Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 30, 2013

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Being Your Presence

(Being Yourself: Part 7)

When we are not ourselves, if we are anything at all, what are we? We can mistakenly be almost anything, given our endless capacity for identification, for believing we are something other than who we are, believing it to such an extent that we become that thing for those moments. Instantaneously and without noticing it, we slip into identification. Prime examples include hot button thoughts, daydreams both pleasant and unpleasant, reactive emotions, and problematic bodily states. Any one of these, in their countless variations, can suddenly take center stage of our inner world and we collapse into it, we believe we are that thing.

Non-identification means not being lost in that way. We are present. We abide in the cognizant container of our perceptions, instead of losing our self in the perceived. To put it simply, we come back to ourselves. Any time we recognize that we are not in ourselves, that we are identified, we have already taken a step toward non-identification and presence. We can choose presence any time we remember to do so. Yet our presence proves unstable. It lasts for a moment and we fall off again, back into the mesmerizing stream of perceptions.

This is precisely where the practices of presence show their value. As always, we begin with body awareness, with sensing our body. We go beyond the subject-object style of body awareness, where we are in our head and aware of our body which is out there. Instead, we enter our sensation, we enter our whole body, we become our whole body. This lends some stability to our presence, because our body is always in the real here and now. The stronger our sensation, the longer it tends to persist. Even we when fall back into being pushed and pulled by the stream of perceptions, sensation can awaken us spontaneously: we unexpectedly notice the sensation of our arm, which reminds us to sense our whole body and be here in this moment.

As powerful as sensing is as a practice of presence, it does not yield full presence. For that we need more. We add presence of mind and of heart. Rather than being carried off in our associative thought-stream, we become aware of the cognizant stillness beneath our thoughts, at the root of our mind, and we abide in that. We see our thoughts without being taken by them. Doing this from the platform of sensing our body gives us a place in ourselves to stand and be aware.

Presence of heart comes from abiding in the peace and equanimity at the root of all our emotions. Standing in body sensation and stillness of mind gives us a way into the peace of heart. We are here and at peace with being here. Just as beneath every thought there is the cognizant stillness of our mind, beneath every emotion, including the difficult ones, there is the peace and equanimity of our true heart. We need only look deeper into our heart, beyond our emotion du jour, to find our home of peace.

Each of these three practices supports the other and lends further stability to our presence. The practices of inner work need practice. Presence is not something we can choose once and expect to stay in it. It vanishes; we vanish. And so we choose presence again and again, continually. We are always losing ourselves, losing our presence, and thus we frequently have the opportunity to come back to ourselves, back to awareness based in body, mind, and heart, back to being here. It is a set of practices that require dedication and long-term persistence. Coming back to ourselves, again and again, is exactly what is needed. This inner work pays tremendous dividends in the quality of our life. Yes, there is that free and continual outpouring of grace from the beneficent Source of the world. But to receive it, we must at least be here. So we repeatedly, indefatigably step into presence.

Again though, there is more to presence, there is consciousness itself. Equanimity and stillness lead directly into the pure, unbounded, spacious awareness that underlies all our perceptions. And we abide in that, we become that, we become consciousness itself. Quiet meditation can give us the taste, which in turn can show us that the pure awareness, consciousness is always here. We live in it. But like the proverbial fish in water, we do not normally notice it. So we open our mind, our heart, our being. We let all the thoughts, sensations, and emotions roll on, while we turn toward the underlying spacious awareness, so close and intimate to us. We cherish the moments when we can live as that.

For this week, be present more, and be your presence. This means not just being fully aware, but inhabiting that awareness, being that awareness.


     

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