Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of July 7, 2008

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Learning to Integrate Our Will

(Part 3 of 9 in the Inner Work Series: Stages of Inner Unity: I )

Spiritual practices have the effect of integrating our fragmented will. In the practice of mindfulness meditation, we watch what goes on in our inner world, without judgment. This offers the noticed shards of desire, fear, and the rest a welcoming path toward merging into the greater whole of the accepting one in us who watches. Such watching goes beyond formal meditation into our daily life through the practice of presence. When we are present, when there is that one in us who sees what we see and does what we do, that one who is us, all those parts that show themselves can enter that one’s domain, transforming from part to whole.

At times the problem of rejection arises. Some negative aspect of our character, of which we disapprove, steps forward. When this happens, a struggle may occur. If the negative succeeds in temporarily taking over the reins of our center, we, the one who sees, do not want to see and we flee the scene. We abandon ourselves to the negative, thereby aggravating and prolonging our fragmented condition. To heal, we need to let go of our self-disapproval and move toward acceptance of ourselves, of everything in us. This does not mean that we act on every base impulse, but rather that we see and acknowledge the whole catastrophe as being part of us. Then the accepting one in us who sees can continue standing in the center, even when confronted with our negative thoughts, feelings, and intentions. This non-abandonment of ourselves, especially in our less noble moments, leads us toward wholeness, integrity, conscience, and love.

In practices that require a focused attention, we bring more and more of our intention to bear, entraining all our fragments into the single-minded effort of attention. This includes many types of meditation and prayer. As we collect ourselves in prayer or focused meditation, we enlist all our scattered parts into the one overarching endeavor. For those moments, nothing else matters. We refuse all distractions, inner and outer, everything that does not pertain to that practice. This stance of refusing distractions temporarily defragments our inner world. The wholeness achieved thereby is the fluid wholeness of will.

Spiritual practices are recipes for our will to follow. The essence of the entire range of spiritual methods and disciplines lies hidden in the acts of will that drive them. The descriptions of practices present their functional aspect, e.g., noticing our thoughts, opening emotions of longing and love, repeating a prayer with feeling and meaning, watching our bodily sensations in walking meditation. But the core of practice consists of will. We, as will, act on the inner energies of our being and on the functions of our body and mind. So the instructions and steps of any practice are only its outer clothing. We discover its true nature by acting from within, through trial and error. Gradually that actor gathers and integrates enough of our disparate impulses to reach a tipping point toward wholeness, toward inner unity. But for that we must persist in practice in a balanced way.

So in this stage of learning how to integrate our will, we learn the forms of the path we have chosen. We practice and explore those forms to discover their meaning, their purpose, and their truth. In so doing, we begin to discover our Self.

For this week renew your inner work, notice the role of your will in it, and notice its effects on your will.


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