Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of November 22, 2010

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Body Contact

(Inner Body Development: Aspect 1 of 7)

We know from experience that when our spiritual practice depends on maintaining our attention on particular thoughts or feelings, it quickly goes off the rails. Distractions and disturbances channel our interest away from the practice, away from presence. All this reflects the amorphous and disordered state of our soul. We need a place to stand in our inner world. We need an inner body. So as a practical pursuit at this level, to develop our soul we develop our inner body, an integrated and enduring structure of spiritual energy, a spiritual body within our physical body.

The full development of our inner body typically requires many years of persistent effort. But each step along the way, each effort, brings its own major benefits on many levels from our sense of physical well-being, to our mental and emotional health and happiness, to our increasing appreciation of and effectiveness in life, to our strengthened and deepened relationships both with people and with the spirit, to a concrete, always-available experience of the spirit through our body, to an opportunity to engage, in any moment, in a meaningful action that serves us and our world.

Where to begin? Fortunately, there are practical, verifiable approaches to developing our inner body, approaches that do not depend on some imaginative or qualitative notion of spirituality, but rather on a visceral, directly perceptible sense of our formative inner body. From the very beginning of these practices, that visceral perception guides us surefootedly along the path. When that perception is not there, we know we are not in contact with our inner body. And contact with the substances of the inner body is exactly where we begin.

Sitting quietly, place your attention in your right hand. Let the hand stay relaxed as you hold your attention in it for a few minutes. When you notice that your attention has wandered, simply bring it back to the hand. Your attention is in your hand so that you can have a direct perception of the hand, from inside it. Thinking about the hand or visualizing it only interferes with that direct perception. After a few minutes, notice the difference between your immediate perception of your right hand and your left hand. The right hand may be more alive, more vibrant. In contrast, the left hand seems empty.

This is due to the presence of the sensitive energy in your right hand. The act of holding your attention in the hand has drawn that energy into it. We say that you are sensing your right hand and that it is full of the sensitive energy. This is the fundamental practice in developing your inner body: the sensitive energy is the basic substance that will form that part of your soul.

Now move your attention into your right foot and hold it there for a few minutes. Gradually the sensitive energy will begin to collect in your right foot. You will be sensing your right foot. Next sense your left foot and then your left hand.

After some time you will begin to acquire the taste of sensing, so that you can easily recognize its presence or lack thereof. Then you can begin sensing entire limbs. Putting your attention in your right arm and holding your attention there in the whole of your right arm, the sensitive energy will spread throughout the arm. Next, sense your right leg, then your left leg, and then your left arm.

After some weeks or months, as your perception of and facility with the sensitive energy continues to grow, you can shift into sensing both arms or both legs, or all four at once. And then practice sensing your whole body, all four limbs, as well as your torso and head. In sensing your torso, however, just work on a general overall sense of it, rather than trying to sense particular inner organs, so as not to interfere with their automatic functioning.

This practice of sensing maintains its value throughout our path. Our ability to sense evolves as we do and we evolve as our ability to sense does. The completeness, intensity, frequency, and duration of sensing our body offer one way to measure our state and our being. Sensing builds our inner body, builds our soul. As such, it occupies a central place in the pantheon of spiritual practices. Certainly there are other, deeper practices. But an inner body of sensitive energy serves as our platform from which the deeper practices can be much more effective.

For this week, practice being in contact with your physical body and with your formative inner body through sensing. If you have never worked on this before, please try it. If you have practiced sensing, please renew and extend that practice. If you are currently practicing sensing, work to make that practice more complete, stronger, more frequent, and for longer periods.

The practice of sensing is suitable both for formal, seated meditation-type sessions, as well as for use during your daily activities. If you are going for a walk, sense. If you are sitting down relaxing at a meal, with other people, with a book, or with TV, sense. Sensing enhances any experience and can turn our most mundane moments to serving our spiritual evolution. The only caveat concerns dangerous or critical activities, like driving, that require all our attention, so we do not divert attention into sensing in those situations.

In the coming weeks we will address various further aspects of inner body development, which may be represented as:

    1. Body Contact
    2. Emotion Contact
    3. Mind Contact
    4. Nourishing
    5. Being
    6. Inhabiting
    7. Persistence


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