Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of December 13, 2010

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Nourishing the Inner Body

(Inner Body Development: Aspect 4 of 7)

Because our developing inner body is a structure of spiritual energies, a major part of our task concerns those inner energies: collecting them, building them up, and refining them. For that we need to engage in three types of energy work: conserving, ingesting, and transforming.

If the vessel of our soul has major leaks, the energies we receive or transform will rapidly dissipate, leaving us at a continuing low plateau. So we need to plug our energy leaks. This does not require an overly-controlled, austere, or monkish lifestyle. But it does require awareness of our inner energies and moderation of the ways in which we waste those energies. We can measure the level of our inner energies by gauging our ability to practice, to be present, and by judging the amount of sensitive energy in our body — how thoroughly and strongly we are able to sense. From that we notice which of our activities and indulgences cost us the most energy, leave us less able to be present, less able to sense our body. And then we take the steps necessary to mitigate those leaks.

We can frame this issue in terms of the energy leaks in our body, our heart, and our mind. In our body, the kinds of activities that may be wasteful include excessive, unnecessary physical tensions and fidgeting, smoking, overindulgence in food or alcohol, and the use of marijuana and other drugs of abuse. In our heart domain we may find that strong bouts of the afflictive emotions, like anger, jealousy, envy, and greed, burn our energies and leave us flat. For our mind, we may find that overindulgence in strongly-held opinions and in daydreaming wastes our energies. Of course these are just examples, not an exhaustive list of all the many ways we can and do waste our inner energies.

We are not attempting to establish a fixed and universal code of morality in the ordinary sense. Rather, we take a pragmatic approach of moderating our activities so as to conserve the energies we need for our inner work. Furthermore, the particular set of activities and indulgences that waste the most energy varies from person to person. Something that flattens my inner life may not be at all harmful for you. So we each need to see for ourselves how we waste our energies and how to conserve them, always using the measure of our ability to practice, to be present, to sense. If something makes us less able to sense, less able to be present, then we need to moderate or even refrain from it altogether. For example, we need to avoid excessive use of alcohol, but completely abandon the use of recreational drugs, such as marijuana.

Having fewer leaks in our vessel is not enough, however. We also need more energy, much more than we produce in the normal course of life. Our inner energies are dynamic, not static. So the action of accumulating energies is not like putting wine into a bottle and keeping it there. Rather we seek to increase the flow of inner energies through our being. With fewer leaks and increased flow, we have more energy available for our inner work, which includes building our inner body. We work toward a condition in which our perception of our inner body, our energy body, is stronger and more vivid than our perception of our physical body.

So how do we proceed? How do we obtain this increased energy flow? Fortunately, we are surrounded by a sea of spiritual energies, available for our use. We need, however, to refine our perceptions to be able to recognize and contact those energies and to develop the ability to deal with them, to draw them into us and make them part of our being, part of our soul.

One of the primary, classical ways to do this is through energy breathing. The air around us is a reservoir of spiritual energies. Normally when we inhale, those energies enter us with the air and then flow right back out when we exhale. Energy breathing entails focusing our attention onto the air as we breathe it. This act of attention, coupled with the intention to draw that energy into us, separates the energy from the air and allows it to enter our inner body. This is the essence of the yoga practice of pranayama, drawing the prana energy from the air. Similar practices can be found in Sufism and Taoism.

Crucially, though, energy breathing must be conscious to be effective. To become able to recognize this action, our perceptions and attention need to be refined by meditative practice. If we do not perceive the energies from the air entering and staying in us, then they are not. Energy breathing does not happen by itself, without our knowing it, nor is it a matter of imagination. The perception needs to be vivid, of energies flowing into us as we draw them from the air. No changes to our physical pattern of breathing are needed. Physically we breathe normally. The difference lies in our attention and intention, in our inner action while we breathe.

Another approach to increasing our energy supply involves opening to higher energies. The classical way toward that lies through deep meditation and contemplative prayer. Deep meditation touches levels beyond the stillness. Contemplative prayer does not concern petitioning the Higher, but rather directly approaching and opening to the Sacred. Both allow the grace of higher energies to flow vividly down into us, building, strengthening, and refining our inner body.

An interaction takes place between the sensitive energies and the higher energies. Each supports the other. The sensitive energies can give us a stable platform from which to address the higher. And the higher energies act on the sensitive energies, producing more energy and refining it.

There is also a very important middle layer of energies, the conscious energy, which we will address in the next, or fifth, aspect of Inner Body Development. Resting in consciousness allows a certain transformation of energies to occur in us. Transforming energies into the substance of our soul also depends on presence, on intentionally inhabiting our inner body. We turn to that in the sixth aspect of Inner Body Development. From all this, we can see that no single practice can be as effective as a well-balanced set of complementary practices for developing our soul, our inner body.

For this week, look for the leaks in your personal energy vessel and also practice drawing in or opening to more energy.


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