Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 16, 2008

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Stages of Inner Unity: I

Ordinarily, we are not ourselves. We simply have no self to be. Instead we have a personality, an agglomeration of attitudes shaped by experience. The dominant attitude changes frequently. This fact, however, is masked by the repetitious arising of certain personality patterns. Those patterns appear to tie it all together, by giving our inner experience an air of familiarity. More importantly, consciousness itself seems to tie it all together, for we always have that same background of awareness.

But the impulses that drive and define us change from moment to moment. We can hardly count on ourselves. We decide something now and later disregard that decision. Our center is effectively abandoned to transient occupants. Our center goes to whichever passing attitude happens to be on top for the moment. This is the situation of no I, so aptly presented in Buddhism. We never know who we’ll be in the next moment.

Our spiritual practices strengthen our attention. Spiritual disciplines raise the efficacy of our decisions. Persistent efforts of presence bring forth our will-to-be. All that integrates our I. This is the stage of developing our I.

Gradually we become able to count on ourselves to be here. We consistently occupy our own center. We can say: I am the one who is here, I am the one who is living my life. This is the stage of having an I, of being oneself.

The tendency today in spiritual circles is to ignore the stages of developing an I, not to even recognize its possibility or its necessity. Instead we go straight for the Ultimate. But if we were to reach the Ultimate in this condition, we would have nothing to offer, nothing to give, nothing to serve with. Developing our own I, gives us the power to surrender to the Divine. Without our I, surrender can only be partial, because the part of us who surrenders cannot choose for the whole of us. Only our I can do that.

Having an I, we can hope to enter God through prayer. We pray and we yearn and we touch the sacred. And then we see that we cannot achieve union by becoming God. Instead, we move toward union by allowing, inviting, begging God to become us. The Divine becomes our center. This does not mean that we put the Divine at the center of our life. That worthy endeavor belongs to a pre-union stage. Rather, we allow the Divine to enter our very core as us. The Divine then occupies our center in the same way that we do now. This is the stage beyond I. But our I is useful even then, as the vehicle through which we can serve.

Our I is our will and evolves in stages. Beginning in fragmentation, we pass through six stages to forge a unity in developing our personal I. In stage 7, we come to the spiritual I of the world of sacred light. And then, in 8 and 9, we open to the ultimate transformation, returning our I to its true Source, the Divine I. In the coming weeks, we will delve into the stages of inner unity, I:

      1. Our Fragmented Will
      2. Awareness of Fragmentation
      3. Learning to Integrate Our Will
      4. Partial Practice
      5. Responsibility, Rebellion, and Love
      6. Inner Unity: I
      7. Reaching toward God, The Center of All Centers
      8. Surrender
      9. The One Divine Will

Your I is who you really are. For this week, assess your own stage of I.


        

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