Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of August 11, 2014

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Conserving Inner Energy

(Energy Practice: Part 5)

All the wonderful spiritual methods for increasing our inner energies appeal to us intrinsically: energy breathing, meditation, contemplative or ecstatic prayer, and others. Many actions not usually considered part of spiritual inner work can also increase our energies, such as creative actions, music, dance, writing poetry, skiing, hiking, mountain climbing and other sports, and so on. As we gain experience with inner work, we come to recognize the quantity and quality of our inner energies in any given moment. That perception matters because it opens the door to noticing which of our actions increase our energies or raise their quality and which actions waste our energies or lower their quality. Managing our inner work, our inner life, is intimately bound up with managing our energies. Methods to increase our inner energy form one side of energy practice. Another side concerns not wasting our energies. It matters little if we gain an ability to draw energies in, to raise our energy level, if we then just let it dribble away uselessly. As long as we have holes in our bucket, filling that bucket does little good.

The intuitive perception of our energy level enables us to judge our life, our actions with respect to their effect on our energies. Though this is different for each of us, there are some guidelines we can use as starting points for noticing our own energy flows.

Overindulging our bodily appetites tends to waste our energies. For example, overeating may use up some of the energy that we would otherwise have available for our inner work. Not eating enough can also diminish our energy production. We each need to find the balance that works for us personally. The same can be said for how much sleep we get. For necessities like eating and sleeping we seek the appropriate level for our own body. Moderation works here.

Some habits we seek to eliminate altogether. That goes for all recreational drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, psychedelics, uppers, downers, and the rest. They might boost our energies temporarily, but then they leave us inwardly flat for a prolonged period. We end up lower than where we started and possibly dependent on or even addicted to the drug. Recreational drugs are not compatible with spiritual inner work. Tobacco is another habit we need to eliminate altogether, for it not only harms our body but also harms our soul by wasting our inner energies.

Other physical habits, like drinking alcohol, fall into a middle ground where the right approach is either to eliminate it or at most to drink moderately. Too much alcohol disorganizes and depletes our energies; a spiritual seeker should never get drunk. Generally, the less alcohol we drink, the better off both our body and spirit are. If we use alcohol to escape unwanted feelings, that can be a problem. However, if we use it socially, moderately, and occasionally to relax with friends, there may be little harm to our body or spirit. We can each judge how it affects us personally and then act accordingly.

Generally, we watch our urges and impulses, the type that drive our bodily addictions and overindulgences. We can watch without letting those urges and impulses control us. Nevertheless, we avoid becoming too fastidious or puritanical, for that would block our spiritual life by feeding our self-centered egoism. We seek the middle way.

Mental and emotional habits can also be major wasters of our inner energy. Strong, destructive emotions can deplete our energies quickly. Obsessive and enthralling patterns of thought also deplete our energies. Daydreams, images, negative scenarios and ruminating can take over our mind. But how can we manage this? Resisting unwanted or troubling thoughts just gives them more energy and prolongs them. Instead we give them free rein and let them subside on their own. Only we do so by putting them in the foreground of awareness. Then we can let the thoughts roll past without letting them take us for a ride. We watch without letting the thoughts move us. These thoughts do not necessarily speak for me, nor need I allow them to dictate my actions. That way our thoughts do not trouble us. All this becomes possible when we pay attention to our thoughts.

As for emotions, if we allow ourselves to feel whatever we are feeling, without rejecting our feelings, then our discordant, troubling, and difficult emotions have more of a chance to subside. Like thoughts, resisting our difficult emotions just gives them more energy and prolongs them. And also like thoughts, our emotions need not dictate our actions. We feel what we are feeling, but we do not allow our emotions to control us; we do not allow our emotional reactions to take us for a ride. We reclaim our heart as our own. We do not allow the waves of reactions to life’s events to overshadow us.

We judge all that we do in terms of how it affects our inner work. If it diminishes our ability to be present and if it is not necessary, then we know what we need to do or not do in order to help our steps along the path. When we fail, we immediately get up and start again. We also understand that our efforts of self-control in one area can lead to temptation in another area, like pressing on a balloon. We watch for that. We watch for the attitude of “I’ve been so good at that, I might as well allow myself a little extra indulgence in this.”

We all have holes in the bucket of our being and we cannot plug them all at once. So we work to get one thing right, and from there move on to the next, always remembering why we are making these efforts of self-control and always remembering that this effort of not wasting energy is not an end in itself. Conserving our energies is a means toward supporting and enhancing our positive inner work, our practices of prayer, meditation, presence, and kindness, our work of raising our energy level, and our acts of service and creativity.

One measure of being is the degree of togetherness. Practicing presence holds us together. So without trying to ration our energies, the very act of presence conserves them and even increases our supply. So presence affords us another avenue of work in the arena of inner energy conservation, in addition to the self-control avenue.

For this week, please work on not wasting your inner energies.

For an excellent book on self-control see: The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal


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