Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 9, 2014

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Informed Initiative

(Deepening Our Inner Life: Part 10)

In many facets of life and society, we value initiative as a quality of creative and effective people. In our inner life, in our spiritual practice, initiative also matters in important ways, although it does not necessarily become visible to other people. Initiative generally is a manifestation of will. We put ourselves into what we start. The degree to which we do that impacts the effectiveness of our initiative.

For our inner work, a prime example is the initiative in any given moment to wake up and be present. In one sense, this is a moment of grace, with the initiative coming from beyond us, yet acting through our will. Our own initiative in awakening enters with what we do with that moment of grace. Suddenly I am here. Do I take this opportunity to practice, for example to practice presence? Do I gather my attention into my body and begin sensing? Do I practice conscious breathing or energy breathing, right now? If the situation is appropriate, do I practice kindness? Or do I let the moment fade, as I fade back into autopilot living? Awakening opens an opportunity, with many immediate possible follow-on choices. It is our initiative that can meet this moment and rise to its promise.

Yet our inner work initiative must be well informed. Without having learned various practices, we would not even know that they exist as possibilities. Without honest self-assessment, we would not know which practice to begin in that moment of awakening.

Inner work initiative also goes beyond the immediate opportunities of the moment. We can set a strategy. We can set a schedule, for example, for our formal meditation sittings. We can answer the questions of when, where, and for how long we will sit, of how to manage our life and time to make room for our sitting practice. This takes initiative to start and to maintain.

Sometimes we need to make a change: sit longer, engage in a different inner practice during the day, fast, learn a new practice, join a group, and so on. All such changes take initiative, informed, spiritual initiative. And changes are necessary. Our soul and spirit evolve and grow as our inner work takes root and ripens. The frontier of our personal evolution continually shifts as our practice proceeds or slips back. So we try different approaches, find what works, and go with that. Even one practice, such as sensing or meditation, deepens as we stay with it. And to support that deepening practice our style must change and keep pace. Informed by our self-knowledge, we adapt our practice to our unique possibilities, limitations, and need. Then we note the results and adjust, again and again. This all takes initiative.

Another type of initiative is that of the explorer who sets out discover new realms. So it is with our inner world. Within us, layer upon layer of inner energies and our own spirit await us, hidden from our current perceptions. Our ability to see, recognize, and work with what is truly there in us and beyond us needs to grow. The exploratory initiative, that has us seek new ways to look into our soul and spirit, makes that growth possible. This keeps our meditation practice, for example, from being an unchanging repetition. Repetition and persistence are absolutely necessary. But they are not sufficient. Our initiative carries a creative element that enlivens our inner work.

Finally there is the informed initiative underlying service. Our spiritual practice is not only about inner work, but also includes our service to our family and society. What service to undertake and how to perform that service requires informed initiative. Otherwise we stumble along with eyes half-closed.

For this week, re-engage your own initiative in your spiritual practice, informed by your experience, knowledge, and perceptions.


     

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