Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of October 29 & November 5, 2018

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Spiritual Change

(Change and the Changeless: 5)

Even in the realm of the changeless, things change: namely, our relationship with, experience of, and openness to the changeless. For the most part, the lasting changes come gradually. Our personal spiritual evolution depends to a large extent on the sincerity, intensity, quality, and persistence of our inner work. Other factors are also at play, unseen by us and beyond our control. Sometimes unexpected, sudden, and temporary grace descends on us, for example when we come wide awake and fully present in the midst of our life, or when we find our heart opening in love, or when in the midst of a sitting we find ourselves immersed in spiritual depths beyond our prior or usual experience.

Of course, these temporary states, even the radically deep ones, do not by their nature last long and do not signal a permanent change, which we could call a change of our level of being or a change of our spiritual station. A temporary state brought by grace can become the beginning of a permanent shift if we seek out how to reproduce it and practice returning to that deeper state until we become able to enter it at will and at any time. Temporary states, if they are not seemingly-random grace, but occur, for example, during our periods of meditation, and because we know how to enter them in a reliable and repeatable way, do signal a shift in our being. That deeper state is now part of us, a permanent part of our repertoire of living.

Similarly, when a new spiritual insight or understanding dawns it tends to stay available to us. Each new understanding purifies our will, adds a drop to our being, and changes our approach to living.

For spiritual change, we not only need to practice what we can do reliably and repeatedly, and not only engage with the practices of our path even if we are not able to fully enter them, and not only seek the spiritual ability to re-enter states shown us by grace, but we also look for other ways to push the inner envelope to extend ourselves beyond our current spiritual horizon. To push the envelope, it's useful to have a map of where we are going, for example from the teaching we follow. This could be the various stages of absorption or insight or enlightenment in Buddhism. It could be the representation of the soul, the heavenly hierarchy, and God in Christian mysticism. Or the levels of being and worlds in Sufism. Or the sephirot in Kabbalah. Or it could be the schema of higher worlds as presented in our path.

As our inner life, our inner work, our spiritual station, and our outer actions and relationships evolve together, we welcome the small, personal transformations that accumulate over time and bring us to a place of clarity, heart, and freedom that would be unrecognizable to our former selves. That place might be a letting go of harmful habits, a quiet and peaceful mind, an attitude that is not always me-first and the loving, considerate heart that enables, a clarity of personal purpose, a continuing dive into the spiritual depths and the light we bring back.

As stated before, the Sacred may not be in time, but we are. In one aspect, the Sacred is the unchanging, the deathless. In another aspect, the Sacred is the utterly dynamic will that creates and sustains this universe. Finding our place in relationship to That is our task and our transformation.


        

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