Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


What does it mean to participate in our life? Isn’t that what we do all the time? Looking carefully at how things are with us, we may notice that we rarely adopt that combination of responsibility and presence that defines true participation. We sleepwalk, allowing the acts of our body to occur by happenstance and habit, with perhaps our passive consent. When you stand, do you have the direct feeling of “I am standing here,” or is your body standing on its own and anyhow?

Participation means actually doing what we are doing, purposely, not just letting everything happen by default, autopilot, habit, and accident. To participate means to be the source of our actions: from simple acts like walking, to more complex ones like thinking and speaking. When you participate in walking, you have the sense that you own your body. Otherwise your body owns you. When you participate in thinking, you direct your thoughts rather than abdicating to random associations.

The hallmark of participation lies in the unspoken, unthought, direct sense that “I am doing this.” This state can be contrasted with observation, witnessing, or mindfulness. Mindfulness sees, whereas participation does. Observation can be from a distance, while participation lives in the midst of the action with full awareness and full engagement. Participation sees like observation, but also takes the further step of being the actor, the agent of our being. In any given moment, participation means entering our body, our life and our time as the doer.

The first impediment to participation is passivity and the second is egoism. Being the doer, the agent of our actions, does not necessarily imply letting ego control. Indeed, participation clears us of egoism and self-centeredness because it arises from a deeper place in us. The process begins with becoming the one who lives our life. And the path of becoming ends in the ultimate goal of spirituality: allowing God to be the One Who participates in us, through us, as us.

See Also: Participation Presence


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