Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 27, 2015

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Unity

(The Way of Integrity: Part 10)

As long as every passing whim and desire can speak for the whole of us, we can have no integrity. As long as our intentions do not persist through time, we can have no integrity. Unity, in its various domains, scales, and levels, is central to integrity. Here the other sense of integrity comes into play, not the one that refers to our moral fiber, but the one that means wholeness. Unity enables us to get things done, especially complex or difficult tasks, and especially when they require a continuing effort over time. Unity also helps us approach the Sacred.

How do we practice unity? How do we bring more unity into our inner life? Our inner work promotes unity, on all of its levels. We begin with unity of body awareness. At any given moment we might be aware of a part of our body: a pain in our leg, the coldness of an object in our hand, the tickle in our throat just before we cough, the texture of food in our mouth, the vibration of a toothbrush on our teeth, the pressure of our foot on the ground, and so on. Or we may not be in contact with our body at all. To bring us into this moment, we practice intentional body awareness. We focus our attention on an arm or a leg and hold our attention there. That part of our body gradually comes alive and vivid, as our attention awakens and attracts the sensitive energy there. We call this practice sensing. Over time, we move from sensing parts to sensing our whole body. This gives us a degree of unity: whole body unity.

Acceptance of our emotions and acceptance of ourselves, gives emotional unity. The further our inner work progresses, the more objectively we see ourselves. This can be painful, because the truth tends to clash with our prior self-image. In that pain, we may wish to reject aspects of ourselves. We may wish we were different, not like that. The problem with this approach is that it never ends. If we focus on what we do not like about ourselves, then there will always be something we do not like. The solution lies in acceptance, radical and total acceptance of ourselves as we are. We open our heart and spread our arms wide to embrace all of our self. We may still choose to work to change or improve, but we do so in the context of self-kindness and self-acceptance, not self-rejection. In this total acceptance we become whole, unified emotionally, free of inner sniping and self-judgements: a great relief and unburdening. And to the extent we accept ourselves, we find a growing capacity to accept others as they are. Emotional unity leads toward love.

Noticing our thoughts as thoughts, leads to mental unity. At one level, we may not notice our thoughts at all. At one step up, we are just lost in our thoughts, carried off by daydreams, rumination, and reaction. Beyond that, we come into contact with our thoughts, so that we are aware of their meaning, we can direct our thoughts and think purposely. Another step up, a major step, and we notice our thoughts as thoughts. We realize that we are not our thoughts, that our thoughts are not who we are, and that our thoughts do not necessarily speak for us, nor necessarily reflect our actual views. We see that the bulk of our thoughts run automatically, thinking themselves in a mechanical, reactive manner. They are just thoughts, passing by. Another step and we see the stillness, the silence beneath our thoughts. And then we know we are not our thoughts, that they are only a small part of our equipment. In so doing, we reclaim our mind, we reintegrate its component thoughts, images, and underlying stillness into one whole. Behind and surrounding our thoughts is the boundless sky of our mind. Our mind is then ours and free, with the power to see, to reflect and ponder, to plan, and to create. Its contradictions meld into the wholeness that we are.

Opening to consciousness leads to unity of awareness. We begin this opening in meditation, when we enter the stillness underneath our thoughts. We come to understand that stillness as pure awareness, as consciousness. It pervades us, not only our mind, but our entire being. It is boundless and timeless. In consciousness, we are, we can just be. And in just being, we are complete and whole, in the unity of all-encompassing awareness. Being open to consciousness, which we share with everyone else, begins to open us toward the unity of love. In consciousness, we are not separate.

The practice of presence is a central practice of our path. Presence is based in awareness of the here and now. But it is more than awareness. It requires contact with the present. And to have contact, there must be someone who is in contact, someone who is present. We must be here. Being the one who is present, being intentional about being the central core of presence, about being the one who sees what we see, hears what we hear, and does what we do, being the one who is sensing our body and noticing our thoughts, starts to give us unity of individuality, of agency, of true I. Our attention, and more generally our will, emanates from us throughout our being and is the hallmark of true presence. Thus presence embodies another level of wholeness, of integrity. Presence permeates our body, our mind, and our heart, unifying our being. Our actions and our promises do not just happen by accident, reaction, or association. They occur because we so choose, because we are here to choose. And because we are and because we choose, our choices come from wholeness and integrity.

A further step into unity, concerns the Sacred more directly. In presence our will flows from us, from our I. But from a higher perspective, all will derives from the One Divine Will. This includes our will. This step involves opening in our core, so that our will does not just flow from us, but flows through us. The higher will flows into and through us, sometimes accompanied by the energy of Sacred Light. We can practice this opening in quiet prayer. Indeed, this practice almost defines contemplative prayer.

It may be tempting to skip to the last steps in the work of unity. But to be strong in our unity, we need all the levels, we need to be unified both within and across all levels of our being. We can work at all of them, but if we neglect any of them, that will limit our progress. These levels support each other. Unified body awareness enables freedom in mind and emotion. That freedom both leads to and arises from the silence of consciousness, which in turn provides a home for the unified will of our true I, which is the core of presence and the locus that can open to the Sacred. When the energy of Sacred Light enters us, it blends with the energy of sensation to yield more conscious energy, thereby also supporting presence. Our path has its own integrity, its own unity that invites our participation. It welcomes us onto the ladder of unity. How high we climb is up to us.


     

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