Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of May 26, 2014

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Inner Excellence

(Deepening Our Inner Life: Part 8)

We are so focused on being good at what we do outwardly that we largely ignore our inner state, except when it runs out of bounds and disrupts our outer life. But we can bring the same level of commitment to excellence in our inner world as we do in our outer world. Just as outer excellence begins in awareness of our surroundings and our actions, inner excellence begins in awareness of our inner state, particularly our thoughts and emotions. And just as outer excellence is not compromised by events around us that we cannot control, inner excellence is not compromised by the content of our automatic thoughts and reactive emotions.

A fundamental difference exists between thoughts that come to us by association or reaction and the thoughts we think intentionally. All manner of untoward thoughts may arise in our mind, but as long as we do not buy into them as true or as what we believe or as a guide to action, then they can come and go without impacting our striving for perfection. But as soon as we intentionally think some thought, or buy into one that arises on its own, we become responsible for that thought, we own it. Intentional thoughts are acts and, as such, have consequences. We may not be able to control our associative or reactive thoughts, but by definition we can control our intentional ones. We are only responsible for what we can control.

There is a gray area here in our thoughts. Say you notice a series of thoughts or emotions of a judgmental, hateful, or even vengeful nature. Do you tacitly approve of those thoughts and emotions, while letting them run on? Do you allow your inner life to serve as an arena in which you inwardly act out in ways that you know you should not do in your outer life? Maybe you see this as a harmless outlet, a way to let off steam as it were. The question is: does this pollute your inner world? The alternative would be to disavow such thoughts and emotions, to turn your face, your attention away from them.

Responsibility produces excellence. And our personal guide to how to be responsible is our conscience. Thus, conscience is our ally in the path of inner excellence. Conscience illuminates our inner world, showing us what is true and what is not, even in the gray areas. Can we live with an inner standard of excellence? Can we live so that even our thoughts and emotions reflect who we wish to be? In our depth, we have the purity of our true nature. By striving for excellence and purity in our inner world, we align ourselves with conscience, with our true nature.

When we look at who we are, there need not be this mixed bag that includes aspects of which we might be ashamed. Can we extend the Golden Rule to apply inwardly as well as outwardly? Can we treat other people, even in our hidden thoughts and emotions, as they would wish to be treated? Can we treat ourselves with respect and kindness, even in our hidden thoughts and emotions? Can we meet the future by preparing it in the present, without buying into our overblown anxieties?

These issues are not only about moral and psychological norms; they are deeply spiritual questions. The higher realms of the spirit have gates of purity. Only when our being becomes relatively pure can we have any hope of entry there. This is a law of the spirit, just as there are laws of nature. It is a fact of how the spirit works. Purity matters. And the road toward purity begins with the effort of inner excellence.

For this week, work to bring excellence to your inner world.

See Also: Excellence


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