Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 19, 2018

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Touching the Creative Purity

(Climbing Jacob's Ladder: 7)

Climbing the next rung of Jacob's Ladder, we come directly into contact with lower realms of the Sacred: the Creative Energy in the World of Sacred Light. However, this step requires a qualitatively different kind of inner work than what carried us up the prior steps. Now we need to get over ourselves.

Though the hard knocks of life teach us the recurring necessity of acceptance and surrender, and strip the sharpest edges off our self-centeredness, we nevertheless continue to believe in ourselves implicitly. We think and act from and for our narrow, personal interests. We plot and scheme to advance ourselves, to get more. We worry inordinately about appearances, status, and, more generally, what people think of us. We posture to grab others' attention, or we hide from it. In short, our life is nearly all about me, so much so, that we do not even imagine there could be another way of living.

Our deeply embedded network of self-centered attitudes is our ego and is precisely what now blocks our way up Jacob's Ladder. To paraphrase some old expressions: we cannot get into Heaven with our boots on, and no ego can see God. In contrast, we recall "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." As long as we live from self-centered egoism, we subvert the treasures descending on us from the Sacred and ascribe them to ourselves. If our center is filled with our ego, we have no room for the Sacred. We stand alone in an illusory separation from the rest of reality. We cannot look toward Heaven, because we cannot see beyond ourselves. We make of ourselves our own god.

What to do? What can we do to step beyond our ego, when so much of what we do comes from our ego, and so much of what we experience goes to feed our ego?

We can look at this conundrum in terms of four stages of purification. First, we catch glimpses of our ego in action, as it drives our inner world, and we begin to recognize it for what it is. Second, we emerge from the illusion of ego; we thoroughly realize and accept that our thoughts, emotions, and conditioned attitudes are not who we are. Third, we become ourselves, our true self, our will, our I. And fourth, we let go of being separate to reconnect our individual will with the will of the Sacred.

Whereas the work with energies encompasses the side of the spiritual path concerned with being, the work of purification encompasses the side concerned with will. While both are necessary and complementary, the work of being prepares us for the deeper work of purification.

To see our ego in action, we need to observe our motivations. To make this even simpler, we need only observe our thoughts and emotions. Quiet meditation helps with this. Sitting there, our thoughts stream ahead. Once the meditation stabilizes us enough, we no longer jump on whatever thought-train is passing through our mind. Instead, we can stand aside and see those thoughts for what they are, just thoughts, with no inherent power over us beyond the power we give them by buying into them. We stand aside and see that the great majority of these thoughts generate themselves, without our active participation. We are not thinking these associative thoughts, they are thinking themselves and pretending to be us, at times as a running commentary on our life. They think "I," and we are so conditioned to that word that we believe it is who we are. But like all the others, it is just a thought.

We need to see all this again and again. See our thoughts as just thoughts, until they lose their hold on us, until we no longer believe that our automatic thoughts speak for us, that the thought "I" is actually I. One complication here is that sometimes we do think intentionally, such as when we consider some issue or formulate a plan. Those intentional thoughts do speak for us because we are driving them. But the vast majority of our thoughts are just automatic patterns that embody and create a self-centered view of life. Cut the cord of identification with automatic thoughts and we take a large step toward freedom in front of our egoism.

We also look more deeply. We look at the attitudes and emotions behind our automatic thoughts. We look at our drives, impulses, and motivations to see what they serve. Do they, do we serve our own ego? The shocking problem with that comes to light when we fully and finally realize that our ego does not really exist, that we are not a separate entity.

What are we without our ego? We are free to be our true self, simply and directly. We become our self, without all the baggage. The self-centered thought patterns, attitudes, and emotions continue, but we are no longer caught by them. We no longer believe them to be who we are. As the Dalai Lama put it: we do not need to destroy our ego, because it never really existed in the first place. We just need to see through it.

For this week, please notice your thoughts and their self-centered patterns. Take particular note of the automatic arising of the thought "I" and your relationship to that thought.


        

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