Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 28, 2020

The Door of Service

(The Ladder of Will: 8)

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Our way is known as the Way of Service. Of the many forms of service, we focus on spiritual inner work as service. One might reasonably wonder how inner work is service. The most obvious answer comes from the psychological health and maturity that accrues as a person's inner work progresses. If a person becomes more at home in their own skin, more accepting of themselves and others, more respectful and giving, kinder and more responsible, then their inner work benefits everyone who interacts with them.

There is, however, a more subtle and more powerful sense in which spiritual inner work is service. When we walk into a house of worship where people are engaged in prayer or into a meditation hall where people are sitting in meditation, we have a palpable sense of an atmosphere of depth, of unity, an atmosphere that changes our state, that engenders awe and a heightened awareness, that awakens us to our connection with other people, that awakens our wish to be in direct contact with the sacred. Every person in that place contributes something that benefits us, that benefits all the other people there. That atmosphere emanates beyond the walls and is carried into their lives as everyone leaves the event. It may not be as concentrated, but it remains beneficent.

Spiritual practices, including those done alone, produce inner energies that form an atmosphere that can be felt by others. The deeper our practice goes, the more impactful it becomes. As our inner work continues, we produce more energy and a higher quality of energy. In this way, spiritual inner work serves the society outside our doors. Whenever we sit in meditation, practice inner work exercises, engage in prayer, or abide in presence, the benefits flow well beyond ourselves. A portion of the spiritual energies we produce streams into the Earth's reservoir of energies, becoming available to all. The notion of making the world a better place by our inner work is a powerful truth that goes to the core of the purpose of our life.

The door of service leads to transformation. As we begin to realize that our inner work serves not only ourselves, but something greater than ourselves, it becomes an even stronger force in our lives. We engage in spiritual practices because they bring the meaning of service into our lives. This multiplies that engagement and accelerates our personal transformation, which we now understand as a necessity for even deeper service. Inner work for our personal benefit cannot sustain an ever-growing commitment to spirituality, because as our work progresses, we become less and less self-centered. But inner work as service can and does sustain its own growth by awakening us to our true purpose.

None of this questions the value of the endless forms of external service, of helping people or helping any or all life on the Earth. Selfless service of any form leads toward spiritual transformation, as we can see from the many saintly examples throughout human history. For most of us, our jobs, including unpaid work in our homes and creative activity, are forms of service to others. Witness the crucial work of teachers, medical workers, police, fire, and other first-responders, food and farm workers, our protectors in the military, as well as all other jobs, each crucial in its own way. Society pays us to do those jobs because they serve some segment of society. Our jobs are service and, if done as service, take on a transformational hue.

As with everything in time, though, nothing is pure in the conditions we live in. If our job is how we earn our livelihood, then the selfless service aspect vies with our personal needs and desires, our resentments and avidity. This mixed bag of motivations creates a challenge for us, a challenge that can be met by our spiritual inner work. That inner work helps us see our motivations and purify them, thereby bringing greater emphasis to necessity and to the selfless service inherent to our external work. This is one area where our outer work and our inner work meet and support each other, where the distinction between inner and outer begins to fade.

Through all this, our entire lives, inner and outer, can be a form of service, a transformational form, wherein we no longer live only for ourselves. This is the door of service. We live to give.


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