Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of June 7 & 14, 2021


Purity

(Creating Our Soul: 3)

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"Blessed are the pure in heart..."

We seek purity because it is a prerequisite for entering the deeper realms of the spirit. Its beneficial effect on all our relationships is a second major reason for seeking purity. Third, purity lightens our heart and brightens our being, our entire experience of living. None of this is all or nothing: there are stages from the most corrupt self-centeredness to immaculate saintliness.

We each have our own set of inner impurities, namely our self-centered egoism with all its features. Much of the cleanup is up to us, through observing those features and letting them go. The deeper aspects, though, are only partly within our power, through surrender into hoped-for grace or begging for help from above.

We may start on the path of purification believing that the real impediments are our physical habits. We think that if we could eat less or better, smoke less tobacco, drink less alcohol, we would be pure. And we may expend a great deal of energy, effort, and time struggling with physical indulgences. Yet the reality is that this struggle will not purify us. It may be necessary in two ways. First, if a habit harms our health, then it must go. Respect for our body is part of our inner work. Second, if the habit directly interferes with our inner work, clouds our perceptions, saps our energy or will, then it must go. But these are preliminaries.

We can move a long way down the path of purification simply by quieting our mind and heart. In that quiet, the more superficial features of self-centeredness relax and evaporate, at least temporarily. As we continue to work toward that inner peace, through meditation and presence, it pervades more of our life and with that comes more purity. We become a little less prone to petty actions and emotions and thoughts.

Then when those impulses do come up, they do so against a background of consciousness, enabling us to recognize them as self-centered and giving us the option of choosing not to go with them. We see them as old patterns playing out in ever-new ways. We see that, though they may be old, familiar, and even pervasive, we are not actually required to act on self-centered impulses. We can just let them arise and pass. Further, we recognize that these patterns, collectively known as our personality, are not who we truly are. We come to notice our thoughts, emotions, and impulses as automatic, associative, and self-perpetuating.

There comes a moment when we see clearly, thoroughly, and beyond any doubt that the me, the self, the ego that our personality is constantly referring to, does not exist. It is a mirage built of pointers. Thoughts, emotions, and impulses say "I," "me," but that I and me are just words, just sounds in our mind or sounds we say and that do not refer to anything real. At that point we give up that entire game, leaving aside our personality and the ego it manifests as not who we are. Our automatic and egocentric thoughts, emotions, impulses, and desires do not vanish, but they completely lose their hold on us. In realizing and incorporating the world view that we are not our personality, nor anything it purports to refer to, we take a major step on the path of purification.

The next step is even more subtle and requires help. Our personality refers to an "I" that does not exist. However, there is a real I in us, though generally it is covered over by our personality with its fog of thoughts, emotions, impulses, and desires. Behind that fog, our real I is our will, is who we truly are. Its simplest manifestation is as our voluntary attention. To get a taste of that, we can practice being our attention. That real I also comes as our will-to-be, and in other ways. Through our I we can open to the higher, the sacred, and to our essential connection with other people; we can become part of a greater whole.

Yet lurking in those essential depths is our essence ego. Some of the self-centered patterns that we cannot readily see, and if we do see them, we cannot readily let go of, may be driven by our essence ego. This is pre-thought, pre-emotion. From time to time, it makes itself known by the strength of its hold on us, in a recurring attitude that seems to come directly from who we are, yet drives us away from other people, from ourselves, and from the sacred. By listening to our conscience, which is connected with what is most pure in us, we can come toward recognizing our essence egoism.

We cannot free ourselves from this deeply embedded essence egoism. But we can ask for help toward that freedom. We ask the sacred to cleanse us of ourselves. We pray. We beg. We hope. We open to wish, to what the Buddhists call samvega, the bittersweet longing for completion, for purification, for the sacred. The more we bring the whole of ourselves, body, heart, and mind, to this asking for purification, to this inner surrender, the less room there is in us for our essence egoism. Heartfelt, total prayer for purification lightens our burden.

There are two other supports for purification, both bracing. The first is accepting the inevitable suffering that comes with being alive. We do what we can to alleviate the sickness and pain that our body incurs. Yet, though we do not seek suffering, some of it is unavoidable and cannot be alleviated, both the physical and the emotional kinds. Accepting such situations as our lot, allows the cleansing fire of unavoidable suffering to do its work on us.

The second support for purification is to remember that our days are numbered. We do not know that number, but whether it is large or small, our last day will arrive. Acknowledging the inevitability of death, both our own and all those we hold dear, is an arrow through the heart of egoism, breaking down our separateness.

The path of purification is at times certainly not what we would like. But it is necessary. And it is transformative. It changes us in fundamental ways to the great benefit of our soul and of all who come into contact with us. It opens us to a much deeper appreciation of life and to real and lasting joy.

For this week, please take a step along the path of purification.


     

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