Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 14, 2010

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World 4: Conscious

(Part of the series Worlds of the Spirit)

Behind, within, and surrounding all our sensory experience and all our thoughts and emotions, lies a vast, cognizant, peaceful, spacious, and welcoming stillness. This field is the root of our awareness and we give it the name consciousness. Here we use the term consciousness, not in its ordinary and usual meaning of sensory or thought awareness, but as the awareness behind sensory awareness, the pure awareness usually hidden from us by all our ordinary perceptions. Consciousness is the blank screen on which the images of our sensory perceptions appear. The screen is not the images, but the images do hide the screen. Alternatively, we can think of consciousness as being like the ocean and our ordinary perceptions like the waves on its surface. Under and between our thoughts lies the stillness of consciousness. Consciousness is made of the conscious energy, which is the substance of World 4.

The most striking qualities of pure consciousness are its peace and spaciousness. You feel you have room to breathe. Unburdened and without need for inner fences or defenses, you rest in cognizant stillness. The ease of equanimity infuses your heart. Thoughts may come, but they appear within the context of consciousness, like small clouds drifting through a broad, blue sky.

In consciousness, when you look at other people, you recognize the sameness that you share with them. You see their personhood similar to your own. You touch the pure awareness that embraces you both. You notice the first hints of unity without boundaries. Indeed, consciousness has no borders, is not limited to our body, and transcends the personal. The whole of nature exists within the vast field of consciousness. Out of this grows a profound respect for nature, for other people, and for yourself.

In this World of Consciousness, the feeling of wholeness permeates your being. You feel complete, in yourself, as yourself. You can be. You are. You feel that you are fully here and fully free to act as necessary and right. Though consciousness has no center, paradoxically you feel fully centered. You feel yourself to be the one who chooses, the one who makes your decisions, the one who does what you do, the one who experiences your experience, the one who lives your life. In the lower worlds, your life lives itself. In this world, you live your life. Your personality does not have you, you have your personality. You inhabit your being, your body, your life. You are the one who is present in presence.

In consciousness time seems to lose its grip on you. In its stead, you have more space. Things just are. You are. Inwardly you feel that you have not aged, from your childhood to now. This timeless perspective of the Conscious World enables you to see what matters more clearly. And when it enters your feelings, consciousness confers a deep equanimity and a natural, unassuming dignity.

But the very ubiquity and pervasiveness of consciousness make it easy to miss, just as the proverbial fish does not notice the water, or more aptly, just as we do not notice the air that constantly surrounds us. So how do we enter consciousness consciously? How do we become cognizant of consciousness?

The easiest way to acquire the taste of consciousness is through quiet meditation. Just sitting, doing nothing, not trying to resist or to shape our experience in any way. Just letting ourselves be as we are. If thoughts come, we allow them to come and to go. We do not ride them, or fight them, or let them sweep us away. We just be and let the thoughts pass through us as they will. Similarly for other perceptions, such as sounds, physical sensations, and emotions, we just let it all be as it is. Slowly, slowly, it all calms down. And then we are left sitting here in the quiet, in the stillness with no boundaries and no shape. The stillness itself becomes a palpable and substantive silence. And that substance is consciousness. We soak in it, allowing it to permeate every fiber of our being.

Repeating that practice day after day, we learn what consciousness is. And then we begin to notice that we can open to consciousness even when we are not in the midst of meditation. We find that consciousness is here, between and behind our thoughts and our ordinary perceptions, the context of our mind, the backdrop of our awareness. By relaxing and opening awareness wide, then wider still, beyond thought, beyond sensation, beyond our senses, we can touch that fundamental field of consciousness and even enter its vastness.

Consciousness is always here. But we are not usually open to it, not in touch with it, because we are not in touch with our self. We remain distracted by our sensory perceptions, by automatic, associating thoughts, by our reactive emotions, by our plans and agendas, by all our experience in the lower worlds. Without stopping all that, we can open to the Conscious World. Through the practice of presence, we can live in more than one world at the same time. We can let our automatic functions do what they need to do. We can be in contact with our sensory experience, sensing our body, feeling our feelings, and cognizing our mind. And we can be in consciousness, be the one who inhabits the cognizant substrate beneath our sensory awareness. This dramatically broadens our horizons, establishes us in our centerless center, and further enriches our life. Full presence means being in the Conscious World.

Contrary to a popular misunderstanding, the World of Consciousness, though profound, is not the Ultimate. There is even greater depth to come. Nevertheless, to make this World one’s home would be to attain a very high station indeed. For us, however, it is possible to change our state and step into consciousness temporarily through the receptive practice of stillness meditation or the more inwardly-active practice of presence.

For this week, work to acquire and enhance your taste, your ability to recognize and enter the Conscious World.


        

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