Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of October 10, 2016

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Inhabiting Self

(Basic Inner Work 9)

Certain fundamental questions never seem to go entirely away. Who am I? Am I here? What is the purpose of life, particularly my life? Does it even have a purpose? We cannot find the answers to such questions in something we read or hear. Even if what we read or heard were the true answer to one of the questions, delivered by a reliable source, it would still not really satisfy us, because of our lingering doubt. Those foundational questions are so basic that we can only answer them for ourselves, in ourselves, by living the answer, by being the answer. And even then, our answer evolves over time, as we do.

Am I here? Instead of just us asking ourselves that question, we could turn it around and practice being here to the point where we can say, in full-throated truth, I am here. Then not only do we know we are here, but we also know who we are, experientially. Some may think this too hard. Others may think it very easy. The reality lies in between. The hard part is to see through what we are not, yet believe ourselves to be.

For example, we are not our body. We can be aware of our body, which shows the distinction between our body and the I that is aware of it. We can direct our body; again we note the distinction between our body and the one who directs it. What we see in the mirror is our body, not our self.

We are not our mind or emotions, our thoughts or daydreams, our tendencies, our likes or dislikes, our knowledge, skills, memories or personality. We are not our opinions or beliefs. We are not our world view. We can be aware of our mind and emotions and the rest, which shows the distinction between them and the I that is aware of them. We can direct our thoughts and, to an extent, direct our emotions; again we note the distinction between mind/heart and the one who can direct them.

But our body, mind, and heart make a compelling case that they are who and what we are. After all, our mind thinks I. So isn't our mind who we are? Not so. The thought of I is not I, is not our will, is not the one who sees what we see, thinks what we think, and feels what we feel. The thought I is just a thought. Yes, it points toward who we are, but is no more who we are than is a finger the moon it points toward. A similar situation exists with our body, on which our very life depends, and with our emotions, which sometimes show us what we care about. We may drive our thoughts. We may have our body speak or act for us. We may have our emotions embody our concerns. But even though the actor may enter the action, they are not the same.

Contrary to how it may seem, we are not always here and we are not always ourselves. Those illusions come from the fact that whenever we notice ourselves or our surroundings, we are here. But we are not always noticing. We spend far too much of our life in a fog of automatically flowing, associative thoughts and daydreams, or ruminating on some outrage or lost in some entertainment.

The good news is that we can actually practice being here and being ourselves, even in the midst of thoughts and entertainment. We can practice presence. We begin with staying in contact with our body as the foundation for presence. We pay attention to notice any thoughts and emotions. And we come fully into ourselves as the one who is paying attention, the one who is in contact with our body, the one who is noticing our thoughts and emotions. That one is who you are. We practice being that one. We practice inhabiting our self.

Whatever we do, we practice being the one who is doing it. We do not let our actions just happen by habit or reaction. We practice being the actor. Whatever we see, we practice being the one who is seeing it. We do not let our seeing, our experience, just evaporate with no one at home to receive it, to experience it. In these ways, we actually live. We do not lose our time. Life does not pass us by. We inhabit our life. We inhabit our self. This is presence. This is I am.

This practice takes intention and effort. It takes experimentation and exploration to understand it. But it changes our life at a fundamental level, even if just for a moment. For this week, please try inhabiting your own self.


     

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