Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 16, 2015

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The Voice of Conscience

(The Way of Integrity: Part 5)

How do we know what to do and what not to do? Of course, we stay within the laws of the society we live in and within its moral norms. And of course, we tend to our various constraints and responsibilities: working to earn our living, caring for our body, our family, and what our society needs from us. All that can be a lot, but still it leaves us enormous freedom of action, both within all those boundaries, such as in our choice of careers and in the quality we bring to our responsibilities, as well as in the areas not as constrained by the boundaries, like how we spend our spare time and how we deal with moral dilemmas. What we do with all that freedom defines our life.

A great deal of understanding what to do and what not to do comes from experience, from trial and error and watching other people’s trials and errors. We learn what level of quality each of our duties and tasks calls for and how to produce that efficiently. We learn to manage our body, its needs, its appetites, quirks and limitations. We learn how to relate to the people in our life. We learn to manage our finances. One beauty of life is that all the learning never stops, even with regard to what is necessary. Situations change. We experiment and find better approaches.

But beyond the duties thrust upon us by the facts of our life, things are not as clear. Yes, we can do what we enjoy. And for many aspects of life the criterion of enjoyment is both appropriate and sufficient. We do what we like and avoid what we do not like. But these long-ingrained habitual patterns of likes and dislikes can themselves circumscribe our life. Is it really freedom to do what we like and avoid what we do not like? Or is it an inner slavery constraining us to live by our old patterns?

What is truly satisfying? One source is the satisfaction that comes from doing something well, from pursuing excellence. This can even be in mundane tasks like cleaning or doing the dishes. We go beyond the minimum required of us to move toward perfection. Many of the activities of our life, from home to place of work, can be candidates for excellence. When we look back at having done something well, really well, or at least having given the task our full attention and effort, we feel a kind of productive competence and purity, a clear conscience that is satisfying at a deep level. One reason this matters is that it teaches us the taste of conscience, when conscience is telling us the rightness of an action.

Another source of satisfaction is service, being useful for someone or something beyond ourselves. There are no boundaries to the forms this can take, but it generally builds on the golden rule of treating others the way you would have them treat you. To know that you have done something that helps someone brings a deep satisfaction; it even goes beyond satisfaction to impart meaning to our life.

It can happen that we want to do something, but a part of us knows or feels that we should not. That latter knowing, feeling, intuition may well be the voice of our conscience. It does not force us to follow it. And it is not a voice of doubt; it is the voice of truth. It offers us truth and leaves it up to us whether to act according to that truth. If we do not, and if we persist in ignoring the truth of conscience, its voice recedes and stops troubling us. But in that we case we lose what is most precious, namely ourselves, because the voice of conscience is the voice of our higher self.

So if we find ourselves wondering what to do, what choice to make, and if it is a decision with some consequence, we take the time to think about it from various viewpoints. We consider the relevant knowledge we have and how we feel about the choice. And then we look beyond, beneath our thinking and feeling, to open to the truth that is there in us. We know that truth. Our conscience knows it. That truth always has the quality of self-evident rightness about it. That inner eye of conscience is there in us. We need only open to it and accept it. We know truth.

Yes, we may be uncertain about what our conscience is telling us. So we perform reality checks. Does its prompting accord with the laws and norms of our society? Does it make sense? Is it kind? Gradually we learn to trust it, to trust ourselves. Purification follows in its wake.

For this week, please practice being open to your conscience, the truth that is you.


     

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