Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of March 17, 2014

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Profiting From Our Valleys

(The Path of the Path: Part 2)

Sometimes we find ourselves in a spiritual desert. We lose our motivation for inner work. We lose our taste for and contact with the spirit. We lose our connection with faith. We may have energy, but not the deeper kind. Our inner work suffers both in quality and quantity. Because it takes effort just to maintain our place on the path, our being slips down the sacred mountain. We feel unable to engage in the practices of the way.

Whatever the cause for this inner desert, it presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The more arid our inner life, the more each small bit of inner work matters. When we have no motivation to practice, and nevertheless dig deeper to find even a trickle, that trickle springs from a pure source. This can mark a stage of our path where the ego motivations, such as becoming better than others, lose their allure. The path has shown us the emptiness of such dreams. Yet the pure spring of faith is there in us, perhaps mostly buried. And despite everything, we find the will to serve it.

The spiritual path is a way of self-creation, of soul-creation. Much of the action of the path can only come from us, from our willingness to act, our willingness to create ourselves from nothing. So we do what we can, even if only a small amount of presence, meditation, sensing, or prayer. We choose from ourselves to do that. Then we choose again tomorrow. And the next day. Slowly the weight lightens and the waters of the spirit begin to flow again. We take another step, then many steps, and we’re back on the way.

When life puts us in a valley of inner difficulty, it is sometimes associated with or caused by outer difficulties. Again, this presents both an inner challenge and an opportunity. We do what we can and need to do about our outer situation. Yet our inner life need not be entirely at the mercy of our outer life. When life is not going as we might wish, can we remain free inwardly? Can we find the ocean of peace and equanimity that is always there in us?

The regular practice of meditation is one way. We learn to just sit and be, without reacting to whatever thoughts and emotions arise in us. We let it all come and go. We let it all be as it is. But we do not let it take hold of us. We persevere in sitting in awareness. And awareness is the surface of peace. This type of meditation teaches us about peace, shows us the peace that surrounds us, shows us how to open to that peace, and trains us to rest in equanimity and awareness come what may. That is a perfect training for meeting life wholeheartedly and without being thrown off center by events.

Difficulties can prompt us to redouble our spiritual efforts. When times are tough, our ordinary supports get knocked out from under us. Things are different. Gaps open up in our usual world view. Change is more possible. We may naturally turn to prayer, to ask for healing, for resolution, for repair of our situation. This is right, to turn our suffering to account, to draw something constructive from it. In our more desperate moments, the practices of the spiritual path can anchor and comfort us, give us something to hold onto, and draw us nearer to our true self.

Nothing lasts forever, including the barren deserts and the down times. Can we persevere with our spiritual practice throughout the roller coaster of our life? Can we maintain a steady orientation toward the spirit regardless?

For this week, notice the degree to which you turn to the spirit in your moments of need.


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