Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 7, 2009

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Care for Our Body

(Aspect 1 of 12 of the Path of Right Living)

We need this body to enjoy our life, to serve by fulfilling our many responsibilities, and to create and approach our personal destiny. Caring for our body is obviously and absolutely required of us to maintain our life. So caring for our body is not a matter of egoism, though it can cross over into self-centeredness when our concern with our body unnecessarily overshadows all other concerns. Of course if we are ill or injured, then dealing with that must be our immediate priority. In our normal situation, however, we still act responsibly and with love toward our own body.

The guiding principle of Right Living with respect to our body is to give it what it needs and, in moderation, what it wants, and to avoid what is harmful to it. In practice this means proper nutrition, exercise, rest, health care, and recreation, including hobbies and avocations. It also means completely avoiding drugs of abuse, like marijuana and the rest: they sap the energies needed for our inner work and their mere possession is usually illegal. We refrain from using tobacco because it harms our body and also saps the energies needed for our inner work. If we drink alcohol, we do so socially and in moderation. We respect our body, this magnificent vehicle entrusted to us at birth. But we need not coddle it. Within its limits, we should not fear making demands on our body as necessary.

Care for our body also means care for its physical supports of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and the rest. We maintain our home, keeping it clean and attractive. We keep our transportation vehicles in good working order. We take appropriate care of all the tools and objects of our life.

We care for our body and its physical supports with the three hallmarks of Right Living: intelligence, dexterity, and excellence. Using our intelligence in this case means being interested, noticing how our body responds to different kinds and amounts of food and other inputs, to different kinds and amounts of exertion and rest. We experiment and observe. We pay attention to the signals our body sends us about its state, so that we know when to stop eating, when to rest, when to move, and so on. We learn to understand our body, to be an intelligent steward guiding our bodily life thoughtfully and appropriately. The same applies to our home, tools, and other material objects of our life we use and care for them intelligently.

To act with dexterity means to adapt creatively to our constantly changing situations and conditions. This requires being open to new and better ways of doing what we do, not always being stuck in our old physical habits. It also requires seeing each situation clearly, seeing its possibilities and limitations. And then we look for ways to make the best of it. The importance of dexterity is obvious in games, in sports, and in business. But much of our life can profit from valuing and developing our dexterity.

And we always pursue excellence in managing our bodily life by continuously seeking to improve what we do and how we do it. We act appropriately and well, neither too much nor too little. Excellence in bodily matters means aiming for perfection in what we do, as time allows. When we clean, we clean thoroughly. If we wash dishes, we make them sparkle. If we cook, we make it nutritious and delicious, even down to the presentation. When we shop, we shop wisely. Whatever we do, we aim to do it right and do it well.

Now the exigencies of life often prevent us from giving as much as we would like to a particular task. So be it. Of necessity, we settle for good enough. Furthermore, we can go too far by demanding perfection instead of pursuing excellence. Then nothing we do is ever good enough and we become too precious in our judgment. Yet pursuing excellence engages us fully in what we do and leaves us with a sense of satisfaction.

We recognize that caring for our body and its supports is a necessary, important, and valuable part of our path. In Right Living, we bring the whole of our life, including everything connected with caring for our body, into the fold of activities that we value. We integrate it all into our path, so that our spiritual path is not separate from our life, not just something we do when we meditate or attend communal worship.

For this week engage with intelligence, dexterity, and excellence in caring for your body and its supports.


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