Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of January 11, 2021


Doing Things Well

(Reclaiming Our Life: 1)

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Life requires us to do many things, for ourselves, for our family, for society. It also presents opportunities to do much more, by choice instead of necessity. All of that is mainly about what we do externally, with our body, with support from our mind and heart. On the inside, though, not much seems to be required beyond the needed participation in our external activities. But within the inside, the opportunity to do more is enormous, even limitless.

How do these relate? Do our outer activities diminish our inner life? To have a strong, vibrant, and evolving inner life, do we need to cut back on outer engagements? In monastic paths, the answer seems to be yes. In our way, the answer is no. The inner and outer are not at odds. They feed and support each other, in depth. We can live a fully engaged life in the world and have a strong, vibrant, and ever-deepening inner life at the same time. Of course, it helps our inner life enormously to set aside time for daily meditation. But that also helps our outer life because it rejuvenates the whole of us.

Ultimately, the distinction between inner and outer fades and it becomes one life, as embodied for example by doing things well.[1] Focusing on doing things well is a prime way to enhance both our outer life and our inner world at the same time. When we are focused on what we are doing, we live more vividly, more fully. We bring more life to our time. A major way to help us focus on what we are doing, is to have the intention to do it well. Because to do something, anything, well, we need to be there, be in contact with what we are doing. Otherwise it will go by habit and haphazard autopilot, with mixed results.

We could look at seven aspects of doing something well, as follows: vision, purpose, ethics, preparation, presence, acting with quality, and completion. We start with a vision of the action we are about to undertake. We see what we are going to do and how we wish it to go. We review our purpose for the action and whether the action will serve that purpose. We look at the ethics of the action, to see if our conscience has any reservations about it. We prepare by planning, gathering the materials, and ensuring that we understand how to do the action well. We bring ourselves into a state of presence, because life is best lived in presence and because we need to be present to do something well. Then we do the thing, acting with quality, with attention and care. When things go wrong or unexpectedly, as they so often do, we adjust and carry on. And finally, we make sure we have completed the action and returned the tools and the scene to their original condition.

Each of these seven aspects is necessary to do something well. But depending on the scale of the undertaking, each aspect may take more or less time. If it's something we do frequently and know how to do well, then the early aspects can occur in a flash. If it's something new to us, the preparation may take much longer than the action. Whether brief or extended, we aim to be there in every aspect, and thereby enable it to be done well.

Engaging in these seven aspects of the action makes it more completely an act of will. Every such act of will brings us a step closer to our own completion, to our own unification, to recognizing our own I and distinguishing that from our self-centered ego.

By the practice of doing things well, we develop our conscientiousness, our ability to be responsible, organized, and diligent in fulfilling obligations and working toward goals. Doing one thing well translates into doing other things well. Doing outer things well carries over into doing our inner work well. As stated earlier, the distinction between outer and inner fades, and we come to simply living our life well, in all its facets and phases.

It is no surprise that the words conscientiousness and conscience come from the same Latin root. Indeed, to be conscientious is to have our actions driven by our conscience. And conscience itself connects us, our will, with the Sacred, with Wisdom, and with Love.

For this week, please practice doing more things well.

[1] G.I. Gurdjieff Paris Meetings 1943, Dolmen Meadow Editions, Toronto 2017, p. 106


     

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