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Cultivating Spiritual Presence

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The Energy Body

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This physical body serves not only as our means for participating in the world, but also as the primary channel for our contact with the present moment. Our thoughts and emotions tend to hop around in space and time, anticipating future events and remembering the past. However, our body remains tied to the present, affording a ready-made base for us in the here and now.

But first we might ask why this should matter to us. Why all the emphasis on being in the present? If the spiritual worlds encompass more than space and time, why should we be so concerned about keeping our awareness in the here and now? The simple answer: the only access to happiness, fulfillment, love, responsibility, and the deeper levels of spirituality lies in the here and now. The stronger our presence, the stronger that access can be. And the foundation of presence consists of a direct, visceral, intentional, and continuing awareness of bodily sensations occurring now. But what do we mean by a direct awareness of bodily sensations?

You might try this quick experiment. Place your hands on your knees, palms down. Put all of your attention into your right hand. To help in this, make a fist with your right hand, keeping your attention in the hand. Be directly aware of the sensations in the hand, not just by thinking about the hand. Experience the unmediated right-hand-in-a-fist sensations. After your attention has fully settled into the right hand, slowly release the fist and put the hand back on the right knee, palm down. Continuing to focus your attention in the right hand, notice the sensations there. Notice your actual, simple, direct perceptions, your immediate proprioceptive experience of the hand.

Now notice the difference between your experience of your right hand and your left hand. Your right hand probably feels more alive than your left. All the attention you brought to your right hand has raised your level of awareness of the sensations there, bringing more sensitive energy into the right hand. You may experience the sensitive energy as granular and particulate, as if there are of millions of tiny, vibrating particles of sensation. And at this moment you very likely have much more sensation in your right hand than in your left. This is a physical experience, not a mental one. Your thinking need not intervene and can easily interfere by distracting you from the direct experience of sensation.

Of course, you can reverse this by moving your attention to your left hand and holding your attention there until the sensitive energy begins to collect more strongly in the left hand. Indeed, you can raise the level of sensitive energy in any part or even the whole of your body simply through direct attention, without resorting to tricks like making a fist. The more relaxed your muscles are, the more sensitive energy will flow into and within your body.

Another method of coming into contact with bodily sensations is scanning. Imagine a flat plane parallel to the ground. Starting at the top of the head, we slowly move this plane down through the body, becoming aware of the sensations of that slice of the body through which the plane is passing, like an MRI or CT scan. A different approach has us notice the points at which our body is touching the world, e.g., the bottom of our feet when standing, the posterior when sitting, etc. In another set of techniques, we focus awareness on our postures, gestures, movements, facial expressions, and the sound of our voice.

The entire multitude of practices of contact with bodily sensations rests on a few basic principles. The awareness should be direct, without the mediation of thoughts or images, just a simple, organic perception of the sensations. Using a relaxed attention to the body, our muscles free of unnecessary tensions, we aim toward more frequent, lasting, and stronger contact with the energy of sensation. We begin with hands and feet, arms and legs, and, without focusing on particular inner organs (so as not to interfere with their instinctive operation), we gradually incorporate the whole of our body within the field of sensation and awareness.

This practice of intentional contact with bodily sensation, or sensing, provides us with an invaluable grounding in the present and a basis for our spiritual life. With bodily sensation as our anchor, we can be more distinctly aware of other sides of ourselves, such as the alluring passage of thought and the pull of emotion. Awareness of bodily sensation helps us to feel at home in our bodies, befriend our bodies, and open to the joy of life. Throughout a lifetime of spiritual practice, sensing can remain a fundamental component and guidepost of our way.

As the concentration of sensitive energy within us develops, it acquires a life of its own. Sensitive energy confers more than contact with bodily, physical sensations. First, we enter a positive feedback loop with the sensitive energy building in us. Our work to increase the sensitive energy returns to us when the energy spontaneously arises and awakens us. This moment of awakening offers a new opportunity for further practice of sensing, which leads to more moments of awakening.

Secondly, by creating a vessel for the higher energies, sensing helps build our soul. As the higher energies descend into us, they blend with our sensitive energy, transforming it into the substance of our soul-body. Continuing our practice of sensing and combining it with other practices such as relaxation, meditation, presence, and prayer, the whole of our body becomes robustly filled with this transformed sensitive energy, blended with the conscious energy, eventually coalescing into a single field of energy, which we may call the energy body, inner body, or soul-body. An early taste of this can occur in meditation when we shift our awareness from the experience of being in a physical body filled with the sensitive energy to the experience of being wholly in the (sensitive) energy body. Contact with the energy body creates a strong and stable context in the present moment that permits us to take our place in the next higher energy of consciousness, which is true presence.

The whole of the path resides in the present moment and the present moment can be entered most directly through opening to the energy body within our physical body. The energy body anchors us in the present and opens the door to the spiritual. One frontier of our spiritual work is to make our contact with the energy body stronger, more frequent, and more continuous. At any and every moment, our physical body awaits our attention and intention to deepen our connection with and strengthen our energy body. This in itself affords us a greater degree of freedom. In the energy body, strongly in the present, we are not as prone to identification with past and future, anxiety and fear, greed and anger, nor to the grip of egoism. A natural joy, a celebration of life enters us as we awaken out of identification and into the energy body, into the present.

See Also: Stages of Body Presence


Books


The Radiant Mountain: Presence to Go Becoming You: Cultivating Spiritual Practice The Sacred Art of Soul Making: Balance and Depth in Spiritual Practice
Novel: Restoring Our Soul
Novel: Agents of Peace
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