Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 6, 2010

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Mind Contact

(Inner Body Development: Aspect 3 of 7)

As with our body and emotions, we typically have at best a fairly shallow awareness of our mind. We identify with our thoughts and are continually carried away with that endless stream. Our thoughts chain off each other and react to or comment on events around us, all by association and by our past conditioning. One brain circuit activates another adjacent one, and on and on. But in itself, our thought stream is not really problematic for our inner work and is often useful, even essential, in our material life.

The problems for our inner life begin when we collapse into identification with our thoughts. Identification occurs when the subject disappears into the object, when the one who is aware becomes totally enthralled by and lost in the content of awareness. We mistakenly believe we are our thoughts, that they define us, that they are the primary instrument representing and expressing the real me. Our personality, which masks who we really are, is to a large extent just the habitual patterns of our thoughts. We also mistakenly believe that thinking and memory are the only significant functions of our mind and mental apparatus. These unexamined beliefs severely limit us.

Our mind and brain are preeminently cognitive instruments. Our mind cognizes or perceives our thoughts and memories. Through that cognitive faculty we can also direct our thoughts and scan our memory, though most of the time we let our thoughts direct themselves and direct us. Each thought, which we perceive as a kind of inner mental voice or as a mental image, is the firing of some set of brain circuits.

Thoughts may be fueled by the automatic energy, which does not transmit much of our intention. Automatic thoughts just chain and react, without any intention on our part. Beyond that, our thoughts may be fueled by the sensitive energy, which transmits some degree of our volition. Sensitive thinking means being aware of the meaning of our thoughts. It means being able to direct our thoughts, say to do some planning or to consider a problem.

To raise ourselves out of identification with our thoughts, out of just being carried along by our thought stream, we can bring the sensitive energy to bear in our mind. One way toward this is simply to put our attention into our head, sensing our head. Gradually this sensitive energy in our physical head spills over into being the sensitive energy of our mind. Then we can be aware of the meaning of our thoughts, have some ability to direct our thoughts, and not be totally lost in them or at their mercy. Whereas automatic thinking is like being swept along in the stream of our thoughts, sensitive energy contact with our thoughts is like standing still in that stream and noticing our thoughts flowing by. We notice each thought come and go, we notice what each thought means. We no longer quite believe that each and every thought speaks for us or that we are thinking the thought. And in the gaps, the silences between thoughts, we are still there, in sensitive contact with our mind.

As with contact with our emotional center, we find crucial support for contact with our mind through full body sensing. We begin our practice with sensing our body as fully and robustly as possible. Then while maintaining that full body sensation, we extend our awareness into our center of emotion and into our mind. These three aspects of our inner body awareness support each other. Indeed, whole body sensing spills over into our cognitive and emotional centers. If we focus attention solely on our mind, we are soon carried away, captivated by some catchy string of thoughts. But sensing our body helps us stay rooted in the present and see beyond our thoughts to our mind as a center of cognition.

For this week, practice simultaneous contact with your body, emotional center, and mind. Be in touch with all three through the sensitive energy.


     

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