Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 23, 2013

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Service

Why do we work? The obvious, primary reason lies in the necessity and dignity of earning our living. But there is much more to it. For one, we seek work that will utilize and develop our particular abilities and inclinations, work that will enable us to become our selves. We are each unique, a quality we inherit from the Divine. Our personal uniqueness is to be honored; it is Sacred. We cannot be someone else; we can only hope and strive to become our self. For each of us to flower, we must work, we must engage in life in our own unique way. For some that means working in the home as a care giver or homemaker. For others it means working outside the home. We may be concerned with the question of whether this or that job or career is right for me. That is a fine concern, as long as it does not paralyze us. Seeking the perfect job may prevent us from finding or accepting a good one, a job that suits us, that will enable us to take some steps along our path.

Yet there is still more. We seek work that gives us satisfaction. And the most fundamental satisfaction comes from being of service to other people. Fortunately, our economic system insures that our work is of service. Otherwise, no one would pay us to do what we do. So nearly all work is service. We could even define work as serving, as producing something useful or valuable to someone. The meaning of our work is the service we provide through it. So nearly all work is meaningful. The exceptions to work being service or meaningful are if what we do exploits, deceives, or harms others. Such work cannot be considered service to others and its meaning is a negative one. Service benefits other people.

For our spiritual path, the service side of work is its saving grace. To the extent we feel we are serving, we are partially protected from our work merely increasing our egoism, our self-centeredness. Service is an expression of love and love undermines egoism.

Take the notion of success. If I consider myself to be successful in my career, in my work, then that very success can easily inflate my self-importance. If that success comes with increased responsibilities or power, my self-importance may also increase, to the detriment of my spiritual possibilities. If I consider myself to be unsuccessful or to be a failure, then that can easily inflate my self-pity, self-hatred, envy, or resentment. Thus failure can also increase our egoism in the way of negative self-importance.

However, doing our work as service removes the issue of considering myself to be a success or a failure. The foremost question then is simply am I serving well? The focus is on our actual work and those it serves. The focus is off our self-image and how our work impacts it. We just seek to serve well. We seek to use our talents to benefit our fellow human beings, life on the Earth, and the Earth itself.

Along with our outer work, our inner work is also a form of service. Through meditation, prayer, and presence we serve the Sacred as well as our higher self. Our spiritual path is the way of service. This view of our inner work takes it out of the realm of egoism: it is not just for us. This deeper, non-self-centered reason to practice, puts our inner work on a sound footing. Motivation matters in the spiritual path. There is no higher motive than that of serving.

The motivation of service also helps us in our job. Keeping service foremost transforms our approach to our work. It is not just about what we can get out of it. It is also about what we can give through it.

For this week, look at how your outer work serves others. See whether that viewpoint can help you through any negative attitudes you might have about your work and those you work with. See whether serving helps you open your heart to your work.


     

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