Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 15, 2013

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Self-Management

(Developing Wisdom: Part 2)

When we describe a person as “having it together,” we mean just that, we mean that they are inwardly unified. The opposite is when a person “falls apart.” The difference between the two states goes well beyond what is readily noticeable by other people; the difference lies deep in the spirit of the person. Certainly, a key part of wisdom is to understand ourselves well enough to manage our inner world to be more often “together” and less often “falling apart.”

This notion of falling apart sounds extreme and rare, like the old idea of a nervous breakdown: a severe, out-of-control, and negative emotional episode. But there are mild forms of falling apart, forms that we live in much of our time.

What is it that falls apart in us? We have our various parts: body, heart, and mind. Often there is little or no relation between these parts of ours. That is the state of having fallen apart. Our mind floats off into daydreams and ruminations. Our emotions react to events. And our body has its own needs and impulses. Each does its own thing. We have no unity in that state, our usual state.

Our inner work offers us two approaches toward unity, toward being inwardly “together.” First we have the all-purpose tool of attention. When we pay attention to our body, and particularly to sensing our body, we are relating our self and our body. Attention to our body makes our body “visible” to us, to our presence. Attention serves as the mechanism of that relationship. Similarly, when we turn our attention to our emotions, they become visible and related to our presence. And when we turn our attention to our thoughts, they become visible to our presence. Paying attention to all three of our parts relates them all in our presence. Our presence thus becomes the place of our unity, a unity enabled by and dependent on attention.

The second approach is to enter presence directly, particularly by opening to the consciousness that surrounds us, but typically remains in the background. The cognizant stillness of consciousness, or pure awareness prior to content, has the quality of wholeness and naturally embraces our disparate parts into a unity. Our body, heart, and mind find their home in consciousness. We find our home in consciousness, in the inner peace of consciousness. We come to it most readily in quiet meditation, but with practice it becomes available to us even during a busy day.

Self-management, the ability to direct one’s actions along intentional and constructive lines, clearly is part of wisdom. But what does unity or “togetherness” have to do with self-management.

Problems with managing our functions, our body, mind, and heart, stem largely from our lack of direct contact with these our parts and the lack of relationship among them. Presence and consciousness, which is an aspect of presence, brings about the unity that enables our intentions, choices, and decisions to be effective in our functions. Rather than have our bodily addictions and impulses drive our actions, our body takes its place in our presence, in our wholeness and serves its proper role as the basis of presence. Rather than have our emotional reactions apply their dystopian colors to our inner world, our emotions take their place in our presence and serve their proper role in connecting us with people, with life, with the spirit. Rather than have our thoughts, daydreams, and ruminations continually distract our minds, our cognitive functions take their place in our presence and serve their proper role in seeing accurately and deeply into what lies before us in this moment and into the possibilities our future holds.

In the unity of presence, our experiences come into and our actions come from our self, our true self. Self-management is less about managing our self than it is about having a self that can do the managing. Self-management means having such a self with its natural authority over our parts. One way that inner authority matters for our spiritual inner life is that we can then loosen the grip of certain destructive habits, like smoking, alcohol abuse, overeating, anger, complaining, and so forth, habits that destroy the very energies we need for our inner work to thrive.

In wisdom and presence we come into our self, a self that can manage our life constructively, productively, creatively, and with heart. For this week, look at how you manage your actions and your inner world. See what may be lacking. How can you address that? What is the role of presence in living wisely?


     

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