Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Automatic Energy

Have you ever gotten into the shower, shampooed your hair by habit, and a moment later stood there in the shower wondering whether you had shampooed yet? Have you ever looked for your glasses, only to find them on top of your head? My favorite example: sitting at dinner, frantically looking all around for my fork, until I finally discovered it in the least expected place – in my hand. To see the automatic energy in action like this is a sobering event. Whatever we do under the automatic energy, we only partially experience and only vaguely remember. We live and act in a pre-programmed mode: if A happens, we do B, every time, and without the consideration or participation of our cognizing self. Nevertheless, the automatic energy has its important uses.

Awkwardness reigns when we first learn a complex task, such as driving a car. Its unfamiliarity forces us to think about where the gas pedal is, where the brake pedal is, which foot to use, where the rearview mirrors are, what the traffic signs and signals mean, when we have the right-of-way, and so on. Thinking how to drive makes us clumsy and inefficient, as we use the mind to do the body’s work. Eventually, we learn to drive with ease when it all becomes automated: the appropriate responses emerging without needing to think of them. Our body drives the car while our mind freely engages in conversation, listens to the radio, plans our day, or considers higher level driving strategies like how to bail out of a traffic jam. The driving itself happens automatically.

The automatic energy can work in the body, in the mind, and in the heart. We learn to play a musical instrument, play a sport, brush our teeth, walk, type on a keyboard, speak and read a language, know the product of 7 times 8, recognize a face, and recall a name — all with the help of the automatic energy. For such purposes, the automatic energy finds its appropriate place: directing repetitive or simple processes, thereby freeing up the higher energies for tasks befitting them.

The nearly continuous stream of random, loosely connected, aimless thoughts and images that flows through our mind usually carries us with it and prevents us from being fully present in the moment. This persistent current of automatic thought all too often captures our attention, drawing us into passivity in a dreamlike world, disorganizing and usurping the higher energies of sensation, consciousness, and creativity.

Another problem with the automatic energy occurs when it acts in ways that deplete us. Our habitual and unnecessary muscular tensions burn energy we could better use elsewhere. Our bad habits drain us: smoking, excessive drinking, overeating - all due, at least in part, to misuse of the automatic energy, letting it control rather than serve.

Automatic emotional reactions to life situations, such as anger, rage, fear, jealousy, lust, greed, timidity, and sadness, may be appropriate and even useful for a brief period. But when we allow our automatic energy to run with them, unseen by consciousness, our thoughts and feelings dwell on the reactive emotions. We wallow in them to the point where they take a central role in our inner life, controlling us. All manner of social and psychological troubles result.

The automatic energy, while useful and even necessary, does not bring us into real contact with life. To our unrecognized misfortune, we live almost exclusively under the domination of the automatic energy, enthralled by our habits and conditioning, forever repeating similar patterns of behavior, inner and outer. Our lives pass us by without our participation. Centered in the automatic energy, we are, in effect, asleep. We relish anything that temporarily alleviates the dullness. We even go for strong reactive emotions or thrill seeking, substituting them for a freer, more satisfying, non-automatized way of living. The proven remedy is to embark on a path of spiritual practice leading to greater wakefulness and greater awareness in the midst of normal life.

For an introduction to energies see Inner Energies.

 


     

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