Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 1, 2010

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Emotional Presence

(Aspect 8 of 12 of the Path to Presence)

In an earlier aspect of the Path to Presence, Emotions as Emotions, we studied our ordinary emotional life, how our emotions react to events, automatically and without our intention. In the aspect on Letting Go we practiced directly freeing ourselves from the grip of those of our automatic, non-intentional emotions that enslave us and darken our lives.

This week we will begin to practice bringing some intentionality into our emotions. Upon hearing that, you might immediately protest that intentionality would rob our emotions of spontaneity. But that would only happen if we tried to generate some particular emotion or tried to stop certain of our emotions, neither of which is our purpose in this. Rather we seek to feel more deeply, to raise the quality of our emotional life by bringing more refined energies to our emotions. This heightened emotional presence, by itself, can help lift us out of the muck of reactions and into spontaneous emotional connection with ourselves, with others, and with the Sacred.

When we practice sensitive presence in our body, we simply put our attention into a part or the whole of our body and hold our attention there. Gradually this awakens and attracts the sensitive energy into our body. To the sensitive energy in body awareness, we give the name sensation and call the practice sensing.

In a similar way, we can bring the sensitive energy into our feelings. We begin with sensing our body to establish a foundation of body presence. Then in addition, we put our attention into the area of our body where our emotions usually arise and act, namely the region that includes our chest and solar plexus. With a light and gentle touch, we hold our attention in the 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 of feeling collect there. We shall call this practice emotional presence.

One subtlety with emotional presence is that we are not only aiming toward awareness of the feeling region of our body, but more directly to have presence in our emotions themselves, in that part of us that generates emotions. So this is not a matter of sensing our chest and solar plexus, or of being aware of the physical sensations there. However, the latter method is used to great benefit in some Buddhist approaches to enable one to perceive the physical sensations associated with emotions. That helps free us from attachment to and identification with the emotion, by deconstructing its monolithic appearance, breaking the automatic, reactive emotion up into its physical, emotional, and thinking components.

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 practice emotional presence by feeling our emotions, or feeling our emotional part, with the sensitive energy. We feel our emotions, not from the outside as an observer, but from inside of them, feeling them from within. This intentional, sensitive presence in emotion brings us a big step forward from the automatic functioning of our emotions. We still feel, but our feelings are more real, more appropriately responsive to external situations, more subtle, more profound. Joy replaces pleasure. 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 emotional presence. We are not attempting to direct or dictate the content of our emotions, we are not attempting 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.

For this week, practice emotional presence. Using your attention and intention, nurture the accumulation of the sensitive energy of emotion in the region of your chest and solar plexus, even in moments when there are no apparent emotions.


     

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