Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 14, 2009

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Care for Our Family

(Aspect 2 of 12 of the Path of Right Living)

Anyone who aspires to the spiritual path must pay very careful attention to their family life. You cannot be a saint on your meditation cushion if you are an ogre at the dinner table. Family life elicits our true character. Without the constraint of having outsiders witness our behavior, we face the temptation to indulge our destructive emotions like anger, selfishness, and jealousy when interacting with our immediate family.

Please consider these questions. How do you treat your family members? Do you always speak with kindness? Are you always respectful of everyone in your family? Are you aware of their current state? Are you solicitous and responsive to their needs and desires? Do you bring them joy? Do you support their endeavors and dreams? Do you support them in their difficult times? Can they count on you? Do you have their interests at heart? Are you reliable? Are you unquestionably faithful to your spouse? Do you share yourself, your heart and your time with your family? Do you contribute appropriately to the work of the household? Or do you shirk your chores? Do you make demands on your spouse? Or do you ask in a friendly and reasonable manner? Do you blame and complain? Do you train your children to do their own duties, both personal and for the household? And do you maintain contact with family members not living with you?

Strong and loving families are the foundation of a strong and loving society. A good marriage makes us more complete. And loving and caring for our children brings a unique and deep satisfaction, and a natural path to responsibility. If we can love our family and accept their imperfections, then we have a real chance to extend that circle of respect into the larger society.

The challenges of family life can play an important role in our spiritual training and development. Family life chips away at our self-centeredness. It calls us to be attentive and aware. It requires us to be responsible and to keep our promises. It pushes us to transcend our destructive emotions. Yet despite our best intentions, the inevitable friction of living in close quarters with others pushes us at times not to transcend our destructive emotions but to sink into reactivity. If we can find freedom in the midst of the demands of modern life, especially family life, then our freedom is strong indeed. This highlights the value of the work of non-identification, of letting go, which we shall study as aspect 5 of the Path of Right Living.

Again we bring intelligence, dexterity, and excellence into caring for our family. The application of intelligence here begins with awareness of the people in our family, with seeing their states and learning their patterns, with understanding them more and more. That intelligence feeds our dexterity in knowing how best to act in each situation. The value of creative dexterity shows itself especially in dealing with the continually changing needs, desires, and behaviors of our children. To be excellent in caring for our family means many things, but primary among them is to be loving and to act from love. Approaching family life with intelligence, dexterity, and excellence also enables us to honor our own needs while honoring the needs of each member of our family.

For this week, bring the Path of Right Living into caring for your family.


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