Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 5, 2016

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Living with Heart

(Basic Inner Work 5)

Just as there is a range of value of our thoughts, from passing, automatic ones, to our deepest, intentional contemplation to unexpected creative vision, there is also a range of value in our emotions. Our emotions define what matters to us. Some indicate long-term, recurring themes showing what is truly important to us. Others are fleeting, indicative only of a passing concern or interest.

Inner work on emotions has two levels. One is dealing with all that can go wrong with our emotions. The other concerns refining our emotions as a path into the Sacred. We all know various ways our emotions can cause us problems. One such class is where a particular emotional state overwhelms us, especially in a protracted or recurring manner. For example, a legitimate concern can become an ongoing anxiety that colors our whole psyche. Or a passing unhappiness or ennui becomes a persistent depression. Or a minor insult elicits a festering anger or a debilitating self-doubt. And so on with self-pity, greed, jealousy, envy and the rest. Looking at such problematic emotions from the perspective of our spiritual path, we see that they can drain the inner energy we need to practice presence, they come from and strengthen our self-centeredness, and they can subvert our intention to engage with the methods of the path. But those methods themselves can be our salvation.

Big-mind meditation helps us learn to accept all that arises in us, without feeding the problematic emotions. The same is true for the practice of contact with body sensation. We just let the emotions come, be there, and go as they will, while we sit and see. We do not run from these emotions, nor allow ourselves to be run by them. We let them be. We let ourselves be. We honor our emotions as part of us. We own our emotions. This accepting, loving attitude toward ourselves helps heal us. The months and years of spiritual practice lead us toward inner peace, a vast peace that undergirds every moment.

In some cases, however, problematic emotions persist strongly enough and long enough to block our inner work and require us to engage professional help in the form of psychotherapy or prescription drug therapy. Note that we do not recommend marijuana for those pursuing a spiritual path, because of its long-term draining effect on inner energies.

The healing of our emotional nature is a process, which in a spiritual context is sometimes called purification. Self-acceptance, as noted above, is part of that. Another is letting go. For example, we see anger coming up in us as a reaction to something or someone. Having seen that movie before, we know it generally leads nowhere constructive. Can we let it go before it snowballs in strength? Can we see it and move our attention and interest to some constructive response or to just ignoring whatever is eliciting our anger? Can we recognize that the anger is not who we are? Can we step aside and not allow the anger to define us? If we can let go of the anger, we make room in our heart for the positive, we learn and earn a heart of peace. A similar approach can also help with all the other destructive emotions.

However, a heart of peace does not mean coldness and indifference. If anything, we care even more. But now our emotional response to the world is based in peace.

As our emotional heart heals and our prayer and meditation deepen, higher emotions come to us more frequently: love, joy, equanimity, compassion, kindness, awe, humility, and more. Such emotions come from and connect us with the spiritual underpinnings of the world. Notice that these higher emotions are not self-referential, self-centered, or ego-driven. The deeper we go, the more our heart fills with these jewels of the spirit.

We can cultivate the higher emotions, which come to each of us, at least in small doses. When we notice an impulse of compassion arising in us, we can welcome it, make room for it, let it pervade our heart and whole being. The same holds for love, joy, kindness, and the rest. Too often, when we note one of these higher emotions, instead of welcoming it, we squash it because it does not fit with our usual world view and personality pattern.

Owning our emotions enables us to inhabit our heart. To be here fully means to also be in our emotional heart. This can be the heart of peace, a stance of readiness for whatever life brings, a stance of openness, embracing, and connectedness. When we enter presence, we enter with our whole being, including our heart. We live with heart.

For this week, please practice purification and living with heart.


     

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