Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 24, 2014

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Beyond Mind

(Mind and Thought: Part 5)

The vast and all-encompassing field of consciousness is the basis of our mind. All experience seems to come through consciousness. And its inherent nature is cognizance, peace, and wholeness. It is seductively easy to believe that consciousness is the ultimate, is God, is the Divine. Many do believe exactly that. Whole teachings are based on that notion. But it is not true. The Sacred lies beyond consciousness, beyond the mind. An accurate reading of Buddhism, for example, shows that consciousness is not the ultimate.

But what really matters to us is what we come to ourselves, through our own deepening perceptions, not what someone tells us and not what we might read here or in Buddhist texts or anywhere else. The texts and teachings can be valuable pointers, but cannot substitute for our own inner explorations.

When we come into the field of pure consciousness, it is so remarkable, so welcoming, so blissful, that we just want to stay in it, or at least come back often. The more we live in consciousness, the more it transforms our life. And it is right that we should do so, to the extent we can. Yet if our inner work stops there, remains at that level, we are stopping short of the truly Sacred realms.

So how can we explore beyond consciousness? How can we open to that Sacred realm? Letís say our inner work, particularly our practice of meditation, has reached the point where we are more or less conversant with consciousness, with how to recognize and enter the cognizant stillness beyond thought. And letís say we are sitting in meditation, in that expansive, boundless, and unobstructed field of pure consciousness. Now what?

Two classical categories of approaches recommend themselves: complete receptivity and receptivity mixed with an active element. Why receptivity? The Divine is higher than we are. We cannot make effective demands on the Sacred. Yes we can ask, but we cannot insist. Just as a single cell cannot control the whole body, we cannot manipulate the Divine. Our role is to serve life and seek the Sacred. In doing so we hope to become worthy enough, pure enough, for the Sacred to open its door to us. Joy is a byproduct of such a life.

So what do we do inwardly?

In meditation and contemplative prayer, the purely receptive approach is to do nothing, or more accurately, to not do anything. We just sit. We do not try to shape our inner experience in any way. We notice any impulse to go with a thought, to pay particular attention to something, or to change our inner state. But we let those impulses fade without acting on them. We just sit and wait and allow everything to be as it is. This silence of our will attunes us to the deepest silence, to the realm beyond space and time. In this practice of non-doing, we make ourselves available to the Sacred depths. It is not our part to make something happen, much less make any demands. We just sit and be. Gradually our thoughts subside on their own. If and when and to what degree the Sacred touches us, we will know. But that only happens in its own time and only if we are available.

The practice of non-doing can profitably alternate with a slightly more active approach of directed receptivity. It is as if we are aiming the dish-antenna of our being toward the Sacred. For this we might use a prayer or repetition that touches us. We let the inner sound of the prayer awaken our heart. We let the prayer serve as a place to stand a little closer to the Sacred.

Given that the Sacred is beyond consciousness, another approach is to look for a direction, a dimension outside of space and time, outside of consciousness. One direction to look is deeper within, for example back along the line of our attention, back toward the source of our attention, back into the recesses and source of will. It is as if we are accustomed only to look around us and never to look up. A whole new world may be waiting for us, if we only can bring ourselves to look up. But where is this direction of up? For that, we need to explore our inner world. What can be outside of consciousness?

For this week, remember that the mind, even at its most sublime and unbounded cognizant stillness, does not reach to the Divine. Look for an inner way toward the Sacred.


        

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