Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 9, 2013

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(Spirituality at Work: Part 5)

Our business relationships can be honest and heart-to-heart, while still contributing to our success. True interpersonal relationships are neither utilitarian nor manipulative. We relate as I and Thou. We relate to the person as a person, not as an object who can be useful to us. For example, networking for purely utilitarian purposes can have its drawbacks. In relationships, everything depends on our intentions. If we are out to use someone, to get from them what we can, or to ingratiate ourselves with the hope of winning favor, we fall short of the mark. Such an approach leaves our heart a little colder. In attempting to use someone else, we end up using ourselves, and paying for it by insulting our conscience. If we gossip, blame, or backstab, stepping on others on our road to success, we lose something precious.

One special and sometimes troubled type of relationship is between bosses and those who report to them. These cannot be peer-to-peer relationships, since we need either to follow or to give orders. Still, our general approach of relating to everyone with courtesy and respect also applies to how we relate to those above and below us on the org chart. Only it is not up to us to set the tone of the relationship with those above us, because there we are in the role of follower and must take our cues accordingly. People who are treated with respect tend to reciprocate. Remembering that can help in the difficult cases.

But respect is not just a matter of lip service. To be true it must also be an inner respect. Entertaining disrespectful thoughts and emotions, even when they do not spill over into outward actions, can poison any relationship. Here is the inner work of business relationships: to be open-hearted, courteous, and respectful inwardly as well as outwardly. That does not mean we give away the store. It does not mean we are weak in negotiations. It simply means that we do what we do with respect in our actions, speech, mind, and heart. The deeper we see into others and into ourselves, the more respect we have. It comes as a natural response to the reality of our being.

We aim to let every encounter with another person remind us to be present, even in professional and business contexts. Here I am with this other being, this other child of God. This person feels their personhood inwardly just as I do. This person is conscious, just as I am. This person has hopes and dreams, cares and concerns, just as I do. Being present with another person is an expression of love; it is a way of honoring the reality of their being, as well as our own. Despite and beneath all my thoughts and emotions, I am here with you.

How to do that? First by noticing how we treat other people in our mind and heart. When we see negative or demeaning thoughts, resentment, dislike, rejection, hatred, indifference, or greed within us, we see our inner state for what it is. Then we have the possibility of choosing to let that go, not to dwell in that realm. We refuse to go on nurturing negative thoughts about people. We choose instead to move into presence, into just being in this interaction with the people around us. Later, and with practice, the mere proximity of other people can awaken us to presence, to being with them, and to being open to and creating opportunities to do positive things for them, without seeking anything in return.

For this week, notice your attitudes to the people you work with and to those you interact with in your business dealings. Do you need to make any changes there, inner or outer?


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