Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of November 21, 2016

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Responsible Presence versus Unreliability

(The Challenge of Presence 3)

It is not easy to be fully present and not do what you should do. We cannot face our own unreliability head on and for good reason. When we are here, we see, we see the reality before us and within us, including our actions and motivations. It is much easier to shirk our responsibilities, our duties, our promises, when we are hiding from ourselves, when we are not here.

Unreliability takes many forms, from simply forgetting, being distracted, not paying attention, not caring enough to follow through, to laziness, resentment, or intentionally reneging, lying, or cheating. None of these go well with presence. Generally, they wither in the light of presence.

On the other hand, being responsible, doing what we need to do, and following through on promises all arise naturally from presence. In presence we act from ourselves, from conscience. We are there whenever we do something, or not do something. We are behind and in what we do. When we act responsibly, we can infuse our actions with presence. When we act irresponsibly, we want to hide.

Having a purpose can be the core around which we build our life. More immediately, having a purpose for a given moment can be the core around which we build our presence. Many of us do not recognize any particular overarching purpose to our life. However, day-to-day and moment-to-moment we do have purposes: responsibilities, duties, tasks, fulfilling promises, doing what needs doing. Each such instance is a purpose. These immediate purposes certainly can create our presence.

There is a positive feedback between purpose and presence. When we act with purpose, we become that purpose, we create ourselves as our purpose. Conversely, the necessity of fulfilling some responsibility or commitment, creates us. We have somewhere to go, something to do, someone to be.

These purposes that create us can be on any scale. They can be minor domestic tasks, like washing the dishes or shopping for food. They can be major, like fulfilling some life goal. They can also be inner purposes like relaxing our difficult emotions, being kind, maintaining and enhancing our moment-to-moment presence, or practicing and deepening our work of meditation and prayer. Acting with purpose is an act of will. And we are our will.

We face continual temptations to be irresponsible and unreliable, to take the easy way out. But to shirk our purposes is to shirk our self. It weakens our contact with our own higher nature. To be unreliable means not to be able to rely on ourselves, it means letting our self slip into absence, the opposite of presence.

Shirking duties and commitments allows disorder. If we fail to clean and tidy our home, it descends toward chaos. Responsible, reliable action creates order. Presence creates order in our inner world, whereas lack of presence allows chaos to disrupt our inner world. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our family and society, and to the Sacred to practice presence, to be present, to have that inner order. And the highest expression of order is love. So responsibility leads to presence, which leads to peace and through peace to love.

For this week, please notice the relationship between purpose and presence. Notice the inner difference between walking with purpose and wandering aimlessly. This is not to say that relaxation is wrong or unnecessary; indeed it is a legitimate purpose itself. But it is to say that there is value in seeing how acting with or without purpose affects us inwardly. Some say that there is a cosmic purpose behind the universe, that that purpose is God, that we all have some role to play in fulfilling it, and that when we act with purpose we align ourselves with the Sacred.


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