notice how they manifest in our body, a tightness here, a changed breathing pattern there, and just let it subside on its own. We notice the thoughts accompanying the emotion, without engaging with that story. This simple awareness practice, over time, sets many things right in us, removing some of the stumbling blocks that can keep us from stabilizing our presence.

Sometimes we need to think. Sometimes we need to recognize and label the things we see and hear. Sometimes we need to consider our emotions and what they are telling us. The practice is not about stopping any of that. Rather through this awareness practice, we become free of doing all those things when they are not needed. We become more able to be in the depths of our awareness. From that place, we can see the thoughts and emotions and sensory perceptions displayed on the surface of our awareness. But now we recognize that we are much more than that.

Though we may come into the depths of awareness, we usually lose it and quickly return to drifting along the surface. To help stabilize us in the larger view, we can practice three-centered presence. At first, we bring active intentionality to the effort. We broaden our attention to include the sensation of our whole body, plus the cognitive faculty of our mind, plus the feeling capacity in our heart. By bringing these three facets of our totality, namely our body, heart, and mind, under the umbrella of our one attention, our one awareness, we enable ourselves to stay present a little longer, with a little more stability. We come toward being able to rest in presence, effortlessly. We come toward being able to live from and in presence: to live with heart, with presence of mind and with physical presence. Not piecemeal, but all together as a single integrated presence.

With practice we can begin to walk through life in presence, in wholeness, in our body, heart, and mind. This makes our days, our life, ourselves, more real. For this week, please practice three-centered presence.


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