Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


A Meditation: Three-Centered Presence

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Before presenting this meditation, we first address why this particular practice matters. A stool, to be stable, requires at least three legs. So it is with presence. The act of simultaneously engaging all three presences of body, heart, and mind greatly multiplies our chances of maintaining our presence. The three interact and mutually support each other. When one of these presences weakens, the other two can reinvigorate it. With all three, we feel more solid and able to stand firmly in the world of presence. So the first benefit of three-centered presence is the enhanced duration it enables.

Another major benefit lies in the breadth of three-centered presence. We become more fully human, more whole, anchored in our body with an alert, open, and adaptable mind and an appropriately sensitive heart. Our experience becomes more rounded, more balanced and enriched. Clarity of mind is warmed by sensitivity of feeling, and both are grounded in the present moment of our body.

A third significant benefit is the intensity of three-centered presence, the vividness it imparts to our experience. The three presences of body, heart, and mind combine to form a stronger presence than one or two could. One reason lies in the degree and quality of attention needed to enter and maintain such presence. In meeting the challenge of being in all three, we raise the level of our inner work for those moments. But there is also a synergistic feedback from our awakened body, heart, and mind that supports the intensity of three-centered presence.

We begin the practice of three-centered presence during formal, sitting meditation. After thoroughly relaxing our body, mind, and heart, we turn to sensing our body. First we sense parts of it: arms, legs, torso, and head. Then we move into sensing the whole of our body and staying with that wholeness. Once we feel fully grounded in whole body sensation, in body presence, we add to it.

Then in addition to sensing our whole body, we also particularly sense our chest and solar plexus region, where our emotions usually arise and act. With a light and gentle touch, we hold our attention in this region of our feelings. We do not focus particularly on our heart or any other point, so as not to interfere with our body’s instinctive functioning. We just keep a general awareness in that region, letting the sensitive energy collect there. Gradually the sensitive energy of body awareness in our chest and solar plexus region changes over into sensitive energy of emotional awareness. The energy of sensation shifts from putting us in contact with that part of our body to putting us in contact with our emotion. So this is not a matter of sensing our chest and solar plexus, or of being aware of the physical sensations there, although it can begin that way.

With emotional presence, we are not only aiming toward awareness of the feeling region of our body, but more directly we aim to have presence in our emotions themselves, in that part of us that generates emotions. We practice body presence by sensing our body with the sensitive energy, by being aware of our body from within our body. In the same way here, we feel our emotions, not from the outside as an observer, but from inside of them, feeling them from within. Even when there is no apparent emotion, we nevertheless feel sensitively in the center of emotion. In our chest and solar plexus region we practice this emotional presence. We are not attempting to direct or dictate the content of our emotions; we are not attempting to feel a particular emotion. But we are practicing presence in our emotional part. Just as sensing our body enhances our experience of our body, emotional presence changes the nature and quality of our emotions, giving us more of a feeling for our life.

So now we are here in our body and we are here in our center of emotion, even if there are no particular emotions at the moment. We are here in readiness to feel, in readiness to be our emotion, in readiness to respond with feeling. We stay with both, with whole body sensing and with attention in our emotional center. Having established ourselves in both emotional and body presence, we add to that.

Then in addition to sensing our entire body and feeling our emotional center, we begin particularly sensing our head. Gradually the sensitive energy of body awareness in our head changes over into sensitive energy of cognition. The energy of sensation shifts from putting us in contact with our physical head to putting us in contact with our mind and its contents.

The practice of cognitive presence consists of being in our whole mind, not just in our thoughts. We may have thoughts, perhaps even intentionally. Or we may not have thoughts. But either way our cognitive presence goes beyond thought. We are there in our knowing, seeing, thinking, cognizing part. We are the cognitive context of our mind. We are not just aware of thoughts: we are in our mind.

But presence of mind means more than contact, because contact implies a division: something or someone who is in contact with something else, an observer and an observed. Body presence means inhabiting our body, being in our body, at one with it. Emotional presence means inhabiting our center of emotion, being in our chest and solar plexus region. And cognitive presence means inhabiting our mind, being in our mind, owning our mind. We are not standing back as an observer of our thoughts. We are right there in our mind — no division and no separation. But we are there intentionally and in sensitive awareness of our mind. Here I am in my head, in the place from which I cognize, know, think, and see.

This is a far cry from our typical mental state of being lost in thought, which operates on the automatic energy. In cognitive presence, such automatic associative thoughts may continue, but now you are present in them. The thought stream, whether associative or intentional, occurs within the mind you are occupying. Cognitive presence means being the one who is aware of and standing in the thought stream and, more generally, the one who is cognizing, knowing, and seeing. You can be there, in your mind, knowing and cognizing without necessarily thinking.

Enter your mind. Inhabit it. Emerge from floating down your thought stream to anchor yourself in the present. Let the stream pass through you without going with it. Become the context of your mind and aware of its contents. Be the one who cognizes, knows, thinks, and sees through your mind. Be the knowing, the cognizing, the seeing. Be your mind.

And then we stay with all three: whole body presence, emotional presence, and cognitive presence. Inhabit your body. Inhabit your feeling. Inhabit your mind. Be the one who in this moment is present in your body, in your heart, and in your mind. Be who you are, at home in your center. Stay with this.

Toward the end of the meditation period, let all that go and allow the effort and energy to soak into your being.

After gaining some facility with three-centered presence in meditation, carry it out into your daily life, into practicing full presence from time to time during your day.

For other meditations, see Meditation.


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