Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Do the Right Thing

Presence is not enough: we are given these bodies to act in this world. While the Eastern spiritual traditions emphasize presence and being, Western traditions spotlight action and purity of will. Complete inner work requires both: presence in the ground of being and action informed by wisdom and kindness.

The difficulty comes in choosing what to do, what actions to take. When we wake up in the midst of our life and start to question what we are doing and why, we see that our life has a great momentum built up over years. Our routines and patterns have us. Indeed, other people define us by our habitual modes of interaction, our personality. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps we live in just the way that optimizes what we can give, spiritually and otherwise. Contemplation of our life may, however, reveal gaps into which new and creative actions could fruitfully enter. Or we might see that we could create gaps, making room for new possibilities in our life. Again, though, we face the pesky question of what changes to make, what to do differently, if anything.

Perhaps we are waiting for the call, waiting for crystal clarity, waiting to be chosen. But in reality those who choose are chosen; we choose ourselves. But what to choose? Doing the right thing calls us to wisely choose the course of our lives, our profession, our spouse, our hobbies, our friends, and our leisure pursuits. The simple and immediate knowing in our heart of hearts, and in our mind of minds, can guide us in assessing rightness intuitively. The heart may know when reason fails. The mind may know when the heart waffles confused. But the intuitive wisdom of conscience lies deeper than both, though often shrouded in the fog of our habitual modes of thought and feeling.

Nevertheless, we choose; we choose because we must choose. Rather than wobble in paralysis, we choose, we act, ready to accept the consequences should we make a mistake. Sometimes only hindsight can tell us whether we made the right choice. It can even take a perspective of years to assess our choices objectively. And, yes, some mistakes prove costly and leave us with deep remorse. A certain courage, though, emboldens us to take the prudent risk. Later, we at least have the satisfaction of having chosen, of having acted, of having loved.

Another side of doing the right thing arises in the more immediate and situational opportunities we face day to day. The Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you and the injunction to love your neighbor as yourself, both point toward the need to develop a heartful wisdom in how we live. Often, however, we sink toward the opposite, toward the lure of irresponsibility, avoiding what we know to be right, shirking our duties and obligations toward ourselves, our family, our community, our nation, all of humanity, all living creatures, and God. Doing the right thing certainly must include being responsible, living up to our duties and obligations. The hard and exacting discipline of always doing the thing we know to be right, despite the sometimes acute desire to take the easy way out, to shirk our duty, demands that we be awake and ready to heed our higher nature. This transformative, perpetual discipline purifies our heart, strengthens our will, and keeps our feet on the path when all else fails.

Wisdom, which grows through our inner work, through our understanding of ourselves, and through our mistakes, guides us in the muddled situations and the difficult choices. In its essence, wisdom derives from conscience. And conscience is the voice of God within us. The degree to which we act in accordance with wisdom and conscience defines the degree to which the Unconditioned Will of the World acts through us. Thus we discover our role: to participate in that Greatness that moves and spiritualizes the universe. The unfolding of history, from the story of our personal life to the story of the evolution of all life, is the manifestation of that spiritualizing action.

The master does nothing of her own, but acts in accord with the Great Tao. The actions of the saint spring from the love that emanates from the Unconditioned Will. As for us — we accept responsibility for doing the right thing in our own limited domain, for perpetually working to deepen our wisdom so that our actions may more closely align with the Great Will. This is our task, our joy, and our hope.


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