An Intro to the Inner Task: Eight Exercises in Sensation Part II
In this two-part post, Jeanine Siler Jones invites us to work with foundational approaches through a cycle of eight Inner Tasks. These exercises were originally designed to be used, one per week, over the course of eight weeks in conjunction with daily life and practice. Available here as part of Northeast Wisdom's intention to offer quality resources and support for the Wisdom community, these may be used in whatever way best works for you. Each one is an excellent resource for extended practice in the activities of life over time, whether you are new to Wisdom or an experienced practitioner. The first four exercises in sensation are posted in Part I, here on Breaking Ground. This post concludes the eight exercises with the Inner Tasks for Weeks V ~ VII. Enjoy!
We welcome your comments and reflections of your own experiences with these exercises in the Comments section below.
One of the experiences from Wisdom work that I return to again and again is the notion of learning to play our own instrument, the instrument of our body, heart, mind and Being. We tune up our vessel, entrain with the vibration of our own instrument so that Wisdom flows through us.
Practical conscious work is our “boots on the ground” opportunity to tune into where we really are in any given moment, as we go about the mundane tasks of our day. Specifically, we can do this by truly engaging all three centers of knowing rather than bumping along on autopilot.
Engaging the moving center, can we notice the sensation in our bodies of being threatened, triggered or reactive? Can we also know what it feels like to be deeply relaxed, safe and at ease? Cultivate this knowing in you.
Engaging the heart center, can we notice the sensation in our bodies of being carried away by emotion—energy in motion—fear, sadness, anger, elation? Can we also feel what it is like to be deeply affected and moved with our full heart while remaining present? Cultivate this knowing in you.
Engaging the head center, can we notice the sensation in our bodies of being caught up in mind chatter/noise/rumination? Can we also feel what it is like to be curious, open minded and truly interested? Cultivate this knowing in you.
We return again and again to the opportunity to be with what is happening in our bodies, the currents of energy moving or stuck in all three centers. At any given moment our energy can be dispersed or collected, maybe even some of both at the same time. We are learning to play on our instrument.
For your inner task, throughout the day, I invite you to ask yourself the question: Where am I right now? Ask it from a grounded, kind and curious place. See what you notice.
Maurice Nicoll says: “Whatever we do consciously remains: whatever we do mechanically is lost to us. So, we have to learn how to live in life and not be eaten by life.”
Inner tasks are invitations to interrupt business as usual, to notice our mechanical habits, to remember ourselves in all three of our centers of intelligence. In the brief moments that might happen, we show up. I am here, now.
What could interrupt business as usual for you? What might wake you up from a typical trance like state? Some of the kinds of inner tasks you might try are: brush your teeth or brush your hair with the other hand; get up from your chair using your non-dominant leg; Vary your typical tempo of walking. Play with slowing down and speeding up.
As you experiment, take time to really notice. As you interrupt your habits, what do you notice in your body? How might that alert you to being present in the activity you are engaging in?
We all do these automatic things, have machine like ways of holding our bodies and enacting patterns of behavior. They help us move through life on this horizontal plane.
Can we also sometimes use them as doorways into being present, pausing and expanding our attention to include more of ourselves, others and all that is around?
A classic inner task that is foundational to practical conscious work, both in Wisdom School and in life-as-Wisdom-School, is noticing our likes and dislikes. It is a powerful tool for awakening as we see ourselves getting hooked by the physical and emotional energy tied up in frustration or affirmation.
As we have been practicing, can you sink into your body, and be present with the sensation of activated, disturbed and excited energies? Can you look lucidly at the energy coiled in you and recognize the attaching you are currently caught in? Can you wade into the energy pool that is kicked up and keep your awareness also on what you really want, deeper in? It is a practice of inclusion (I’m noticing dislike) while also grounding into a deep level of attention.
I remember a funny example of this from my first Wisdom School. During our evening time of observations about the day, a number of us noticed our frustrations from the morning breakfast where we ran out of oatmeal and boiled eggs. We slowed down around the scenario, noticing our bodily sensations of tightening, activation and hunger. We laughed about the thoughts going through our heads about how to handle the situation, including elbowing our neighbor out of the way to get our egg! We all got to experience our dislike and attachments to what ‘should be’. Then, Cynthia told us about some of her Fourth Way work weekends where they would purposefully not have coffee to provide opportunities for inner seeing. Talk about getting to know our dislikes!
So, for this week your inner task is to notice likes and dislikes. It may be easier to remember when you are annoyed and in dislike. Though, as a Wisdom friend recently noted, we can literally get caught in our attachment to ‘likes’ on Facebook!
See if you can use this inner task to be present with what is happening while still keeping your attention on your feet or breath. Allow, be with and feel some space around the energy coil. Notice what might be different about your engagement of the situation.
Kabir Helminski says that surrender is “being actively receptive to an intelligence that is greater than that of ourselves” (Wisdom Way of Knowing, p. 111)
I recently listened to a podcast of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He beautifully and gently reminded his audience to bring our meditation to our daily lives by returning to our body—just what we have been practicing these 8 weeks together. He had a lovely paired mantra that has stuck with me: “Never mind” and “Don’t pretend.” It was his reminder to find that gentle balance in having inner truthfulness about where we really are, coupled with ease and compassion with ourselves when we find ourselves caught or stuck in tight places.
Pause, notice our body and be with what is unfolding right now. Find our feet and breath and begin again.
I find myself returning to the simple, yet profound gesture of clenching and releasing my hand, tightening and letting go. Clench: my brain/heart gets off track. I temporarily lose contact with myself, others and God. Allow: my brain/heart entrains again and I can be actively receptive. My inner defenses relax and new possibilities emerge. Where am I right now?
For our inner task this week, play with this gesture. Let it help you notice and track in your body where you are on this continuum in any given moment. “Never mind, don’t pretend”.
We are always moving back and forth, and up and down on the horizontal and vertical axes as we stand at the crossroads of matter and spirit. Noticing our attaching, and thanking ourselves for noticing is our practice and our work so that we continue to transform and deepen our capacity to be conscious servants of Love in this world. As I have heard Cynthia say many times: ‘Love is in the return’. We are practicing equanimity, being awake in all our states, including all that is.
Remember, we practice together. As we return again and again, we join together finding our way in the world, knowing with more of ourselves present and awake. We trust the unfolding, knowing we are not alone. As Ram Dass said, “we are all just walking each other home.”
So, fellow Wisdom travelers, many blessings and much love with each of you wherever you are. I am grateful to be on this journey with you.
Thank you to the artists; all images courtesy of the Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery.
Jeanine Siler Jones, LCSW, is a practicing therapist who has been an Enneagram teacher for over 15 years. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she has been engaged with Wisdom work since 2009 and has been one of the primary igniters of Wisdom School Southeast. Since her deep dive into Wisdom work with Cynthia Bourgeault she has been playing with the Wisdom roots Gurdjieff brought to the west. She works
with people interested in spiritually integrated therapy, and leads contemplative retreats and groups on her own as well as collaboratively, including Deepening in the Practices of Wisdom groups and Wisdom Schools in the lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault.
Jeanine holds a Master’s degree in Social Work, a Certificate in Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is trained as a Wisdom infused Spiritual Director from Moravian Theological Seminary. Read more about her in Northeast Wisdom’s Seedlings.
This series, Part I and Part II, was originally posted by Jeanine as Inner Task Friday December 20, 2019 ~ February 7, 2020 on the Wisdom Community Facebook page. It is available now, for easy reference and practice, on the Resources Page of the Northeast Wisdom website under Inner Practice, and you may find Part I now here, on Breaking Ground.