Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 2, 2013

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Being Your Heart

(Being Yourself: Part 3)

From relaxing deeply by releasing our muscular tensions, letting our thoughts go where they will without going with them, and allowing our emotional stress to subside, many benefits follow. Among those benefits is a very different and more natural emotional tone, namely equanimity, the appreciation and joy of living, and a warm-hearted, fellow-feeling for people. This allows us to reclaim our heart, our natural heart, from all the destructive emotions.

Because we live so often at the mercy of destructive emotions like hatred and anger, jealousy and envy, greed, worry, resentment, frustration, and the rest, we lose ourselves. We vanish in the face of these emotional states. We are not living our life at those moments, our emotions are living for us. Every perception gets filtered by the emotion. Every thought feeds the emotion. Our body dumps stress molecules into our bloodstream. Our breathing changes to support the emotion. Our posture adapts to express the emotion. And we are not there. We do not exist in those moments. Only the emotion does.

When we notice one of these destructive emotions get triggered in us and begin gathering steam, a short window of choice opens up. If we ignore it, if we fail to choose, the default option has us falling headlong into the emotional storm, be it mild or severe.

But that window of choice presents another possibility: we have a chance to change our attitude toward the situation. Sometimes thatís all it takes. We simply say to ourselves ďIím not going with this now,Ē and it stops. But more often that kind of direct confrontation with our inner state does not work, because a real change of attitude requires forgiveness, tolerance, letting go, courage, fortitude, acceptance, or love. These qualities come to us from a higher world. Yet in the throes of a destructive emotion, we are mired in a lower world, generally precluding any contact with the higher. So our attempts to think our way out of it or change our attitude prove ineffective because they come from the same level as the emotion, and we slip deeper into its grip.

What we can do then is try to work around the edges, to come at the storm obliquely. All emotion has both psychological and physiological components. Even when our psychology is fully committed to the emotion, our body may offer a constructive avenue to ameliorate it. One approach to this consists of relaxing our body, particularly our chest and our face, and sometimes also our shoulders or abdomen. Keeping at this relaxing of our body, our thoughts may follow suit. Soon enough the strength of the emotional storm may start to wane. Then by moving into some activity that engages us fully, we might shift our attention enough to free ourselves from the destructive emotion. Any wholesome activity may work, but one that particularly feeds our inner life is the practice of sensing our body, full body awareness, being centered in our whole body.

Sometimes we have the opposite problem, rather than a storm we have a flat, indifferent state of our heart. One approach would be to re-label that indifference or boredom as peace and allow it to penetrate more deeply into our emotional core. That can raise our state to true peace, which in turn enables other higher emotions to come through.

Some emotional states can be debilitating, chronic, and intractable. In those cases, we seek help from mental health professionals.

But if we can be there in our center, seeing all the emotions and other perceptions pass through our presence, we can learn to let them come and let them go without attempting to keep them or push them away, which generally does not work anyhow. This is the practice of equanimity, which is peace. Equanimity is to our emotions what the silence underlying our mind is to our thoughts. A peaceful heart has room for the emotional storms to arise and pass by. On one level we may be in the turmoil of a strong and destructive emotion, while on another our inner peace remains undisturbed. Yet equanimity is not indifference. The latter blocks any warmth, whereas equanimity opens us to a warm-hearted appreciation of our life and of the people around us. Equanimity lets us be in our emotional heart, lets us be our heart, and lets us just be.

A peaceful heart, a silent mind, and awareness of our whole (sensation) body form the complete foundation for presence, for full participation in our life. For this week, practice being your heart.


     

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