Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 22, 2014

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Transcending Our Materiality

(Transcendence: Part 1)

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. [Matthew 6:19-20]

Most of us come into adulthood believing that this material world is all that exists, or at least is what matters the most in the everyday reality of our life. We live in the material, natural world and have no reason to suspect anything beyond that. The natural outgrowth of that view is to have all our hopes and dreams, all our desires and attachments, inextricably bound to the natural and man-made world brought to us by our five senses.

But then life happens. It may be some major disappointment or some sweet success. We may lose something or someone dear to us. Or we lose out or win big at something that matters to us. Any such event may lead us to question: Is this all there is? If that question comes strongly, our search for the Sacred begins. If the question consumes us, it can even sever our attachment to the things of this world. It can grant us a measure of freedom, to know and live by the knowledge that ultimate, lasting satisfaction cannot come from the material world. In the Sufi way this is known as the first fana. In Buddhism, it is a milestone on the way to freedom in front of desires.

Even so, we are always faced with the necessities of providing for our body, for our family, and for our society. This visible, material world cannot be ignored. We are required to participate in the marketplace of life. But within those constraints we have a good deal of room for freedom. This is the arena for our inner work. How do we do what we need to do without attachment? Can we see what is necessary and do it, simply because it must be done, and without the grumbling or the feverish desire for success?

Our attitude around time gives one clue to navigating our way through. Attachment often has a component of wanting to hold onto something into the future, of wanting to acquire something in the future, or of wanting to avoid something in the future. The way through is to do what is necessary now and let the future be what it will be. We take care of the future by what we do now, especially if we do it with the appropriate degree of quality. Then we not need worry about the outcome. For this, the key is to be fully in the now, to be present. So we work to be present by applying the methods of presence. And that work helps free us from our material attachments, while also freeing us to do what is needed without the extra burden of worrying about the result.

Transcending materiality cannot be about leading a non-material life. That is not possible. This transcendence is about becoming free in the midst of all the necessities imposed on us by our body, by our life in the marketplace of the material.

The surest way to transcend our grasping after material things is to see into and live in greater contact with the Sacred, even as we continue to live in this material world, honor and respect it, and act responsibly toward it.

To be clear, we need not shun the material, we need not live in poverty or as hermits. We can enjoy the beauty of nature, the tastes and aromas of a fine meal, the warmth of close friendships, the satisfactions of working a job, and pleasures of our home. Everything matters, both our outer, material life and our inner, spiritual life. Indeed, they are not separate; we have one life to live well. The material life in itself does not interfere with, diminish, or prevent an active and ever-deepening spiritual life. The point is not to grasp and cling to things, because grasping and clinging suck all the joy out of living and sidetrack our spirituality. We end up approaching our material life with anxiety about losing what we have and not getting what we want or need. So in place of joy we have anxiety. We hardly taste the first piece of cake as we rush to finish it so we can get to the second piece.

For this week, please look at the ways you grasp and cling to material things and experiment with ways to start transcending that attachment.


     

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