Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 6, 2015

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Non-Desire

(The Way of Integrity: Part 7)

As long as we live in the mode of acquiescing to our desires and antipathies, to being unquestioningly driven by attachments and habits, by what we want and do not want, then our integrity remains at risk. Desires and antipathies generally do not care about doing the right thing. Those aspects of our psyche seek only their own satisfaction. Altruistic motivations and the promptings of conscience have little chance against the emotional power of desires. So here we are, time and again finding ourselves acting in ways we had intended not to act, doing what our desires want but not necessarily what we wish.

The resulting chaos can easily compromise our inner or outer integrity. By inner integrity, we mean the unity, clarity, and purity of our inner life, both in being and in inner actions, such as our intentional thoughts. By outer integrity, we refer to the quality of our actions in the world. Our inner integrity shapes our outer integrity.

So the tragedy of living a life driven by desires and antipathies is two-fold. Neither we ourselves, nor other people, can count on us to do the right thing, so tenuous is our outer integrity. With regard to our inner life, this conflicting mass of desires and antipathies leaves us no peace. We live continually in the hunt for the next satisfaction, which is all too fleeting. Before we have even swallowed that first bite of cake, we are looking toward the second bite.

The answer lies within us, in the realm of non-desire and non-clinging, the place of peace and equanimity. We all have that. Just beneath our thoughts, there is stillness. When we can drop down into that layer of our being, we leave desires and antipathies floating at the surface. They no longer have the same hold on us. We can breathe in peace. We can live in contentment. Instead of the desperate hunt being continuous, uncaused satisfaction becomes continuous.

To move toward that way of life, we can train ourselves to recognize and rest in the peace of pure consciousness. The classical and highly effective method of that training is through meditation. The effects grow exponentially. If we can sit in meditation for five minutes a day, that helps. Twenty minutes helps much more. An hour of meditation, though it may start with cascades of thoughts and fidgeting, tends to end with us soaking in peace, resting in the pure awareness that is whole and complete. Desires and antipathies come from a false incompleteness, as if we need something from outside to fill ourselves. That is the surface of our being. Beneath the surface, we already have all that we need. Simply being here is enough. Meditation trains us to live that way.

Sometimes we may teeter on the edge of acting in accord with a desire, as opposed to how our conscience or our more essential wishes and goals would have us act. This tends to fall toward the side of desires. But a time comes when the growing peace and equanimity within us reaches a profound enough level that we prefer that timeless state of pure being to the short-lived state of desire satisfaction.

This does not mean we live an ascetic life, forgoing all our likes and dislikes. But it does mean that our likes and dislikes come into their proper role, that of providing information about our relationship to the world, rather than driving us and keeping us on the surface of our being. It also does not preclude us from vigorous action in the world, in accord with our essential wishes, goals, responsibilities, and conscience. We can find peace in being and in action. We can be while we act.

For this week, please work to move toward non-desire, toward equanimity and peace.


     

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