Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of June 27 & July 4, 2016

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Selfless Presence

(Modes of Presence 11)

The self that we are without in Selfless Presence is our small self, our self-referential, self-serving, self-centered ego. In its place we enter the great Self. Like the awakening of Awakened Presence, Selfless Presence can occur spontaneously, without our recognizing the reality of it. But Selfless Presence goes beyond Awakened Presence: in the latter we are ourselves, in the former we transcend ourselves. There is no inner voice, no attitude attributing all to us, measuring all by us, referring all to us. We may start a creative action, practice it, nurture it, but the point comes when we allow the action to continue on its own, without our interference, with our intentionally directing it. Rather than us doing what we are doing, the action is being done through us. Our role is to initiate and get out of the way, get out of our own way.

The questions for us are how to come to selfless presence, how to go beyond our ordinary sense of self, and why.

First, why. There are levels of good reasons for working toward selflessness. The most basic is that so much of our inwardly negative and destructive thoughts and emotions, as well as our outwardly negative and destructive actions are driven by a mistaken view of who we are, by a futile attempt to build, feed, criticize or defend our illusory self. Even a slight amount of seeing through that self, though perhaps a painful shock to our world view, yields enormous benefits in terms of reduced stress, increased happiness, and improved relationships.

Another reason is that by living from our ego, we are living a lie. Our ego is an illusion. Thus, it can never be truly satisfied, fulfilled, or at peace. Ego is built on wanting, on desiring, and on the pretense that this self-centered attitude is who we are. Paradoxically, we can never be fully ourselves as long as we are driven by ego, identify with ego. Ego is a mask that hides us from ourselves and from others. When we get beneath ego, we can just be, without all the posturing, pretense, and demands.

The deepest reason is that ego is an aberration of the spirit, taking what is most precious in us and misusing, stealing, and wasting it, in service to a superficial separateness. Our innermost Self, our I, our will, is an emanation of the truly sacred Will of the World, the Divine source, the mountain of Purpose from which we all spring. Ego blocks, twists, and pollutes that channel. It is not just an embarrassment to and diversion from true humanity; it is a sacrilege.

So what can we do about it? How can we work toward relief from our ego? The prime way is to see through the illusion repeatedly, until we know in our heart of hearts that our ego does not have any real existence. When we look to see who we are, we find nothing. This is not because we do not know how to look or where to look. This is not because our perceptions are clouded. It is because when we look to see ourselves, there is nothing to see, nothing to find.

Take the example of our thoughts. We think I. I will do this. I hate that. I want this. If we look to find ourselves in that I, we find only a thought, a thought that we can be aware of. So there is something deeper than that or any other thought. Yet all day long, thoughts spin this web of who I believe I am.

But quiet meditation shows us that thoughts are just thoughts. We first learn that we do not need to act on them or believe them. Then we learn that they usually generate themselves, automatically, without our thinking them or directing them. Seeing thoughts as just thoughts, as just mental chatter, starts to liberate us from egoism, because patterns of thought are the body of our ego. They tell us the stories that define us, or rather that we believe define us. They express the attitudes and world views that define us, or rather that we believe define us. But all these attitudes, world views, stories, beliefs, and other thoughts are just thoughts. When we can step back, allow them to flow through our mind without falling for them, we see that we are not our thoughts and, indeed, not our ego.

Our thought patterns are so familiar they sound like us. They are so intimate, that secret voice in our head, that they seem to be us. But they are not us. Meditation helps us see. And that seeing sets us free, at first intermittently, until one day we see the illusion so deeply that we cannot forget. The thoughts may continue, but they no longer convince us that they are us. Going further with meditation and presence, we live more and more in the cognizant stillness beneath all thought.

There are many other ways to transcend ourselves, among which are service, prayer, and creative endeavors. All the ways are enhanced and made more effective by the effort to live in presence, in contact with our body, mind, heart, and Self. We learn to shift our identity from that small voice in our head, to the great world we live in, to being a particle of the Sacred. In selflessness, we still take good care of our body, our family, our society, our job, but without all the angst. And in doing so, we reconnect with and serve the Sacred.

For this week, please practice toward Selfless Presence.


     

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