Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 29, 2021


Long-Form Living

Introduction

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The essence of long-form living is to live fully today in such a way as to serve the future, to create a better future for ourselves, our family, our descendants, our society, and our planet. This involves multiple time scales. Cooking dinner serves our immediate future. Cooking dinner with healthy foods serves our near- and medium-term future. Cooking dinner with presence serves the immediate future because it creates its own short-term momentum, as well as our longer-term spiritual development. Cooking dinner with foods that have a low carbon footprint serves society and the planet on a larger and longer-term scale.

Long-form living means putting ourselves into a broad context that includes our immediate needs and wants, as well as larger considerations. There have always been tradeoffs between time scales. We may love desserts loaded with sugar and fats, but if we have them too often, we may not be happy with their cumulative impact on our health. We are faced with balancing spending on what we want now versus saving to buy a home or for a more secure and independent future. Inwardly, it may be easiest to give ourselves over to the stream of associating thoughts and reactive emotions coursing through us incessantly, rather than stepping out of that stream into presence. Every effort of spiritual practice or meditation enhances this moment while also preparing an even deeper mode of living in our future. These efforts, though, require us to sacrifice other things we might want to do inwardly or outwardly with that time.

But perhaps primary among the tradeoffs between time scales occurs in the confrontation between what we need to do today versus what we need to do for our long-term goals. Sometimes these do not conflict, such as in building a house piece by piece, or in taking care of our children, or in feeding ourselves. In those cases, the larger possibilities are served by immediate actions today. Yet there are gray areas where actions of questionable necessity and lesser importance to us crowd out actions toward larger and more important goals.

At issue is the tyranny of time. First, the bottleneck in our reality that allows our full engagement with only one action in any given moment. Multitasking is no panacea because it only works well with actions that require less than full attention. The most valuable actions generally take all our attention and we do them one at a time. Of the innumerable possibilities of this moment, only one can be actualized through the narrow gate of time.

The second limitation of time is that we only have a finite amount of it: twenty-four hours in a day and an unknown but tragically small number of years in our life.

The third tyranny of time is the inexorable increase of entropy. Everything in time runs down and decays. And much of our time is taken up with slowing or reversing that decay or dealing with its consequences.

There are several implications of all this. First, we attempt to live in a way that addresses the scales and limitations of time. Second, we seek a partial reprieve from the tyranny of time by bringing a timeless aspect into our lives. We seek the eternal. Our days may be numbered, but the amount of eternal life in each day may be unlimited. This second implication concerns our spiritual inner work directly and the first concerns it indirectly. And third, we seek to transcend time and our life by leaving the world better off for our having lived in it. All of this is captured within the notion of long-form living.

In the coming weeks, we will explore some aspects of long-form living.

    1. Rituals
    2. Timeless Presence
    3. Equanimity
    4. Serving the Future
    5. Lifespan and Legacy
    6. Time: Body and Soul

For this week, please look at how the various time scales and limitations impact how you live.


     

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