Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 15, 2014

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The work of spirituality calls us to transcend our limitations, some of which are more or less known to us, while others elude us entirely. Those known to us may include our physical limitations, what our body can and cannot do, what it needs and what it wants, what it likes and what it hates, its demands and its habits. We also know some of the limitations of our emotional life, like how we tend to get angry or anxious when the relevant psychological buttons get pressed, how we react so predictably to minor occurrences. We recognize some of the limitations of our minds, like how our thoughts tend to circle around a personally-charged event and our tendency to judge others much more harshly than we judge ourselves. And in all of this we have little or no choice: it all just happens, and though we may see it happening, it all limits how we live.

Other limitations, though no less real, remain hidden from us. We may not realize that the whole arena of our emotional life is flat and reactive and that an entirely different level is possible for us, a level of higher emotions, such as an underlying tone of peace and equanimity, or a way of relating based in love. We may not realize that all of the thoughts and mental images arising in our mind comprise only its surface layer, hiding depths of perception, hiding our true identity, and distracting us from living in presence.

I may not realize the subjectivity of my world view, that everything revolves around me, that I mainly think and care only about what affects me and how it affects me. Obviously, some of that is necessary for survival, but transcendence can take us to a much broader view, one that incorporates a wider universe without shortchanging our personal needs. Love is not only about our attitude toward others, but also toward ourselves, and it erases the chasm between the two.

So at each stage of the path, we have two sources for transcendence: the push and the pull. The push results from the limitations we know about. We do not want to be limited in those ways. We want to rise above our shortcomings. We want to go beyond our animal heritage to become fully human, fully ourselves. We want freedom in front of all those limitations. So we push. We engage in the practices of the path to break the shackles we know. We push ourselves to go beyond our known limits.

The pull is what calls to us from our higher possibilities, the ones we might intuit but do not know. A deeper way of living attracts us, pulls us to engage in the practices of the path so that we may live the sweetness of the Sacred. This is the action of faith. There are realms of the spirit unknown to us, unsuspected and unimagined. They are not far off. They are right here within us. The gap is not insurmountable. And across that gap comes the intuition we call faith, calling us from beyond the limits that we do not see.

At first our path may be mostly driven by the push. We push to go beyond the personal limitations we know. We push to become better, to overcome our weaknesses. We push to compete with our fellow travelers. We push to become an ideal and perfect version of ourselves. The push impulse can be very strong and can take us a good way along the path. But one day it becomes counterproductive, because the push is all about me, about ego and personality. When our inner work starts to transcend me, then the push loses power.

In its place, the pull can appear with a renewed vigor, if we welcome it. We practice to get closer to the Sacred. We practice because faith impels us to do so. We practice to serve the Sacred. We practice because it gives meaning to our life. We practice because it is the right thing to do. Yes, our practice is personally satisfying, but that satisfaction is no longer enough to move us forward. Faith does that.

As we climb Jacobís ladder to heaven, beginning from where we are, we work to transcend one rung at a time. In the coming weeks, we will explore some of those rungs of transcendence.

    1. Transcending Our Materiality
    2. Transcending Our Thoughts
    3. Transcending Our Reactive Emotions
    4. Transcending Me
    5. Transcending Our I
    6. Transcending Time
    7. Transcending Consciousness

For this week, please assess your current position as best you can. Look at the strength of your push to transcend your personal limitations and the quiet but persistent pull that draws you toward the Higher.


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