Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For week of October 12, 2015

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(Presence Metric: 1)

Frequency of presence connotes how often we return to ourselves, how often we remember to be within ourselves and make the effort to be present. We aim to decrease the lapsed time between falling out of presence and coming back to it. Every activity in life transforms into an opportunity for practice. Former sources of frustration, such as waiting in line, become openings into which we pour our spiritual effort. Whenever we notice that we have fallen out of presence, out of consciousness, we immediately rouse ourselves back into the moment.

To gain some clarity on the actual frequency of our inner work efforts, we can simply count them. One approach to training in presence involves setting a daily goal of a certain number of instances of presence and then counting how many times we come to presence that day. This can be partly observational: incrementing the count whenever we notice that we have somehow, without premeditation, risen to presence. The other part is intentional: whenever we remember our task of presence and our goal, we immediately take that opportunity to return to presence and then increment the count.

The count itself, though, is just a measure, important for the goal-oriented specificity and commitment it enables, but not as important as the act of coming to presence which it records. We begin modestly, setting as our goal an easily achievable number of times in the day that we will be present. Gradually, over a period of weeks or months, we increase the daily number and fill our waking hours with more instances of presence. The counting gives us a way to quantify our inner work, engage our will in fulfilling our daily goal, and make our spiritual path a little more concrete.

As an example, take the exercise of sensing each of our four limbs in turn: cycling through the right arm, right leg, left leg, and left arm. We set ourselves to repeat this exercise a particular number of times during the day say five or ten. Whenever we remember the exercise, we turn to it, increment our count, file the count in our memory, and then leave it until the next time we awaken to the exercise. Instead of sensing we could work on general presence, a heartfelt prayer, or some other practice. To simplify, we choose one practice to count for the day and we set the daily number each morning.

If it should happen that we reach the end of the day without having made our frequency goal, we carry through on our commitment by not going to sleep until we finish. This might, for example, require a period of focused inner work where we allow ourselves one count per minute. Sticking to our commitment for the day keeps the whole process alive. Otherwise the practice of counting our inner work quickly loses its potency.

Such definite repetition of any spiritual exercise works to gradually stretch our attention, open our perceptions, collect our energies, strengthen our will, and dispose us toward the path. Starting anew at a count of zero each morning enlivens our practice by permitting us a fresh start every day, while keeping us humble by the mere fact of beginning again. The counting itself ties together our day of inner work, making the separate repetitions into a single act of will. Most importantly, counting concretizes our efforts, moving our inner work from the potential to the actual.

For this week, please use counting to measure and enhance your work of presence.


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