Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of October 15, 2018

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Technology Change

(Change and the Changeless: 3)

What do all the dramatic and continuing changes in technology mean for our inner life, our spiritual practice? In one sense: nothing. The fundamental challenge remains essentially the same: to live in presence, with conscience guiding our actions, and kindness in our heart. Our spiritual development depends on our will and is not amenable to technology changes. You may consider that it is, for example with the use of psychoactive drugs. But those have been around for millennia and our current, spiritual best practice remains the same in their regard: namely, we do not use such drugs at all. Here we refer to LSD, psilocybin, marijuana, and the like.

But why? Don't these drugs open our inner world to higher possibilities? Perhaps. But there are serious spiritual costs involved. They make us spiritually dependent on them. Because our unaided inner work experience may seem to pale in comparison, we come to believe that our path upward requires drugs. It does not. Indeed, the drugs, at best, allow a temporary and fleeting step up. What we seek and need is permanent, at will, access to the higher, to the Sacred, permanent change of our level of being. Drugs cannot give us that and act as a dangerous detour from the way of lasting spiritual development.

Moreover, these drugs, including marijuana, hinder our spiritual development by disrupting and depleting the inner energies we need for our spiritual work. A temporary benefit becomes a deficit lasting well beyond the short-term effects of the drug. Our nascent soul suffers the consequences. The deleterious impacts of the drugs affect not only our energies, but also our will. Marijuana, for example, can sap our initiative, our discipline, our will to be, our will to pursue the truly transformative practices of the spirit. So much for psychoactive drugs.

Ever-improving medical technologies can, however, help our spiritual work by extending our lives. Spiritual transformation takes long, persistent inner work, decades of it. The more time we have of healthy, vigorous life, the more time we have to engage with the Sacred. The Sacred may not be subject to time, but we are. And even for those who do come to some degree of spiritual transformation, having more life afterward gives them more opportunity to contribute, to transform energies up the ladder.

The ongoing revolution in electronics and software has both advantages and disadvantages for our inner work. On the positive side, the new communications technologies allow us to learn about meditation, presence, prayer and so on, from a much broader array of readily-available sources than was possible before the internet. Electronic reminders can help us remember to be present, though they lose their effectiveness when we start ignoring them. The advent of intelligent robotics promises to provide more of us with the free time to engage in spiritual practices. Unlike presence, for example, many practices require us to focus solely on the practice, so we cannot be hard at work at our job at the same time. If automation and human productivity continue their march forward, we could well have more time available.

On the problematic side, the ever-expanding array of entertainment presents a growing temptation to passivity. Can we be present while streaming the latest episode of our favorite series? Can we stay focused in the midst of all the texts, tweets, notifications, and emails coming at us? How will we use the time we recapture from our commute, when self-driving cars give us electronic chauffeurs?

Imagine you have an electronics-laden cap that can read your thoughts all your thoughts - and broadcast them to the people around you. Such a device, could it ever be developed, would prove to be a piece of technology that could actually help us in our spiritual development. It could prod us to be more constantly aware of our thoughts, because we would want to squash so many of them before anyone else knew about them. We would want to seek out and live in the inner stillness, first because, with nothing to broadcast, it would save us the embarrassment of making our most private ruminations public, and later because we would find the stillness so comforting and peaceful, open and connected. This could help us learn to live in that inner spaciousness behind our thoughts. In that mode of living, thoughts carry less charge and become light, ephemeral, and even non-existent. Our mind becomes quiet.

But we can create the effects of that device right now. We can focus on knowing our thoughts clearly and seeing which ones are merely automatically generated by our mental and emotional conditioning, and not the result of any intention on our part to think those thoughts. We can watch these rogue elements coursing through our mind, purporting to speak, or rather think, for us. And we can know that we are not our thoughts.

For this week, please work to develop your own natural technology of inner work, of noticing your thoughts as mere thoughts and letting them go, of being present in more and more of your life.


        

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