Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 22, 2010

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Right View

(Aspect 1 of the Eightfold Path)

Our personal world view directly shapes not only our actions, but also our perceptions. Whatever does not fit, we either do not perceive or our mind reinterprets to accord with our view. Thus our world view can be both limiting and self-reinforcing. An open-minded world view, though, can be expansive and self-transforming.

From the standpoint of the spiritual path, the single most harmful but commonly-held concept about reality is that we are separate from each other and from the world around us. This illusory sense of a separate self, known as ego, occupies us nearly full-time with its care and feeding, dominating our life and our relationships. But through spiritual practice our ego grows porous and we begin to see through its illusion. This is almost the definition of liberation: freedom from the false self that occupies our core. In the process, our world view changes toward openness and connectedness.

Many other useful concepts can shape a wholesome view of the world. The notion of karma as you sow, so shall you reap tempers our actions. An understanding of the hierarchy of the spiritual worlds and energies gives us a map of the path and our inner life. Recognition of the role of identification as the root of our inner slavishness offers us hope of releasing many self-imposed burdens. The understanding that through our inner work we serve not only ourselves, but the world around us, as well as the Sacred, places our spiritual efforts in their proper context and gives us new motivation.

Now all such deep truths that can form and transform our world view begin as mere intellectual concepts that we hear about. But a full cup has no room for the new. By being open-minded and non-dogmatic in our assumptions about life, we allow new concepts actually to enter us for consideration. By applying ourselves to the practices of the path, true concepts develop from ideas into direct perceptions. Knowledge grows into understanding based in experience. And new understanding changes our world view, thereby transforming us and our life.

Our world view also depends on what world we live in. In the world of automatic energy, where our actions and reactions go solely by habit and our thoughts by association, where we live on autopilot, nothing brings true satisfaction. Our contact with life lacks immediacy and everything, including ourselves, is subject to decay and dissolution in time. Our self-centeredness dictates our actions and experience, inner and outer. That includes building up and defending an inherently empty edifice of an independent self, while in reality we live passively dependent on external events to motivate us. Thus we see the world as all about me, yet essentially unsatisfying and temporary. This is typically where we are when something breaks through to draw us onto the path toward liberation.

And so we begin our climb into the next higher world, characterized by the sensitive energy and actual, direct contact with ourselves and our surroundings. Much of practical spirituality concerns just that: learning to live in the here and now. This changes our world view: life is more vivid and satisfying, but still about me and subject to time.

Beyond that, in our lifetime of spiritual practice, we move toward even higher worlds, of the peace, equanimity and spaciousness of the conscious energy, of the sacred and creative Light, of the unity of Love beyond individuality, and finally the Ultimate. And while we engage in this gradual cultivation of our soul, we also recognize that all of that, the whole depth of the spirit, is available here and now. So we have these twin sides to our view of the spiritual path: one of progressive development over a lifetime of practice and the other of immediate connection with all the worlds. Both are true and together they inform a view of the path balanced between the temporal and the eternal.

Another aspect of Right View concerns the centrality of will, in life and especially in spiritual practice. All eight limbs of the Eightfold Path concern will, as shall see in studying them. Typically we only consider energies in our practice, particularly the energy of consciousness that enables us truly to be conscious, to be mindful and present. But will is at least equal to energies in importance. The facets of will include but are not limited to intention, attention, choice and decision, determination and commitment, responsibility, conscience, love, acceptance, and surrender. If we are anything at all, we are our will. Yet will is impossible to see directly, because will is the one who sees.

So these elements of truth the hierarchy of energies and worlds, will, karma, identification, liberation and the rest combine in us to form a Right View of the world and of the path. Through our practice that view develops and deepens, as its truth enters us experientially and viscerally. This Right View gives us a viable map, showing where we are, where we are going, and how to travel.

For this week, notice your own world view and how it shapes your life.


     

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