Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of May 3, 2021


Lifespan and Legacy

(Long-Form Living: 5)

We cannot know how long we will live, but we do know that this body of ours will die. Our birth and inevitable death serve as bookends to our life. Consider your life as a whole. Take some time to imagine surveying your life from ten years after it ends. All of it. Birth to last breath. Childhood. Adolescence. Youth. Young adulthood. Middle age. Senior years. Old age. What was it? Who were you? What did you experience? What did you do? What were the threads that connected the stages of your life? What did your life mean? What was its significance? Was it significant? To whom? What did you do well? What did you do that mattered the most, to you? Are you satisfied with how you lived your life? What legacy did you leave behind?

Seeing our life as a whole helps us see what matters and what does not matter, to us, in the long run. At birth we receive this precious gift of life, a gift that invites us to make of it what we will, what we can. What guides our choices among the vast possibilities? We have our personal tendencies, ideals, values, interests, quirks, capabilities, experience, and limitations as our default and usually unexamined guides. We have the many random events that shape and limit and sometimes expand our possibilities. But we can also have the possibilities created and shaped by our vision of our life, by our understanding of what we want our life to be, to mean. That is, if we have such a vision.

Ordinarily we move through our day dealing with the myriad necessities as well as engaging in the patterns of activity that we have created or fallen into. Contemplating our life as a whole can help inform our vision for our life, raising us temporarily out of the flow of time. The stronger our vision for our life, the more we actually live that life. In the usual way of things, however, we do not know what our life means, nor what we wish it to mean. We do not have a vision for our life. We live day to day, making even the big, direction-changing decisions and commitments independently of each other, except for the constraints resulting from the prior ones, and we do all that without the context of an overarching vision. Our uncertainty and doubt when confronted with making those big decisions and keeping those commitments arise in part from the lack of context.

Yet even contemplating our life as a whole does not remove the doubts and uncertainties. It may inspire a vision for our life. But we will still question it. Is this what I really want? Is this what I should do? And what does "should" mean in this context? Is there a greater vision of which my life could (and should) be a part? And if so, what is that?

But here we are, stuck in time and faced with living each day. Do we let our doubts prevent us from adopting a vision for our life? Do we let our doubts consign us to a narrow time horizon and focus? What is the size of the present moment in which we act? The larger that present moment, the more effective we can be. Having a vision for our life can transcend our life and expand our present moment. We are the ones who have the privilege of and responsibility for our life. We are the only ones who can choose what this life will be. If we cannot know that a particular vision for our life is absolutely right for us, we also cannot know that the same vision is wrong. And what would wrong mean anyway? Wrong in what way?

So we practice this contemplation of our life as whole. And we open ourselves to possible life visions which that contemplation might inspire. A life vision is not a pipe dream; it is something we can make real, something that assembles our life into a coherent whole. We choose a path, with our eyes open to its possibilities and difficulties, and we follow it diligently. Not choosing, not having a vision, means drifting randomly and being less likely to fully satisfy us in viewing what our life was, from the perspective of ten years after it is over.

If we have lived this far without such a vision, is it too late? The number of days we have left may be unknowable, but the use we put them to, put ourselves to, may still be unlimited. Time is a shell. The intensity of living, the stability and coherence we bring to it, can transcend time's limitations.

For this week, create, or reinforce and reconnect with, your vision for your life.


     

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