Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 18, 2012

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The Habit of Exploration

(Spiritual Habits: Part 7 of 7)

To the early European explorers, the great expanse of the Atlantic ocean hid the unknown at its far shores. In the same way, our inner world remains largely unknown to us and hides the realm of the spirit. We engage in spiritual practices, meditation, presence, and prayer, but we do not really expect to discover anything extraordinary. We may find ourselves more relaxed, less stressed, more energized, more heart-full. But it all remains just an extension of our ordinary experience and at the same level. Our thoughts, emotions, bodily and sense perceptions may change, but all of that still captivates us, still commands our attention and concern as the place of our life. We do not recognize what the experience of a different order of being might be. Even if we read a description of it in a book or if someone tells us about it, we still do not see it, we feel that it does not actually apply to us.

To penetrate in depth, we need an attitude of investigation and exploration, we need to look deeply with a mind open to new categories of experience, new kinds of perception. For example, we may know about the stillness behind and between our thoughts. Yet we relegate that experience to just a mind that is temporarily blank, and consider it ordinary and uninteresting. That is a mistake, for that blank stillness is much more than a mere absence of thoughts: it is our opening into the ocean of consciousness, it is one portal through which we can explore in depth.

What is consciousness? What is the substance of our awareness? What is beyond consciousness? What and where is the spiritual reality? What are inner energies? What is presence? Who am I? In what sense and when do I exist? Why are we here? Why is the universe here? What is the purpose of life? Of my life? What can I do? What should I do? Do I have a soul? Do I need to develop a soul? How?

None of these fundamental questions can be fully answered by logic or by science or by any ordinary knowledge, because they all address the realms beyond space and time, the realms beyond the reach of logic, science, and knowledge. To approach such questions we can only delve deep within our own being. An explorer ventures out to discover new worlds, to find what is there, to see the truth. A spiritual explorer ventures inward to discover new worlds and see the truth. That is the opportunity that calls to us.

Each time we meditate or enter contemplative prayer or embark on another episode of presence, we look to cross the boundaries of our ordinary experience. We look to see beyond the envelope we live in. We take an empirical approach to see what is actually there in us. All the great maps of the spiritual reality, all the great philosophies and theologies can provide guidance, but do not in themselves enable us to see. True seeing goes beyond ideas and thoughts. No description can teach us the fragrance of the rose.

We study the teachings and the practices. Then we dive within and see what we see. In our inner work, we try different approaches. We notice what works and what does not. We take what does work and push it further. We try variations, different inner actions and inner postures. We experiment with intensity and focus, with relaxing and opening. We extend in breadth and in depth. We extend in time and in our body space, in duration, frequency, and breadth of presence. We notice what we have not noticed. We question our assumptions regarding what is not possible for us. We extend beyond time to the timeless, beyond form to the formless. If we donít know how, we experiment. Our inner being becomes our laboratory, fully-equipped and ready. We notice conditions and results. We notice how the daily variations in our life-style affect our inner life and our inner work. We cultivate our spiritual intelligence and manage our path.

Wonders await us: worlds of meaning, purpose, and joy beyond conception. Yes, there is much to be said for regular efforts, such as getting ourselves to sit on the meditation cushion every day. Those efforts are necessary. But we also need to push our envelope and explore beyond it.

For this week, look more deeply.


     

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