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Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of November 4, 2013

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Timeless Acts

(Time and the Timeless: Part 5)

Where do decisions come from and how do they occur? The general pattern is that we consider our options, think about them, think of their ramifications, see how we feel about them, and then we commit ourselves to one option. The last step, the moment of commitment is the moment of decision, the rest being preparatory. That pattern can vary, such as when we decide something and then come up with reasons to justify that decision. However, in every case, though we may not recognize it as such, there is a moment of decision. The decision itself is an act of will, an act of our will, and comes from our core self, from beyond our mind. Although it plays out in time and space, the decision is made in the realm of will, beyond time and space, and so it is timeless.

Sometimes we wobble: we decide one thing and do another, we commit and then fail to carry through. These pseudo-decisions do not come from our core, do not carry the persistent weight of a true decision. Instead we may be driven to such false decisions by our emotional reactions to a situation, by old habits of body, thought and personality. For a decision to stick, to be effective over time, it must come from our core, from who we are, from the center of our will. In the moment of making the decision, we bring the whole of ourselves to bear. We feel: I am deciding this. By our full presence, by our full participation in the act of deciding, we make it a special moment, a timeless moment, one that we will remember and follow through on.

Another timeless act, another act of will, occurs whenever we pay attention. Attention is one of the powers of our will. And because it can occur so often during our day, it is the easiest way to begin to understand will in ourselves. For example, right now you are paying attention to these words. As you do that, you could also pay attention to your attention, to seeing what attention does, to looking for where your attention comes from. Attention is different than thoughts, emotions, or sensory impressions, because we can put our attention on any of these. Attention is different than awareness or consciousness, because attention can focus our awareness, focus our consciousness. Like decisions, attention comes from the realm of will, beyond time and space, but manifesting in time and space. Attention is part of our will, part of who we really are. Where your attention is, is where you are. Directing our attention is an act of will. Paying attention or sustaining attention is an act of will, a timeless act.

Several kinds of practices relate to attention. First, is simply practicing paying attention, sustaining attention. This is not like watching a TV show or movie, where our attention is drawn without our actively doing anything. TV does not engage our will, we are just passive. But in other situations, where we intentionally keep our attention on something, we develop our attention, we develop our will.

Second is looking for the source of our attention [1]. Where does our attention come from? This is not something to think about, but something to look for directly, something to see about. The practice of following our attention back along itself toward its source gradually teaches us about will and about a direction beyond space and time.

Third is being our attention [2]. Join forces with your attention. Become your attention. Be the one who is looking, the one who is paying attention, for example, the one who is reading these words. This practice helps us become ourselves, become our will, become our I.

The second and third of these practices require experimentation on our part. If we have not worked in these ways, it may not be immediately obvious what they mean, what they entail. So we try as best we can, try variations, keeping at it until something starts to come back to us from the effort, some understanding deepens.

Choosing can be an act of will, akin to decision. But it is not always so. Often our choices are just one preference winning out over competing preferences, or our choice may be driven by some emotion like fear, anger, or greed, or by our body, like with gluttony or lust. These are not choices, rather they are the abdication of choice, wherein we become a little less than human, allowing ourselves to be controlled by our habits of thought and emotion, by reactions, by appetites. To be a true choice it must be relatively free, inwardly free. A free choice is informed by our conscience, the part of us that is connected to wisdom, the part of us that sees the truth. A free choice responds to what is right or best or necessary in a given situation, not with stock answers, not with pre-established patterns of body, emotion, or thought.

The difference is not always obvious. We may choose to eat that second piece of cake. Or we may inwardly shirk choosing, give up and let our body choose for us. Outwardly there is no difference: the cake gets eaten either way. Inwardly, though, we know there is a difference, even if we do not want to look at that difference. If we really choose, then it is somewhat easier to be present during the action we have chosen, somewhat easier, for example, to taste and enjoy the cake in peace, rather than gobble it down in a gluttonous rush. In the first case, we eat the cake; in the second, the cake eats us.

In meditation, we see our thoughts float by, embodying the passage of time, whereas we remain anchored in the spacious consciousness through which our thoughts pass. This is the interface, the shoreline between time and the timeless. Will comes from beyond consciousness, from a deeper level of the timeless, the realm of will. When we reach with our will from the timeless into time, we establish a moment of what the Greeks called kairos, a moment of destiny creation. Each act of will is a creative act. Through acts of will, we create our life.

In the context of spiritual practice, we find another example in prayer. In the depths of prayer, we reach out, our will reaches out, toward the Divine. We reach deep into and beyond ourselves; we open our very core to the Sacred. These are all acts of will. And because our will ultimately derives from and is of a piece with the Divine Will, these acts of prayer have the potency to transform us and to serve the greater Wholeness. When we reach toward and open to the Sacred, we are working to reconnect our individual will to that greater Wholeness, which our will embodies in this material world. [3]

For this week, notice and develop your timeless acts of will.

[1] see the article: The Source of Attention

[2] see the articles: Be Your Attention and Participation: Being Attention

[3] see the article: Contemplating the Source through Attention


     

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