Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 2, 2017

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Grasping versus Just Being

(The Challenge of Presence 6)

The central teaching of the Buddha concerns dukkha, or suffering, sometimes translated as dissatisfaction, and its cause, desire. To transcend our suffering, we need to transcend desire, which is possible through a process of inner work. The nuances are manifold. For example, our body must eat to maintain its life. The maintenance of life is more than a desire, it is an imperative built into us. If we lose that life force, that “desire” to live, we die. That may end our suffering, but not in the way we had hoped. But what about that second helping of ice cream? What about eating that next delicious morsel after our stomach is full? The upshot is that the end of suffering comes through freedom from unnecessary desires.

What belongs to the class of necessary desires? Perhaps not so much: just what we need to maintain the health of our body and our family. But what about the desire for a better job, a promotion at our current job, or an increase in our business? Those things certainly serve to maintain our family. What about the desire for a nice home for our family or nice clothes to maintain our status in our profession? Those things also help maintain our body and our family. Maybe I need a car, a phone, and much else besides to maintain my body and my family. Living in our society today, our desires multiply and there is no clear line where the necessary crosses into the merely desirable. If we tried to analyze our desires and let go of the unnecessary ones, we would never reach an end.

Fortunately, there is another approach, simpler and more fruitful than cataloging our multitudinous and ever-morphing desires. That approach is to pacify the heart and mind of desire, to dissolve all our grasping in the clear waters of equanimity. With its cousin wisdom, equanimity filters the necessary from the grasping. We do what we need to do, with a heart at peace. And that leaves us free to continue into doing what we could do by way of creativity or service, even beyond the needs of body and family.

How can we pacify our heart and mind? How can we develop equanimity? The classic and highly effective approach is through meditation. We see our thoughts, our emotions, our sensations, our desires, our minor aches and pains and our reaction to them, and we let it all come and go. We just sit and see, alert and awake. If we notice ourselves wanting something, we just see the wanting as wanting and let it be. We do not let it distract us into the object of our wanting. The wanting passes on its own. If we notice aversion, disliking or not wanting something, we just see the aversion as aversion and let it be. It passes. If we notice ourselves falling into a train of thought, we just see the thoughts as thoughts without engaging with them and their meaning, and we let them be. They pass. This practice trains us in equanimity, the heart and mind of peace, of being at peace. We abide in awareness itself. Desires lose their hold on us and leave us in peace. As we relax into contentment, our dissatisfactions abate. This enables us to see more clearly what we need to do and what we should do, and our life can flourish thereby.

Grasping for something or grasping to be rid of something, either way grasping disturbs our peace, takes us out of just being. Our presence collapses into the thing that we want or don’t want. We lose ourselves in that wanting or aversion. Only when we find our way into the place beyond grasping and aversion, can we just be, present and at peace. How, beyond the meditation cushion? We relax into our body. Presence in our body gives us a foothold in the peace outside the turmoil of attracted or even desperate emotions and compliant thoughts.

Desires take us out of the present toward the imagined future satisfaction of the desire. That satisfaction proves all too fleeting. So we work to stay in contact with our body, which is always now. In the now, in the peace of just being here, dissatisfaction evaporates. This is the push and pull between desire and equanimity, dissatisfaction and peace.

For this week, please practice just being.


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