Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For week of February 8, 2016

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Difficulties

(Presence Trigger 8)

Life brings us joy and also, inevitably, brings us troubles. Our problems come in all shades and sizes. At one end of the spectrum are the minor annoyances, like misplacing our keys, catching mild a cold, or getting stuck in traffic. At the other end are the major ones, like losing our job, having a serious illness, getting divorced, or seeing a family member dying. The more peace we have inwardly, the less we are touched by annoyances; we just sail right through. But as the severity increases, we all have a limit where the difficulty does disturb or even shake us.

That disturbance may be brief, as with the more minor problems. Or it may be protracted in the face of a major problem. Without waiting for a deathbed conversion, we can work to have our unexpected and unwanted difficulties deepen our inner life. When we are in dire straits, we may naturally turn toward the Divine. We may ask for help from that Constant, Loving Friend. And those situations may jar us into a stronger, more lasting presence. Conversely, the depth and strength of our presence determines how we respond to difficulties, what we can bear.

We might ask whether a particular serious problem was meant for us. If we approach our difficulties with openness, we may be able to extract meaning from them and in that sense make them meant for us. We can extract meaning from difficulties on several levels. On the basic level of life skills, we ask what caused this difficulty and what we can learn from it, how it can inform our future actions. On the psychological level, we notice our tendency to ruminate over the situation and to whine, complain, blame, and terribilize. We see how our rejection of pain, how our attachment and clinging cause so much of our suffering. Perhaps we see a way to accept and move forward. On the spiritual level, our own suffering can give us compassion for the suffering of others. It can awaken us to reassess our life, to see what really matters to us. It can remind us to be present, to be here in ourselves, for ourselves, and as ourselves, in both suffering and joy. Both by necessity and opportunity, a time of troubles can be a time of renewal and rededication to our spiritual inner work.

In presence we can find refuge from our difficulties. When a disturbing problem comes up, we can train ourselves to meet it with presence. If we stay on our surface, in our perseverating thoughts and reactive emotions, we are easily battered by the vicissitudes of life. If we go into our depth, we have a chance to maintain, to stay ourselves. The only caveat here is that we should not abuse our inner work, our presence by using it as an escape from facing and responding to our difficulties. Presence can and rightly does help us escape from clinging and identification. And presence enables us to be here to meet the challenges that confront us.

Our work for this week is to make our difficulties into triggers for presence. Whenever we have a problematic situation arise, be it minor, moderate, or severe, we turn to presence.


     

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