Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of October 29, 2012

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(Growing a Spiritual Life: Part 7)

“I love you.” Collectively, we humans have said those words to each other countless times. The whole mystery of love and of life is contained in that simple statement. But what does it mean? Who am I? Who are you? And what is love? What is that relationship between you and me? Who are we?

If we could know, truly know, who we are, then the phrase “I love you” would not be an assertion, nor would it be a revelation, it would be a simple statement of fact. For those whose vision and understanding penetrate deeply enough, love is just how things are: it is the reality, the fundamental reality, the reality that the rest of us aspire to. To enter the field of love is the goal of the spiritual life.

Here’s this from Thomas Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: "In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness...There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun."

Contrast that with our rather jaded view of each other in our day to day dealings. We may view people as objects to be used or as obstacles to be overcome or as inconsequential. But we can learn to see more deeply. We have friends and family and coworkers, people we value, people we respect. Why don’t we value and respect everyone? What is the difference? Is there any real difference between those we care about and everyone else?

The Talmud teaches that each person is unique, that the world was created for each individual, and that to save one person is to save a whole world. Within you, you have this remarkably rich life, your personal history, your evolving story, your skills and abilities, your limitations, preferences, style, and potential, your awareness and you. All of it adds up to the unique package that is you. And here comes another person, separated from you by having a separate body, a separate center, a separate inner richness. Yet we share the fact of our uniqueness, our aliveness, our consciousness.

Indeed, the recognition of our shared consciousness is one of the more direct paths toward love. Here I am, at the center of this awareness that is the essence of my life. And there you are, at the center of the awareness that is the essence of your life. Are your awareness and my awareness different? At its most basic level, we have to say no, there is no difference in our awareness itself. There are certainly differences in how we respond to what arises in awareness. And there appears to be a difference in the center of awareness: yours is over there in you and mine is here in me.

But the awareness, the consciousness is a field that we both partake in: one, unbroken continuum. We share in consciousness. And when we look at another person and remember that their consciousness is the same as ours, not just similar, but one field that we are both in, that is a step toward love. We can feel that sameness, we can almost touch it. You are in awareness there inside of you. I am in awareness here inside of me. There are two points of view, but there are not two separate awarenesses. It is the same awareness. This perception profoundly changes our attitude toward other people. The boundaries between us grow porous, the separation more translucent.

Yet love takes us deeper even than the sameness of consciousness. In your center, there is your I, the one in you who sees and is aware and chooses. In my center, there is my I, the one in me who sees and is aware and chooses. You are unique and I am unique. That uniqueness seems to separate us. Here we come toward the mystery of the Singular Uniqueness, the Divine Will. That One plants a seed of itself in each of us. That seed is our unique I and is connected to our sacred Source. In the Source is our deeper oneness: or very will, our freedom comes from There, is an emanation of That. Trace your attention, your will, back into and through your very core. In that direction lies our Source. In that direction lies our oneness, our love.

Maybe that’s all nice in theory. But how do we come toward that? One way is to explore inwardly, to trace back our own will into its roots, not in theory, not in our thinking, not in analyzing, but actually in practice. That work can best be approached in deep meditation and contemplative prayer. We trace ourselves back into our roots. And that tracing carries us toward our sacred Source, and toward Love.

For this week, explore love.

See Also: Stages of Love


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