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Living in Inwardness

May 17, 2010

Dennis Lewis

Dennis Lewis

All of the great traditions speak in one way or another about the significance of “inwardness.” These traditions make it clear that only through living in inwardness can we experience our own real being. Unfortunately, western psychology for the most part has confused inwardness with introversion or introspection, and has, as a result, led us in the wrong direction in understanding this crucial subject.

From the esoteric, metaphysical, spiritual, or even scientific standpoint, whether we are looking “inside” at our own thoughts or feelings or “outside” at a beautiful sunset or a friend’s problems, the actual experience takes place in the field of our own consciousness. Every experience is, in reality, inside consciousness. Or, put another way, consciousness is the global space in which all functioning and perceptual activity take place.

Unfortunately, because of our tendency to live mainly from memory and images, and to existentially define ourselves in relation to the contents of these memories and images, we seldom notice this global space of consciousness, and the concomitant sense of “inwardness” that results. And yet it is just this global perception that can transform our narrow conditioning and identification and free our energy and creativity to be more sensitive and responsive to the challenges of living.

The Conscious Sensation of the Body

To live in inwardness means to experience the so-called inner and outer both as being “inside” consciousness. But this “inside” cannot be taken in a strict, literal way since, from this perspective, the very concept of inside and outside loses all meaning.

A more global experience starts with the conscious sensation of the body. We simply allow ourselves to sense the life of the body in the space of consciousness. This space, which can be experienced as pure potentiality, gives the sensation room to expand, to “unfold.” As we welcome this unfolding, we begin to perceive finer levels of inner vibration, deepening levels of somatic awareness.

Paradoxically, the more inward our experience, the more our kinesthetic and organic senses—and with them the various other senses—begin to relax. And as this relaxation takes place, our perceptions become more global, more all encompassing, as does the world that they reveal. We begin to get a powerful taste of the ancient idea that we are a microcosm of the universe, that the entire universe is in some sense within us.

The Self-Illuminating Space

Living inwardly, then, has nothing to do with introspection, or even self-observation. It is rather the natural result of allowing consciousness to be what it already is: the self-illuminating backdrop or space of all of our perceptions. Paradoxically, living inwardly puts us in touch with a vast panorama of both “inner” and “outer” impressions. Our senses become charged with a new significance, since they are suddenly “re-cognized” as extensions of consciousness. Seeing, hearing, sensing, tasting, feeling, and even thinking no longer function separately but rather become part of one large perception of interconnectedness and globality. And the impressions that emerge become doorways into consciousness itself.

The Meeting of Our Inner and Outer Worlds

From another perspective, living inwardly means to live at the place where the so-called inner and outer worlds meet. This place, which is not really a place at all, is the foundation, the substance, of all experience. This substance, the ubiquitous field of consciousness, is being itself, the all-embracing illuminating silence that lies at the heart of existence.

The “isness” of our life is this silence, the infinite potentiality that allows differentiated experiences to take place. But these experiences, and the sense of self-identify that shapes them, are not who we are. Like ripples on a pond or waves in an ocean, they are simply shifting configurations of something larger and more inclusive, of something unknown. It is our constant identification with these configurations that keeps us from experiencing this intrinsic wholeness of which they are just a part or manifestation.

The best way to get a taste of this wholeness is through the sensation of our own bodies. Sitting quietly with eyes shut, simply allow your sensation to be an intimate object of your awareness—to live inside your awareness. As you begin to experience this inwardness and allow it to deepen of its own accord, you’ll notice that your sensation starts to expand; you will actually feel a kind of opening into an unknown world: the world of consciousness—your own real self.

It is important to understand that living in inwardness, exploring the usually hidden dimensions of our inner self or being, has nothing to do with “self-ishness.” Quite the contrary, the inwardness that we can experience connects us with the inwardness of every human being. It releases us from our constant identification with and attachment to everything in and around us—especially from identification with our self-image and the surfaces of others. It opens us to a mostly unknown world of impressions, energies, and potentialities.

Bringing Inwardness Into Our Outer Lives

Though at the beginning of the work with inwardness we can best come to experience it while sitting quietly, eventually we need to be able to work with inwardness in the midst of our outer lives. We see around us many people who meditate regularly yet are unable or unwilling to bring the work of inwardness into their everyday lives. And if we look closely, we see that this is the result of a basic misunderstanding—the belief that inwardness requires outer silence and a minimum of distractions. Certainly, at the beginning of this work such conditions are helpful, sometimes even necessary. But later, one needs to bring this work into the stress, noise, and disharmony of the outer world. For we ourselves are part of and contribute to this stress, noise, and disharmony. We are in fact not separate from it. It is not others who create our outer lives; it is we, ourselves, who do so. By bringing the work of inwardness into every corner and aspect of our lives, we not only see the many ways we contribute to the negativity in and around us, but we also begin to discover how it can be transformed.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 11:44 am

    Thank you for this article. It really helps to clarify the concept of “inwardness”. One of the Chinese tai chi masters that I follow often teaches this concept as “come back home” in broken English. I feel that the article can really help to relate the depth of this concept to “Western” oriented students looking for a more detailed explanation. I will share with the entire class. Thanks

    Interesting, I had to add the term “Inwardness” to the English dictionary during spell check.

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