Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 30, 2008

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Awareness of Fragmentation

(Part 2 of 9 in the Inner Work Series: Stages of Inner Unity: I )

The way toward inner unity begins in awareness of our fragmented state. Awareness means seeing and the willingness to see. The latter condition makes all the difference.

Our inner world effectively consists of numerous fiefdoms, independent regions of our mind, sometimes at odds with each other. Take the example of being overweight and concerned about it. One part of us wants to lose weight, but another part loves to eat large quantities of fattening foods. These two parts have no contact with each other. At meal time, the over-eater in us pushes the weight-loss wisher out of the center stage of our being. The over-eater takes control and eats. The weight-loss wisher barely knows the over-eater, and vice versa. They only “know of” each other. If the weight-loss wisher happens to awaken during an eating frenzy, it is so repulsed by what it sees that it flees the scene, leaving the over-eater in us to do what it will. We careen back and forth as control shifts between these two characters. Our other inwardly conflicted behaviors follow a similar pattern.

How can we unify such diametrically opposed desires that fear and loathe each other? A campaign of inner reform through discipline seems like the only answer, but almost always fails. The diet may work for a time, but the dieter in us eventually slips and we fall back into the inner battle. Only by befriending them can we subsume all our inner divisions into a greater whole. Toward that, we must know and accept our various parts. We practice seeing our state unflinchingly, without judgment, and with acceptance that this is how we are. The one in us that does this practice, that sees how we are, is neither the over-eater nor the weight-loss wisher. It is that in us that wishes to be inwardly free, loving, effective and unified. This, our seer, through seeing and accepting can gradually bring all the fragments of our will into its one umbrella.

So we practice seeing without judgment. Relaxed seeing carries a natural tenor of kindness. And that self-directed kindness, as it sees more and more of us, gradually attracts all our parts toward our growing wholeness. Our blinders must come off, so that we can see and befriend even the more repulsive fragments of our will. That requires the strength born of inner peace, which is where practices like meditation help. We practice seeing and noticing how we think, feel, and act, including our most banal moods and attitudes. We are not making a catalog or collecting memories of how we are. Nor are we waiting for some good or bad inner character to show its face. Rather, every act of seeing brings wholeness to its moment, drawing our will together, gradually integrating our fiefdoms of desire, whether opposed to each other or just indifferent. The more often we see, the more whole we are.

In the example of eating, we can understand why some dieting methods have us pay attention to our food, taste each bite fully rather than wolfing it down. Actually tasting our food brings awareness to the necessary and enjoyable act of eating. And it offers an umbrella for both our over-eater and weight-loss wisher, satisfying the former through enhancing the experience of taste and helping the latter through diminishing the desire to overeat by increasing the satisfaction of eating. Accepting awareness reconciles desires, not just with regard to eating, but in every domain of our fragmented inner life.

For this week, practice seeing and noticing your own thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions, without judgment and with kindness.


     

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