Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of October 20, 2014

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Transcending Our I

(Transcendence: Part 5)

The Lord comes amidst the sound of the shofar.
Psalms 47:6

Recently I had the good fortune to attend Rosh Hashanah services at the shul of a Rabbi who is renowned in his city for, among other things, his remarkable skill at blowing the shofar. Each passage is clear, distinct, and compelling. His single-breath blast of Tekiah Gedolah seems to go on for five minutes, resounding in the very soul of those present. In hearing such sounds, something transformative can occur. If we let the sound enter us, enter our core, if we let the sound vibrate us, if we let the sound be us, so that our self, our me, our I vanishes, then the Sacred can enter us as the sound.

This can also happen with sounds that we make, whether externally out loud, or inwardly, silently, as with a mantra or repetition. Classic examples include the Hindu “Om” and the Muslim “Hu.” Unlike with the sound of the shofar, which we hear receptively, we make the sound of Om or Hu actively. So it takes further steps to let go of being the one making the sound, to letting the sound just be there, to letting the sound make itself. In making itself, the mantra becomes the Sacred vibrating us. This happens sometimes with singers: the song sings them.

Another and telling example, is the biblical phrase “I am the Lord your God.” If we say that inwardly and contemplate it, then who is the I of that phrase? Clearly it is not us; it is not that we are God, not that our I is God. But if we find a way to step aside inwardly or rather grow transparent and let the I of that phrase be the One who is saying it in us, then we approach the truth of a higher reality. Our personal individuality, our true I, the I of our presence, is not separate from or different in kind from the I of the Divine. In such a moment, we are a particle of the Greatness. And because the Greatness is not divisible, in that moment we are the Greatness. But it can only happen in moments when we let go of our smallness, not just of the ego that references everything to my personal welfare, but even to let go of the greater, though still relatively small, I of presence that is individual and not all-encompassing. In transcending our true I, we step onto Sacred ground.

We can move toward that state not just in prayer. In any safe activity in which we are fully, wholly engaged, all-in, this can happen. We can go beyond ourselves. We act without a sense of being the actor, without a sense of being the doer. Though we are fully aware, the action flows through us. There can be a kind of ecstasy. Sometimes this is called being in the zone, or being in flow. Such moments are sacred. They are moments of transcending our I.

Many such moments begin, however, with our I fully engaged. We bring our attention fully to bear on what we are doing. We bring our entire mind, heart, and body into the action. We bring quality and sensitivity. We bring awareness of the whole situation and our purpose in it. And then we give ourselves over to it. We trust and give up our sense of agency, and let the action run itself. Without our interference or control, it adjusts itself perfectly. We let it flow. And in that flow, barriers drop. We transcend ourselves, we transcend time, and we become connected with all, and the All.

This may sound complicated, difficult, and elevated out of our range. But it is none of those. This transcendence is simple, easy, and natural, or rather supernatural for us. The belief that it is complicated, difficult, and out of reach is one of the barriers confronting us. If we just try to work inwardly and practically in that direction, ignoring the naysaying within us, we find ourselves progressing, slowly and surely toward the Sacred within. We learn the way by doing, by our practice and effort, by trial and error. The Ultimate awaits us, calling us home in this life. Heaven is not just for the dead. Heaven can be here and now, while we live and breathe.

Is there more possible beyond this transcendence of letting the Divine be our I? Yes indeed. But that takes us completely out of contact with the material world, whereas transcending our I does not. Rather it leaves us here, connected, not separate, living in unity and love, at least for those precious moments.

For this week, note those activities in your life that bring or could bring you closer to flow. To what extent do you give them significance? If you are inclined to prayer, practice toward transcending your I in prayer. Practice flow in other ways as well.


     

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