Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For weeks of June 15 & 22, 2015

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Fluid Heart

(Living in Flow: Part 5)

Something happens that crosses us. We react emotionally and carry it around for hours or days. The mood colors everything and may even keep us from noticing much of what happens. Such emotional disturbances occur on scales large and small, with intensities major and minor. As thoughts are to our mind, emotions are to our heart, our spiritual heart. Just as thoughts often distract us from the present, emotions do too. But emotions by their very nature have an even greater power over us. A disturbance in our emotions certainly disturbs our ability to live in flow.

With thoughts, the answer is to live in more contact with the stillness in the depths of our mind. With emotions, the answer is to live in more contact with the peace and equanimity in the depths of our heart. If we can find our way into that ocean of equanimity, it leaves room for other positive emotions to arise; joy and love, compassion and commitment come naturally out of a peaceful heart. When we delve behind our associative, automatic thoughts, we find the stillness of our mind. When we delve behind our automatic, reactive emotions, we find the peace of our heart. We do not manufacture the stillness at the base of our mind. It is just there, when we let go of being taken by the surface thoughts. We do not manufacture the equanimity at the base of our heart. It is just there, when we let go of being taken by the surface emotions.

To come to that peace, we practice peace. And we do that by practicing relaxation and letting go. Our body and emotions are tightly intertwined. Emotions often manifest as tensions or discomfort in parts of our body, for example, in our chest, solar plexus, abdomen, shoulders, face, or breathing. Thus, relaxing our body, particularly those parts, helps relax our heart, our emotions. This is fairly straightforward. Our growing contact with our body through the practice of body awareness with sensation, makes us aware of those tensions, and alerts us to the possibility and need to relax them.

Letting go is another matter, though. While relaxation is a form of letting go, i.e., letting go of our tensions, another form of letting go consists of abandoning our support for a destructive emotion in its early stages. After it builds into a storm, it is too late to stop; we just ride it out and try to limit the damage. But before that, we do have a chance to quit the reaction. First we need to notice it. Mindfulness and presence enable that noticing. Second, we need to be willing to let it go, because letting go is an act of will. And we need to make that choice quickly, before the reaction engulfs us.

It often happens that our thoughts support our emotional reaction, and our emotional reaction drives our thoughts, all in a destructive, self-reinforcing loop. At such moments we mentally justify the emotion, we rehash the event, we inwardly insist on our rightness, our indignation, our fear, our desire. To let go of that, requires us not to believe in our own thoughts, or at least to consider the swarm of reactive thoughts to be less important than inner peace. When we are willing to do so, we have a great chance to find peace.

If we can establish ourselves in equanimity, then when other emotions come, they come on top of that, so that equanimity forms the conscious foundation of our emotional life. Joy comes naturally, as does love and compassion. Even fear and anger do not fully take us over, do not fully disturb us. Equanimity is not indifference, we act with vigor. Equanimity allows us to do the right thing with clarity and freedom, allows us to hear the undistorted voice of our conscience and respond accordingly. Equanimity is not a lack of passion, but the passion that does come is wholesome and life-giving, not destructive.

Peace and equanimity give us a fluid heart, ready and responsive to the moment, and without the obstacles of attachment and identification. With peace and equanimity, we can live in the fullness of flow.

For this week, please practice peace and equanimity. Relax and let go.


     

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