Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of January 4, 2021


Reclaiming Our Life

Introduction

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For a good part of our day, many of us give ourselves over to the never-ending firehose of digital information and entertainment, over to the proliferating apps and streams, podcasts and emails, texts, posts, games, episodes, and tweets that this dynamic, connected, and creative world of ours throws at us.

A basic question that we tend not to ask is whether and to what extent our immersion in this electronic domain is a choice, a habit, a necessity, or an addiction. And further, when we are in that domain, are we submerged in autopilot or are we there to experience it fully? Are there some areas within that digital stream in which we are more awake, more alert? The video call versus clicking away on canned videos, writing an email versus dashing off a text versus clicking on social media posts. Where in all this am I? Am I so far gone that the stream plays itself on me, that the stream plays me? Or am I awake in the midst of it?

Our problem, though, goes well beyond those considerations. When I am going about my life, in moments without the digital stream, am I still being played, but now by an inner stream, by the automatic, self-generated thoughts and reactive emotions continually coursing through my mind and heart? Where am I in all that?

Our way of inner work seeks to rectify these situations by reclaiming our life from its automatisms. We say inner work, because it takes efforts, broad, sustained, and progressive, to counter the inner and outer assumptions, habits, and addictions of a lifetime. It also takes non-efforts, like knowing when to let go and just be. But even small steps pay large dividends, in terms of peace, joy, heartfelt connection, and meaning. Like the outer technologies that draw us out, there is a wide array of inner work techniques, developed through the wisdom of millennia, to draw us back in, toward ourselves, and thereby toward the sacred reality in which we are embedded.

Take the example of our opinions and preferences. These can be an expression of our unique individuality. However, our opinions and preferences lose their value to us if we are subordinate to them, if they rule us or if we believe they are us. Some of us, sometimes allow this to go even further by succumbing to the algorithms and partisan bots that drive our social media and news streams to nudge us down the rabbit hole toward extreme political opinions. A sad situation. Can we reclaim our opinions from such artificial mind-bending, from these them and us attitudes and propaganda?

Better yet, can we follow the wisdom of the Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng Ts'an? He said, "Do not seek the Truth, only cease to cherish opinions."[1] Therein lies freedom and equanimity, liberation in front of our likes and dislikes, not letting our opinions and preferences define us or take the place of who we really are. This means coming back to the center, to our center, to the way of impartiality and conscience.

Our challenge is to reclaim our life, to reclaim ourselves from the powerful and enticing forces both outside and inside of us, which we too often allow to take us. This reclamation is certainly possible, constituting the first of several liberations along our spiritual path. In the coming weeks, we will turn to inner work practices that can effectively counteract the centrifugal forces of life and bring us back to ourselves. This may or may not entail making changes in how we spend our time outwardly, but it is likely to entail addressing the quality of how we are inwardly.

For this week, please notice your own day to day reality and whether the notions of reclaiming your life and reclaiming your self make any sense in your world. Does your life need reclaiming? Do you need reclaiming?

    1. Doing Things Well
    2. Focused Attention Practice
    3. Appointments with Yourself
    4. Stillness
    5. Being Yourself
    6. Being Perfect
    7. Inner Freedom, Outer Roles
    8. Doing What Matters
    9. The Morning Sitting
    10. Three-Centered Presence
    11. Conscious Presence

[1] "Hsin Hsin Ming" (Verses on the Faith Mind) by Seng Ts'an, the Third Patriarch of Zen, d. 606 AD. An important and seminal document in the world's treasury of spiritual writings.


     

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