Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the Week of January 31, 2022

Energy Transformations 

(Fourth Way Practice: 10)

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We live in a sea of inner energies, spiritual and psychological, that have a major impact on our lives and possibilities. Fourth Way practices train us to perceive, engage, generate, accumulate, and transform those energies. At this very moment, our state of being is largely determined by the energies within us, by their quality and quantity, by their organization or lack thereof, by their status, by our perception and recognition of these substances, by our use or wastefulness of them, and by our ability to live and operate in the different strata of energies. Fourth Way practices keep us grounded in the reality of the energies, in our direct, sometimes visceral, perceptions of them, while also keeping us out of fantasies and imagination about energies.

All spiritual practices deal with energies, but most do so indirectly. Many of the Fourth Way practices explicitly work with energies. The following is a partial overview of the role of energies in spiritual practice.

Many psychological and spiritual ways include the practice of relaxation, relaxing the body, as well as the mind and emotions. The practice of relaxation involves systematically scanning our body from head to toe with our attention, while letting go of any tensions we notice. Using the breath by releasing the tensions when we exhale, can support the process. Relaxation helps us minimize the waste of our energies in unnecessary tensions. This matters, because other practices that increase our energy production lose their impact if we have holes in our proverbial bucket. Relaxation also creates open space in us for energies to move through, to spread evenly, and to blend. Relaxing our body helps our thoughts and emotions relax, because of their intimate connection with our body and because in relaxing our body, we move our attention and its energy away from our automatic thoughts and emotions. If we do not feed these self-generated thoughts and emotions with attention and reactions, they tend to subside. Thus, relaxation prepares us to engage in further inner work, including energy work.

As we relax deeply, our body becomes more alive, because our energies are no longer buried under, sapped by, and blocked by tensions. If we now put and hold our attention in our right hand, we have a direct perception of the hand. As we continue this for several minutes, the hand comes more alive, perhaps with a subtle vibration or tingling, warmth or weight, or just being more there. To recognize this change, we can simply note the contrast in our immediate experience of our right hand compared to our left. This signals the accumulation of what we call sensitive energy in the right hand. The same holds true if we put our attention into a foot or a leg or an arm or our whole body, though we do not focus on individual inner organs so as not to interfere with their functioning. This process of sensing our body is remarkable in that it reveals to us the presence of sensitive energy in our body, an energy that can accumulate and grow strong indeed. Sensation is the name we give the type of sensitive energy that connects us with our body. Whole body sensation gives us a stable foundation for presence, making life and all our perceptions more vivid.

The sensitive energy takes two other forms in addition to sensation in the body. One is cognitive or mind energy. Just as sensation enables us to be in contact with our body, mind energy enables us to be in contact with our mind. Through mind energy we can notice thoughts and images passing through and know their meaning. Even when there are no thoughts or images, the formless mind energy puts us in contact with the stream of sensory perceptions coming to our mind and enables us to know the meaning of the words someone is speaking to us. Just as sensation energy can take the form of a hand or a foot, the mind energy can take the form of a thought or mental image. Simply putting and holding our attention in our mind generates and enhances the mind energy and the clarity it enables.

The third form of sensitive energy is feeling energy, which puts us in contact with our emotions. By bringing our attention to the area of our chest and solar plexus, we can generate and enhance the feeling energy. If there are no obvious emotions present, the formless feeling energy simply increases emotional perception, our readiness to feel and to relate to life in a heartfelt manner. The feeling energy can also take the form of various emotions. Our psychological work certainly involves purifying our emotional life, a process that is enhanced by being in contact with and having clear perceptions of our emotions. Feeling energy enables that. Our spiritual work involves opening to higher emotions, like love and joy. Working with the feeling energy creates a foundation for that opening.

Surprisingly, the air around us is full of sensitive energy and we can draw that energy into us to increase the quantity of energy within us. To do this, we put our attention like a net into the air we are about to inhale. Then we intentionally draw into us that net and the energies it holds. We let those energies spread on their own throughout our body from the point they enter our nostrils. If we maintain some of our attention on the sensitive energy in our body, we will notice it growing stronger as we practice this energy breathing. Similarly, if we maintain attention in our mind or chest as we draw the energy from the air into us, it will build up the mind energy or feeling energy. Or we can maintain attention on all three, body, heart, and mind to build up all three as we draw energies from the air. This matters in many ways, including that it enhances our presence and creates the possibility of deeper inner work with still higher energies.

On the scale of energies, the energy just above the sensitive is the conscious energy. When we are relaxed in body, mind, and heart, and quiet in our will, not doing anything, not shaping or anticipating our experience, an inner silence, an inner stillness comes to the foreground of experience. That stillness is cognizant and substantive. This is the conscious energy, pure, unbounded awareness prior to our senses, thoughts, and emotions. We can come to recognize the conscious energy in quiet meditation. Once we acquire its taste, we can recognize it in ourselves at any time. It is always here, but usually hidden behind the content of our senses, thoughts, and emotions.

By knowing the conscious energy, we can start to live in it. This has remarkable consequences, the foremost of which is inner peace. The conscious energy has the quality of wholeness. Within it, we feel that we are ourselves, whole and at peace. The conscious energy has no boundaries. Within it, we feel connected with everything, less separate. The conscious energy is cognizant, pure awareness. Within it, we can be present.

To stabilize our access to the conscious energy, we work to enhance the sensitive energy in our body, mind, and heart. On that foundation, we have the possibility of abiding in the conscious energy. Once we are quite familiar with the conscious energy and able to be in it at will, another possibility arises: drawing the conscious energy into us to concentrate it within our being and to let it blend with the sensitive energy in us. This is analogous to drawing the sensitive energy from the air into us. All of that furthers the process of soul formation.

The next higher energy is the Sacred Light energy, also known as the creative energy. It can come to us randomly and spontaneously when we are deeply touched. Some examples are those sparkling moments of natural beauty, art, or music, of seeing your newborn child for the first time, of hearing a heartfelt religious hymn or chant, of suddenly understanding a major idea, or of simply looking into the eyes of a loved one. On these and similar occasions, we may feel a tingling down our spine, which is a lower-level side effect of being touched by the Sacred Light, which initiates a cascade of energies through us.

We can do better than random and spontaneous in our spiritual inner work with the Sacred Light energy: we can approach it intentionally. The classical approach is through prayer, but the essence consists of opening beyond consciousness, beyond the conscious energy. That energy is everywhere, so to learn the way beyond it to the Sacred Light takes inner exploration and experimentation to find that direction. This is beyond space and time, beyond the distinction between outside and inside, beyond our ordinary separate self and beyond our ordinary mode of experiencing. We inwardly orient the whole of ourselves toward the Sacred. We put aside all other concerns and give ourselves entirely over to this need, to this search, to this yearning. To enter the Light that infuses everything, that reveals our essential sameness and uniqueness. To return to our spiritual home.

And remarkably, just as with the sensitive energy from the air and the conscious energy from all around, it is possible not only to enter the energy of the Sacred Light, but also to draw it into oneself, into one's soul, and concentrate it there. As with the lower energies, this depends on a deep familiarity with and respect for, even awe, for the energy of the Sacred Light.

The energies play a crucial role, not only in our day-to-day life, but also in the formation of our soul, as the very substance of our being. Energy work is thus central to spiritual practice generally, and to Fourth Way practice specifically.

In the next installment of this series, we will return to the other core domain of spiritual practice: will. For this week, please renew your exploration of energy practice.


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