Four Levels of Awareness - Prayer
First Level - The Experience Level
This level is the skin-surface of experience, sensuous awareness. A draft on my neck annoys me. I experience satisfaction at a favorite meal. Such minor irritations and pleasures ordinarily do not demand much attention and are taken for granted as the normal flow of life. Though I am often barely conscious of them, they do give life its continuous texture.
Second Level - The Physical Level
Underneath the first level of awareness, there are other happenings which demand attention because they last longer and are more intense then events of the first level. Pains and joys that go deeper than minor irritations and pleasantries - ulcer pain - insomnia - glowing health - or the feeling of all the world is beautiful and owned by me.
Third Level - The Psychological Psychic
The third level of awareness is capable of riveting a person’s attention and so possessing them that, for a time, he or she is seemingly unaware of second or first level happenings: first job and the fear of failure that makes your memory fail - voice creak...a father watching his daughter waste away from cancer. Joy equals the sorrow. A mother experiences the warm security of being loved by an admired husband and respected by her children. Satisfaction at having something that you worked hard for becomes a reality.
Fourth Level - The Underground River of God
The fourth level is like a great underground river which, underlying the upper three levels, quietly nourishes them, sustains them in their storms and blisses, acts as the continuity (the staying power) underneath their sometimes rapid fluctuations of irritation-pleasantry, pain-pleasure, sorrow-joy. This fourth level is a quiet beneath turbulence, a constancy amid flux, a seeming passivity under great activity. It is never explicitly conscious in itself.
Peace - at all four levels
When you are recollecting yourself or sinking into yourself to discover your center of being so that you can pray better, you are actually dropping down through the three upper levels of awareness so you can reach down to the fourth level where life flows most richly, quietly, serenely. The peace of this fourth level tends to render peaceful the upper three levels and you will understand peace of being or person. The fourth level is the felt presence of God. It is also the level on which we do our discerning - what does God want me to do - to do God’s work rather than working for God.
The fourth level of experience can be described as a great underground river which quiets, stabilizes, nourishes, and guides the praying person. It is that which enables us literally to pray always.