Both Gurdjieff and Bennett left us a clear indication of what to look for when making the distinction for ourselves between active sensing and passive sensation. It is important in creative work to discern between what is meant by saying, “I am at this moment conscious of being present within my body in this chair” and the statement, “I know that my body is sitting in this chair.” To be conscious of being present within the body there is a sustained contact between my wish to be present and the sensitive awareness of my body. If I direct the wish to be present specifically into my left arm, I notice that this directing of wish is effortless. Yet, I also very soon notice that to sustain this wish starts to require effort. Very soon something enters that seems to break the contact between my wish and the sensing of my left arm. The sound of cars on the street, the children playing in the garden next door, the mosquito beginning to pierce the flesh on my right ankle, these begin to drain away the available sensitive energy. The available sensitive energy in the moment begins to be used up in passive forms of sensation. Why passive? Because these “shocks” are simply arriving upon the sensitive screen of awareness quite apart from any intention that I have. The cars on the street are doing their thing, as are the children, as is the mosquito. They enter and leave their impression. In the midst of this, if I renew my wish to be present in sensing my left arm, then I begin to work to retain a portion of the available sensitive energy for myself under my own direction.
When this contact is sustained without the debilitating effects of expectation or doubt or idle wonderment or boredom or tension, I can start to notice that my left arm begins, as it were, to sense itself. My left arm now has a presence and this presence is altogether different than simply knowing that my left is there where it should be as would be the case by simply looking at. When I can “see” my left arm from the inside as a sensitive field, this is something quite different than looking at it from the outside.
In the moment of being present there also enters a new level of awareness. In addition to the sensitive awareness of the left arm, there is also what we might call the awareness of this awareness. This free awareness or what the more philosophical might call meta-awareness, is what Bennett speaks of as the availability of conscious energy. Given that I have been speaking only of the left arm, to say, “I am at this moment conscious of being present within my body in this chair” therefore says a great deal. Let me only say further that three distinct qualities of energy were participating in the example of the left arm. There was the automatic level of “things simply going on” more or less independently from my awareness – heart beating, body breathing, traffic passing, children playing, mosquito biting etc. — and the impact of this upon the sensitive energy available within the present moment. There was the sensitive energy itself which we can look upon as the living substance of my present moment. As well, there was the conscious energy which was needed to receive and to sustain the wish to be present; also, there was the fresh influx into the present moment of conscious energy once a certain threshold of presence had been arrived at. To work to enter and to actually enter a state where these three qualities of energy are in contact with each other in whatever measure is enormously beneficial not only for the health of the body, but also for the health of the mind. This state is the vehicle whereby we can consciously invite truly fresh impressions to enter our present moment.
As for the initiating wish which is certainly a key element in this, I believe Bennett would have described as entering through its contact with conscious energy from our own real “I” or from the seed within us to have own embodiment serve as the container for our own real “I”. For the moment, it is enough to say that this kind of contact between levels of energy helps one to be who s/he is intended and intending to be. It certainly helps one to let go of the great measure of falseness that sticks to us. Moreover the state of contact between these levels of energy is a potentially rich attractor for creative energy.