Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of May 20, 2013

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Conscience

(Developing Wisdom: Part 7)

What to do and what not to do? These questions confront us through the details of our life. Ethical principles serve as one guide. For example, the wise person understands the truth of the law of karma, of ďas you sow, so shall ye reap.Ē There is no free lunch for unethical or immoral acts. It is just not possible to get away with it. Yes, the consequences may not be immediately apparent, but in every case, you know what you have done and you know intuitively whether itís right or not. If itís not right, you pay at the very least by burying one of your most valuable possessions a little deeper, namely your conscience.

If God can see with our eyes, then it is not possible to hide what we do. If we sweep our misdeeds under a rug, that rug turns out to be transparent. If we know what we have done, then God can know also. Conscience is Godís representative in us. If we honor our conscience and invariably act in accordance with it, it changes our life. For one thing, people can trust us. Perhaps even more importantly, we can trust ourselves. This self-trust profoundly affects our spiritual life, by clearing the channel between our ordinary self and the Sacred. If our ordinary self invariably submits to the promptings of our conscience, then that link to the higher grows strong and new possibilities open to us.

Among those new possibilities is a growing ability to open ourselves to the Sacred, in deep contemplation, in the wordless prayer of connection. That profound opening brings with it intimations and even an influx of the Sacred Light. It transforms our being, creating our soul. But for any of that, purity is a requirement, the purity gained in part by obedience to our conscience.

Beyond questions of ethics and morality, we frequently face issues of responsibility and irresponsibility. Here also, our conscience can guide us toward responsible action. Temptations spring up unexpectedly, not only for wrong acts but for irresponsible acts and the non-action of shirking. Being grounded in conscience, in that circle of inner trust and right action, serves us well when such temptations arise, as they frequently do in both large and small ways.

Conscience only has the power we give it. A mind-heart totally preoccupied with its own automatic thoughts and reactive emotions cannot hear conscience, which gets lost in that inner crowd. Presence puts us in touch with the cognizant stillness of consciousness, of pure awareness. That inner peace allows conscience to make itself known as our intuitive sense of right and wrong. Here we can enter a virtuous circle of positive feedback. The more we listen to and act in accord with conscience, the more inner peace we have, which in turn clarifies our perception of conscience and weakens the many attachments and identifications that turn us away from acting in accord with conscience.

This affects who we are in a fundamental and profoundly positive way. Conscience, along with attention, is one of our major links to our true individuality, to own I. The pretender Iís that pop up with every passing thought and whim fade away before our commitment to conscience and our true I. Here I am in the midst of a quandary. Will I do this thing that part of me wants to do, even though in my heart of hearts I know better? Making that hard choice, in the face of desire and identification, is our role in the working of conscience. What do I choose? The road to freedom and the Sacred, or the road to nowhere. Unless I just give up trying, again and again, I am put in front of that choice.

Lastly, conscience goes beyond ethics, morality, and responsibility to show us the way toward quality and excellence. In any domain of our life, can we see whether we have done the job completely? Is it done well, with the appropriate level of care and attention to detail? What are the possibilities for improving what I do? When I am finished with a project, large or small, am I satisfied with what I have put into it and with the result? Presence helps us intuit our conscience, and both together enable us to be here, doing what we do, with quality and excellence.

For this week, notice the decision points, even the minor ones, where temptation pulls us in one direction, while conscience prompts the other way. How would it change you, if you could trust yourself always to follow your conscience? Maybe you already are a moral and responsible person. But if conscience is the representative of the Divine and a link with our true I, it is worth another look at the gray areas.


     

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