Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 9, 2015

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The Way of Integrity

Introduction

Every religion and spiritual path emphasizes the importance of morality, usually putting forward sets of rules and laws to specify what is or is not moral. On the surface this appears to be just a way of organizing a society that works well for its members. We all depend on that in many ways, which only become obvious when some lose their moral constraints. There are also deeper spiritual reasons for adopting a moral mode of living, for example the religions’ promise that our entry to heaven will be more likely if we live a moral life. In this inner work series on The Way of Integrity, we will explore the spiritual motivations for morality and, more generally, for integrity.

Consider how integrity relates to morality. We could say that integrity subsumes morality and goes beyond it. The actions of a person of integrity certainly comply with the moral and legal norms of their society. But the person of integrity hews to a higher standard, that of conscience, which though seemingly personal is more than personal. Conscience is how the sacred speaks to us. And its inherent standard is love.

Between morality and conscience, nature guides us toward right action by its law of cause and effect, also known as karma or reaping what you sow. As one effect, integrity affords a person great inner freedom, enjoying the respect and trust of society, unburdened by a guilty or murky conscience, unafraid of being revealed as dishonest or self-serving. Integrity yields clarity, as many potential courses of action take little or no consideration: either they are rejected out of hand as wrong or pursued as right.

Nevertheless, dilemmas arise in the gray areas and in extending the reach of integrity. Both cause struggles. Do we keep our word when circumstances change? Do we extend integrity to actions that only affect us and no one else, such as healthy and unhealthy personal habits? How do we act when no one is watching? Do we drop our standards and principles when alone? Do we intentionally think things we would never actually say or do? These and similar issues relate to our self-respect and our respect for life, further components of integrity.

The purification that integrity brings gives us inner peace and opens doors to the sacred, doors that would otherwise stay closed. It is no accident that the Prophet Mohammed was known as The Trustworthy, for the integrity with which he managed caravans in his early career. This aspect of his character must have been a factor in later enabling him to serve the sacred as founder of one of the world’s great religions.

No baggage can pass through the gate of heaven. As long as we carry the propensity for actions that lack integrity, as long as self-centered motivations and egoism rule or even lurk in us, the gate remains barred. This is not to say that purity of will suffices. Deepening of our being is also required. But the Way of Integrity does purify us.

With good reason, integrity also means unity. As long as we harbor and give voice to the many competing urges and desires in us, our actions may fall short of the standard of integrity. The unification brought by inner work, particularly by the long practice of presence, moves us toward the unity we need to consistently and reliably act in accord with conscience.

For this week, please look at where you currently stand on the scale of integrity.

    1. Wobbling on the Way
    2. Lessons of Karma
    3. Respecting Ourselves
    4. Our Word
    5. The Voice of Conscience
    6. Having Principles
    7. Non-Desire
    8. Responsibility
    9. Purity
    10. Unity


        

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