Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 2, 2007


Shifting into Neutral: The Temple of Peace

We live in a vibrant society of action: on the go, efficiently not “wasting” time, competing, doing chores, meeting responsibilities, rushing around, and even feeling guilty when we do just relax. The results show up as an epidemic of excessive stress, as well as technological wonders and rising productivity and living standards. But what defines a high standard of living? Surely it must include time for relaxation in a life without unwanted stress.

The action-based ethic offers certain advantages to our spiritual practice. Active efforts such as focusing attention, raising the sensitive energy in our body, conscious breathing, energy breathing, speaking consciously, and intentional presence together form an essential, forward-looking side of the path.

Nevertheless, our spiritually active side needs a balancing counterweight. For that we turn to non-doing receptivity. We practice this particularly in receptive meditation, while also allowing it to enter life’s activities.

In receptive meditation, we sit and do nothing, shifting our inner gear into neutral, relaxing our will into a mode of unconditional, as-is acceptance. Without falling asleep, staying alertly relaxed, we disengage from actively trying to shape or direct our inner experience. We let thoughts flow, giving them ample space to soften and fade on their own. For physical sensations, sounds, smells, images, we take the same approach, letting them be as they are, arising and fading on their own, while we sit in the peace of just being here. Early on you may find yourself drifting in a dreamy, semi-conscious fog of disjointed thoughts and images. Little by little however, the thoughts diminish, sensations and sounds dissolve into background, and the stillness of pure consciousness spontaneously emerges from the noise and distractions.

You may find it helpful to shift into neutral gradually. To begin the meditation, spend some time focusing attention, for example on following the breath. As your attention settles into the breath, relax your effort. Finally, stop making any effort whatsoever and just sit, being here. If the mental fog descends and if you have enough time, you can wait it out, doing nothing. Eventually the fog will lift, leaving you in the deep silence of your fundamental awareness.

Notably and subtly, shifting into neutral disengages our inner controller, our ego and the patterns of our personality mask. We shift into acceptance of our inner state as is and shift out of our inner critic and ego demands. Ego has no place in equanimity.

By occasionally shifting from the active will to the receptive, steeping ourselves in contentment and the peace of the conscious energy, we allow that peace to spill over into our active life. Acting from equanimity makes us more effective, even in carrying through our outward intentions.

For this week, find time to shift into neutral and let the result color your active life with peace and presence.


        

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