Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of: September 17, 2007


Tolerance

(Part 3 of 9 in the Inner Work series The Stages of Love)

We may notice someone and see them as a person, yet not like what we see. The reasons for not liking him or her can span a wide gamut from ethnic, racial and religious prejudice to fear, jealousy, disgust, contempt, boredom, squeamishness or a simple difference in type. Whatever the reason may be, disliking someone puts up a barrier on our way to love. We may not be able to drop our dislike, but we may be able to drop the barrier of intolerance nevertheless.

To diminish this wall of dislike that separates us, we actively work within our heart-mind to tolerate the person despite our reaction to him or her. We focus on their humanity, rather than on the qualities or manifestations that we dislike. We allow ourselves to live with our dislike and rejection as a background, while letting the other’s personhood rise to the foreground of our awareness. We let people be themselves without layering on our judgments, inwardly or outwardly.

The emotional wall of intolerance not only locks others out, but also locks us inside our egoism. In fact such walls directly manifest the self-centeredness of egoism. The wall can only be dismantled from within. So we begin seeing the intolerance in our own heart-mind and by learning to tolerate our self, what we deem to be our shortcomings.

Tolerance toward myself does not prevent me from trying to improve. But some things cannot be improved, for example, the basic structure and limitations of my body. As long as I reject my unchangeable aspects, I will also reject other people. Other aspects of my self may be amenable to change, but is it really worth the time and effort to change them? The answer varies. Even with those features that can and should be changed, an attitude of tolerance makes the changes more possible. Intolerance simply adds another layer to the problem, a layer that perversely serves to prevent any change in the thing I cannot tolerate in myself. For example, if I need to lose weight and have an attitude of disgust toward my overweight body, the disgust itself may drive me to eat more than necessary. If I can truly tolerate the whole of myself, I may then grow more tolerant of others.

Extending this openness outward, we practice tolerating our family and loved ones. Can we let our children be themselves and train them properly, while allowing their differences with us? Can we let our spouse be him- or herself, without pushing a program of reform onto them?

Intolerance breeds hatred and violence. Milder forms merely waste our precious energies and keep us mired in their poison. Giving up an intolerant attitude toward others is actually a great gift to our self. Intolerance toward individuals or groups, whether of another religion or race, or of someone who merely has bad manners, saps our spiritual strength.

But we cannot easily decide to be tolerant of others. We need to see intolerance whenever it rears its head in us. See it clearly. See its effects on us. See that it is just a feeling or thought passing through, a temporary, though possibly recurrent attitude. See that I am more than this ego-centered rejection, this rude visitor to my consciousness. This intolerant disliking does not define me. It does, however, claim to be me, as it says within me: “I hate …” See how it says “I,” when it is not I, but merely an intolerant attitude pretending to speak for the whole of me.

We can live with our intolerance, let it be, and defang it thereby. We can tolerate of our own intolerant impulses. We relax our attitudes toward our self, toward our own intolerant aversions, and toward others. In the spacious mind of presence, intolerance dissolves.

Why does tolerance matter to our spiritual path? Simply put, one cannot enter heaven while harboring venomous and intolerant attitudes. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This describes the true structure of the higher world, where purity of heart is a necessary condition for entry. Whether from individual egoism or borrowed from a group egoism, intolerance blocks the spirit and renders love unattainable.

For this week, see your own intolerant impulses and let them go.


     

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