Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of April 13, 2009

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The Way of Conscience

Part 3: Merging

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
[Matthew 5:48]

When we first intentionally note the promptings of our conscience and act in accord with them, it may not fit well. Our habitual mode of living may be far from conscience and the difference jarring. We may well try to ignore it and escape, sweeping it back under the rug of our mind, pretending to our self that it was just a stray feeling, merely a passing impulse, rather than the truth that conscience offers. But if we persist in opening our perception to it, in accepting and obeying its guidance, the light of conscience gradually seeps into all the dark corners of our life, into our zones of resistance to living with integrity. And as we cooperate in narrowing the gap between what we do and what our conscience calls us to do, it reshapes us.

The way of conscience, after diligent pursuit, becomes more natural to us. By persisting along that way, we eventually arrive at the realization that we are our conscience. Then we no longer necessarily perceive it as separate from us, because one only hears the stirring of conscience when one is out of step with it. When we act from conscience, it is who we are, with no gap between us and our conscience.

Even here though, the occasional rationality check may be required to confirm its voice, like when we feel an impulse to pick up all the litter in the world after we’ve picked up a goodly amount, or an impulse to be generous to the point of impoverishing our self materially. Rationality defines the common sense limits to what we do.

Despite our best efforts and intentions, the conditions of life impose upon us continual tradeoffs and compromises. Say for example you have a strong sense of environmental responsibility. With our need to use electricity, with our need for transportation, with our needs for food, clothing, and shelter, the prospect of living a truly carbon-neutral, habitat-preserving, and non-polluting lifestyle is daunting if not impossible. And in many other areas of life we unavoidably confront choices where each alternative is a mix of positive and negative, right and wrong. Conscience can be our guide, our trusted guide in making our way through the thicket of inevitable tradeoffs and compromises in how we live, helping us judge what matters most.

Abstaining from acting against our conscience, even in the little things, leads to the great and subtle power of a clear conscience. No longer inwardly at war with yourself, you evolve toward inner unity. Despite your thoughts, emotions, and impulses to the contrary, you follow your conscience and do the right thing every time, though doing the right thing does not preclude unforeseen mistakes. It means not intentionally, knowingly violating your conscience. Thus, to be a person of conscience does not make you infallible, but it does enable others to trust you implicitly, while enabling you to trust and respect yourself. To be a person of conscience keeps you on the path toward fulfilling what you uniquely were put here to do: your own creative path of inner and outer service, your own path of wisdom and love.

For this week, for this life, be a person of conscience.

See Also:

The Way of Conscience, Part 1: Discerning

The Way of Conscience, Part 2: Acting in Accord


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