Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of December 26, 2016

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Engaged Presence versus Indifference

(The Challenge of Presence 5)

We are each passionate about something, and some of us are passionate about many things. A simple way to look at what it means to be passionate is to say full emotional engagement. This is the opposite of indifference, but not of equanimity. The latter means having a basis in peace, having your world view and the tenor of your emotional life rooted in inner peace, a rich soil for engagement. From that peace and in the right circumstances, wholesome, constructive passions spring up, changing our life and touching those around us. Such passions include what we truly care about, what we truly enjoy, and what gives us true fulfillment. In contrast, the soil of indifference is infertile.

Emotional engagement drives presence. When we care, our intention, our attention, our will is behind the caring, is the source of the caring. That will brings our thoughts into alignment with our emotion. It brings our actions into alignment with our thoughts and emotions. Having our will, our self, engaged to the point of unifying our body, heart, and mind is the very definition of presence.

Notice that this all starts with our will, with what matters to us. Sometimes, though, random events can trigger difficult emotional reactions that in turn infect our thoughts and draw us toward abandoning ourselves to the emotion. That is not presence, because it flows the wrong way around, with programmed reactions driving our actions while we avert our eyes. That is the opposite of engaged presence.

Life has many chores, many duties, such as taking care of our body, our home, our jobs. Though we must do all this, we may not be passionate about it, we may not be engaged by it, we may be indifferent. Then come the daydreams, the boredom, the resentment. We inwardly ignore these indifferent parts of our life; we fail to live them fully.

The challenge and joy of presence can offer hope in that emotional desert. The work of presence brings us alive. The work of presence transforms us. That simple fact elicits our emotional engagement in that moment, in the great life project of transformation. And that makes us passionate. We care about our life and the inner quality of being ourselves, being here and in contact, being kind and compassionate, being awake and alive, being in joy and in peace.

The inner work of engaged presence is to open our heart to this moment in our life, to live it, to be ourselves in it, to care about whatever we happen to be doing or experiencing now. We dispel the drought of indifference with the waters of engagement. This does not require us to pick which moments are worthy of engaging with; the practice is to treat every moment as worthy and to open to it. Presence is not a dry, cerebral or body-mind state; we also need heart to come alive.

For this week, please practice engaged presence.


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