Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of October 24, 2011

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(Developing Will: Aspect 3 of 10)

The mere fact of living imposes an extensive array of obligations: to ourselves, family, profession, society, nation, and planet. To the extent that we recognize and accept these obligations as obligations, we become responsible. To be responsible is thus primarily a matter of will: the will to understand our obligations and all of their layers, nuances, and ramifications, the will to accept our obligations, and the will to act on them consistently. The transition from adolescence to maturity is just this: becoming responsible. These ongoing and ever-changing tasks of understanding, accepting, and acting also require the will continually to adjust and improve our response to obligations.

The inner faculty that enables us to recognize obligations and prompts us to act on them, we call conscience, a high-resolution instrument of perception. Conscience bubbles up, distilled from vast subconscious processes, and yields an intuition of rightness. If we listen to it and live by it, conscience shows us how to be responsible.

The idea of responsibility carries the baggage of drudgery and boredom. We do it, whatever it is, because we must, because we expect it of ourselves. But even the drudgery of acting responsibly in the small, menial tasks of life, has its satisfactions. Indeed, taking out the garbage may yield truer satisfaction than eating cake. Doing the necessary aligns us with reality. And in that alignment there is rightness and wholeness.

We have spiritual obligations, which are not as easily recognizable as our external obligations. The Sacred needs us, needs our inner work of prayer and presence, needs our creative actions, and needs our talents and our excellence approaching perfection. The Sacred needs the energies we transform through our inner work, the order we bring into the world by responsible action, the evolutionary and revolutionary changes we initiate, and the love we give. To fulfill our individual destiny, our personal potential, is to deserve the gift of free will and justify the hope of our birthright, our inherent connection to the Source of All. The slogan “be all you can be” and the notion of becoming yourself speak to this process of fulfillment. This responsibility spreads across our entire life: to discover, in action and in being, the route toward bringing to life the best of our own unique possibilities. We have many assets and, yes, many constraints and limitations. But these serve as our framework, our opportunity and our challenge for a life of fulfillment. Who am I? Who are you? We answer by doing.

Creative action and spiritual inner work yield deep satisfaction, even pleasure and joy. The work of presence, for example, becomes much more than something we feel we should do, something we think is right for us, something we struggle to remember and do, something that evaporates as soon as an even mildly interesting perception draws our attention. Presence makes life vivid. It brings its own inherent pleasure and joy. The responsibility to practice presence certainly transcends drudgery. And the deeper joys of prayer and opening to the sacred have transcendence built right into them.

Yet we do not pursue responsible actions for the pleasures they bring, for that would quickly turn into its opposite, irresponsibility. We act responsibly because it is the right thing to do. We act responsibly because it aligns us with and prepares us for the Sacred. Nevertheless, satisfaction, joy, and pleasure arise as natural and welcome byproducts of responsible action.

So the inner work of responsibility is to act in accord with conscience, despite the difficulties, despite our impulses to avoid, shirk, and procrastinate. We do this again and again and again, until we have confidence in ourselves, the confidence that we will act like a mensch in every situation.

For this week, notice your temptations to avoid doing the responsible thing.


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