Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the weeks of September 12 & 19, 2016

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(Basic Inner Work 6)

A cornucopia of styles and forms of meditation fill the spiritual marketplace. Why should we meditate and how shall we choose among all that is available? Millions of people meditate, so we can safely assume there must be some value in it. Indeed, the value has been studied scientifically to show health benefits, stress reduction, and positive changes in the brains of meditators. However, some researchers into the science of meditation freely admit that science cannot gauge the spiritual effects of meditation, which have been taught for millennia and only become evident in a personís direct, inner experience.

Somewhat surprisingly, the choice of which style or form of meditation to engage in is not as important as whether one actually does meditate and the time devoted to it. The time factor can be broken into duration, frequency, and longevity.

By duration, we mean how long any particular meditation session lasts. The effects increase exponentially with the duration. We might say, for example, that 60 minutes of uninterrupted meditation is worth more than four 20-minute sessions. Or that a 90-minute meditation is worth more than four 30-minute sessions or two 60-minute sessions. Or that after a two-hour sitting, you feel like you have just returned from a 10-day retreat.

The longer one sits, the deeper one tends to go. What happens in the later minutes of a 60-minute sitting generally, but not always, far surpasses what happens in a 30-minute sitting. Each moment of a given session builds on the previous moments. So the lesson here is to gradually build up the time devoted to our morning sitting, as long as we can make it fit within the duties, demands, and loves of our life. If during an extended meditation session, our body grows too uncomfortable from sitting in the same position, we can slowly, and while maintaining the continuity of our meditation, stand up and continue meditating in a standing position. Perhaps, after a while, we sit back down, slowly and while maintaining our state.

A good duration to aim for is one hour, when you can make the time for it. Longer is even better, but shorter is also good and definitely worth doing. An hour can be a workable compromise between our need to develop our spiritual nature and our need to live an active, productive life. For some, though, an hour may not be feasible. For example, parents of young children may find it challenging to set aside any regular time for meditation. But the selfless duties of parenthood accrue their own spiritual merit, as do many other kinds of duties, particularly those whose benefits go beyond ourselves. Nevertheless, if we can find time to meditate, it can help us perform our duties well.

Frequency refers to how often we meditate. First and foremost is to establish a daily practice, in which we have a substantial period of sitting meditation every day. Preferably we do this early in our day, so as to establish an inner tone for the rest of the day. Frequency, though, also has its own inherent value independent of duration. So if we can stop to meditate a number of times a day, even for just a few moments each time, this has a profound effect. Each time reestablishes our connection with the inner peace of our morning sitting, our connection with a deeper world, and helps us carry that into our life.

Longevity, in this context, is how many years we have been practicing meditation. Our spiritual work is for a lifetime. We do not reach a point where we can say our spiritual work is complete, for two reasons. One is that our personal transformation has no upper limit. The second is that every bit of meditation produces spiritual energies and acts that feed not only ourselves, but also the great spirit of the world. That need and opportunity never ceases. Meditation works on us slowly but inevitably. It builds and builds. It changes our brain and transforms our being and our life. The more years and decades we practice meditation, the more profound the effects, both for ourselves and in the quality of what we produce for the spirit.

Meditation has been shown to change our brain structure and function. Yet we should not consider that to be the limit of meditationís effects. Our normal nervous system gives us various powers of perception, including seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, and awareness of thoughts. The physical transformation of our brain through meditation opens new powers of perception, the perception of realms of the spirit.

The substantial, frequent, enduring practice of meditation transforms our life. Some of the effects have been shown to appear in as little as two weeks, while others build up over decades. Our morning sitting enables us to start our day centered, present, and free.

For this week, please reinvigorate your meditation practice.

For specific instructions in various meditation practices, see the article Meditation and the links posted there.


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