Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 16, 2012

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(Sacred Impulses: Facet 4 of 8)

Thoroughgoing acceptance of the true place of the Higher, the Sacred in our inner world takes us toward the apex of the spiritual life, while the role of acceptance with respect to our inner and outer circumstances is well summarized in the first part of Reinhold Niebuhrís Serenity Prayer:

God, Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

In all three domains, the Higher, the inner, and the outer, acceptance brings peace and serenity. That peace, that equanimity dissolves our dissatisfactions with ourselves and our life. It stops the awful waste of our inner energies, our sensation and consciousness, on a fruitless internal battle aimed at remaking ourselves in our egoís image. Acceptance removes the source of our identifications, attachments, and clinging. We let things be as they are. We let ourselves be as we are. And in that letting go, in that as-is acceptance, in that wholehearted embrace, we find room to work to improve ourselves in the ways that need improving. But that self-improvement occurs in a context of acceptance and a wish to evolve, not a context of rejection. We accept and we aspire.

As with any other aspect of inner work, acceptance operates differently at each level of our inner life. At the lowest level, where we fall into unnecessary desperation, overarching desires, simple identification, getting lost in the outer, being driven by our emotions in an unhealthy, destructive, or self-centered way, acceptance means letting go of those things, being at peace with things as they are.

At the level of our personality, acceptance means not rejecting our body, not rejecting ourselves, forgoing the self-recriminations, the self-hatred, the wishing that I were different and not so very this or that. Such destructive self-rejection comes from self-centeredness, from the notion that I should be better than this, better than them. So to accept oneself utterly deflates our overinflated views of ourselves, our overinflated desires. We give up and just be ourselves. Nevertheless, if we have destructive habits, like smoking tobacco or overeating, we can both accept that habit as our habit and work with determination to change it, to stop smoking, to eat properly. Similarly if we want to achieve something, we can accept that as a goal of ours, accept that we have not yet achieved it, and accept that we need to work hard to achieve it.

At the level of consciousness, acceptance means just being, non-doing. We let all our sensory and thought and feeling impressions come and go without clinging or identifying. We let it all be as it is. And in that being, we rest in stillness, in awareness itself. The conscious energy gradually collects in us, reintegrating from its dispersed state. And we come to peace and equanimity in the vast hall of cognizant stillness, in the field of consciousness that we all share. Indeed self-acceptance and learning to be enable us to drop our barriers to accepting other people as they are.

At the levels beyond consciousness, acceptance means surrender, opening our innermost being to the Sacred. It is there that we clarify our questions, begin to see the answers, begin to understand the reasons for our inner and outer work, find the Source that fills our heart to overflowing, and begin to see how we might best live our life.

For this week, ask yourself whether you are now or have ever been utterly content. If you have the necessities of life, contentment is not then a matter of having everything you want, because there is no end to wants. Contentment comes from accepting and embracing our situation as it is and, for many of us, would represent a radical transformation of our inner lives.


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