Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of May 31, 2021


Living with Heart

(Creating Our Soul: 2)

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We all live with heart. The differences come in the content of our emotions and in the quality of our contact with those emotions.

Too often we identify with our emotions. When we have some strong emotion of the unpleasant or negative variety, we compound the problem by identifying with the emotion. That means we fall into it, let it take over our inner world, and believe that emotion is who we are in that moment.

The most obvious solutions are either to express the negative emotion by allowing it to shape our interactions with other people or ourselves, in the hope that we will thereby be rid of it, or to suppress the emotion, bottle it up and try not to feel it.

Both approaches have serious drawbacks. In the first, we lose ourselves and damage our relationships. In the second, we cut ourselves off from a major component of our inner life; we become cold, life loses its flavor, and the suppressed emotion finds another time and another way to manifest. In both, we waste energy.

There is a third approach: observation, transformation, and healing of the difficult emotion. Observation means seeing it for what it is, recognizing the emotion as an emotion, and perhaps naming or labeling it. It means noticing what is around the emotion: the associated thoughts, mental images, bodily sensations, the extent to which we believe in and agree with it, the events or situations in our life that gave rise to the emotion, and whether there is something we need to do about it, especially something not harmful. Noticing such details helps keep us from falling into identification with the emotion. But we are not trying to insert any distance or barrier between ourselves and our emotions: no separation between observer and observed. We look to integrate our whole being, not separate from the difficult bits. Just as when we are aware of our arms, our legs, our body, we also aim to be fully aware of, in contact with, our emotions. This is observation, which in itself changes our relationship with our emotions.

Transformation means taking the energy trapped in a negative emotion and putting it toward a constructive purpose. Before that can happen effectively and fully, we need to be willing to give up that instance of that emotion, for our own well-being and for our soul. Even if we believe in its rightness, even if it is fully justified, the negative emotion drains our precious energies. Taking necessary action or just letting it go restores our possibility of regaining our emotional balance. That willingness to remedy the situation or let it go enables us to reclaim the energy from the emotion. At that point, the act of breathing energies from the air around us as we inhale and letting that energy spread throughout our being as we exhale, can entrain the energy caught in the emotion and redirect it into building our being, thereby transforming the situation.

Healing means accepting ourselves as we are, including as a person with the inner impulses and patterns that sometimes result in such difficult emotions. This acceptance means seeing how we are and embracing ourselves with compassion. Here I am, human, with all that entails: the limitations and possibilities, the weaknesses and strengths, the purity and the impurities. We reject nothing. We integrate everything. We become one whole. We build an inner tent large enough to house the whole catastrophe of our inner life, and thereby we move toward inner unity. No longer at war with ourselves or the world, the wounds of our personal history begin to heal. The more we heal, the fewer negative emotions arise in us.

Yet observation, transformation, and healing are only the beginning, allowing us to set down the burden of destructive emotions and clearing the way for truly living with heart, with the sacred impulses: joy, kindness, compassion, hope, faith, love, and the bittersweet longing for fulfillment and completion. For the sacred emotions to live in us, we need greater purity of will, strength of being, and openness of heart, which we address later in this inner work series. For now, we focus on the gateway to the sacred impulses: equanimity.

Though we may not think of it as an emotion, equanimity, and its close cousin peace, are conscious emotions. Acceptance and letting go lead to and arise from equanimity, which is the true default state of our emotions, behind all the turmoil. The destructive emotions take us out of equanimity. The more we let go of them, perhaps through observation, transformation, and healing, the more we naturally come to rest in equanimity. Though not indifferent, here we can let things be as they are and breathe easily. Yes, at times we need to change things, but we do so from a place of equanimity.

From equanimity, we are open to love, joy, and the rest. These welcome visitors from the realm of sacred impulses give us true heart, a heart full of our shared humanity.

For this week, please practice living with heart, the core of our soul.


     

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