Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of October 26, 2020


(The Ladder of Being: 1)

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In us there is a fundamental connection between our emotional life and our being. Our usual concept of a soulful person, a person with being, is that such a person can feel deeply and feel widely, with an undercurrent of passion running throughout their life, even in the small moments. All that they do matters, from brushing their teeth to their most creative acts. We shall find that, spiritually also, being brings passion, giving the capacity to feel, to care deeply and widely. For a person with being, even their inner acts matter, from the passing thoughts that they resonate with to their deepest acts of worship and communion.

The issue is not whether what we do matters. It does matter. The issue is the extent to which realize how much it matters, both inwardly and outwardly. Our connections with each other run deep. Our connections with all life run deep. How we are and what we do ripples out from us, impacting our families, our colleagues, and our society in ways unseen by us. Even our unspoken attitudes toward other people have the capacity to pollute our social atmosphere or to make it bloom.

To make a better world, we cannot ignore our own inner atmosphere. If we own hatred or even just rejection, then that gets reflected and amplified in the world around us. If we own kindness and compassion, that also gets reflected and amplified in the world around us. If we own kindness and compassion for some and rejection for others, then that amplifies the fissures among us.

Here owning means more than simply having these feelings passing through us; it means buying into them, claiming them as what we feel, concurring with them, agreeing that they represent our true view. We all have reactive and associative emotions of many types arising in us. But just because they arise in us, does not mean that they necessarily represent us. What is an inner act? Some emotion may come, but we may not believe in it, we may not accept it as true and right. That emotion is not an inward action of ours. This seeing of the emotion as not representing us, as not who I am, weakens its impact on us and its influence beyond us.

This does not mean rejecting those emotions or criticizing ourselves for having such feelings. It simply means seeing them as self-generated, automatic, programmed events coming into our awareness, into our mind and heart, like clouds or rain or winds passing by. We are whole. And within that wholeness there are many elements. We honor it all. But so much in our mind and heart comes unbidden. It is not all our intentional actions. Nor do we do act on it all or believe in it all, like the impulses of an unruly child, whom we love.

Our personal work on being purifies us. If we see that how we are matters, that even our thoughts matter, then we may give less support and energy to rejection, criticism, and anger, and more support and energy to kindness, caring, joy, and peace. If we want a world that is kind, caring, joyful, and peaceful, then we can help by creating it within ourselves. If we want our own lives to reflect our values, then we begin to reclaim our energies from those thoughts and emotions that do not reflect our values.

All this, our life, our being, is driven by what we truly care about in our heart of hearts, in that place known only to us. There in our depths, there is a fundamental longing, a longing for completion, a longing for being. It manifests in us in myriads of ways, as we seek to fill that inward gap with activity, with things, with people, with achievements, with distractions, with outrage. But try as we might, the gap, the wordless, imageless longing, remains. Nothing can fill it. And we know that. We cannot hide it from ourselves.

That basic poverty at our core, impels us to search. The longing that arises from that gap homes in on our being, fueling our wish to be, simply to be. Behind all that we do, if we are not there, the actions are empty, lacking heart. If we can be, then the simplest actions are full of heart. This is our longing for completion, our longing for being, our longing for a life with heart. The only satisfactory way to address the gap in our core is to be, to be here in ourselves as ourselves.

To understand what that means is both hard and simple. Hard, because so many substitutes constantly offer themselves, yet they prove unworthy of that hallowed place at our center. Simple, because all we need do is wait until the clamor within us settles down and then just be. Later we will be even in the midst of the clamor. But at first, the inner quiet helps reveal our true self to us.

The special and surprising quality of being is that it does not fill the gap at our core, but instead keeps it open, keeps all the illusory and temporary fillers at bay, such as egoism, distractions, and activities. We do what we do, but as long as we can be while we do it all, we maintain that receptivity at our core. Our longing for being is a longing for purification, and purification means keeping the gap at our center clear and open, open to the real, to the sacred, the true object of our need.

The way toward being begins in recognizing and admitting our need, in allowing ourselves to feel that bittersweet longing in our center, the longing for completion, for purification, for being. True being is shared by all, connecting us not only with ourselves, but with all life. This is our need. This is our heart. This is what we long for.

What do you long for?


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