Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of December 26, 2011

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(Sacred Impulses: Facet 1 of 8)

Although our body may be complete, our soul is not. That fundamental incompleteness drives us to find wholeness, to find what we’re missing, even if we are only vaguely aware of the lack. We may look in many directions to fill that hole in our center, that core uncertainty, and ultimately find that we are still not satisfied, not complete. Thus begins our thirst for self-perfection, our wish for completion, our recognition that nothing external can fill our fundamental need, that nothing external can build our soul, and that the aim of spiritual inner work is the very transformation that we seek.

As a teenager, I thought that achieving a particular goal I had set for myself would utterly change my life, inwardly and outwardly. In the event, on the evening after that supposedly-momentous achievement, I stood in my home and realized to my shock and surprise that I had not changed, that nothing had really changed. It took several more years before I found spiritual practice and saw that here was something that could lead me toward the transformation I sought.

The Buddha’s First Noble Truth points to the unsatisfactory nature of life: not getting what you want, getting what you don’t want, the impermanence of everything and everyone in time, our personal imperfections and limitations, and so on. We find something similar in the Christian admonitions regarding evildoing and Hell. Such views form one major source of our motivation, our wish for freedom, for transcending time. We wish to escape, not to be subject to that pervasive dissatisfaction, not to do evil.

The other major source of our motivation is our growing perception of the Sacred, the Great Attractor, and wanting to be closer to That. This wish comes from love of the Divine, from seeing that completion of our soul is the way to the Divine. The many forms of prayer nurture this attraction and increase our wish.

Between these two, between fear of the Lord and the love of the Lord, between the need for freedom and the need for completion, we find a balance that drives our wish for self-perfection, that both pushes and attracts us along the way of the spirit. Without that wish, we have no spiritual life. The stronger, more urgent our wish, the more surely we stay on the path.

God does not do our inner work for us, but does give us the freedom to live as we choose, at least inwardly. The Sacred Impulse of wish presents us our need, awakens our desire for the Divine. It is up to each of us individually whether and how to respond to that desire, to that need. It is up to us to respond by our inner work. No one can do that for us, not even God, Who may need our work, but only as our own ongoing choice. If God did our work for us, then that would be slavery not freedom, servility not service, subjugation not partnership. It is up to us and wish confronts us with that possibility, presents us with that choice.

Although it is up to us to respond to wish, the intensity of our wish is not entirely our own doing, because wish comes to us, as do all the Sacred Impulses, from a higher world beyond our control and beyond our ordinary perceptions. Responding to wish, by our inner work, can help open that channel. Prayer can help. Wishing for wish can help. Seeing the reality of our position, our life as it is, our limited time, can help. Finding intimations of the Sacred in music, in the arts, and in nature can help. Deep meditation, the practice of presence, and noticing their effects can help. The basic thing is to open to, recognize, and honor our wish to serve, our wish for the Real, our wish to be real, our wish to be.

For this week, notice the strength and depth of your wish and what serves to increase it.


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