Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the Week of December 5, 2022


I and Me

(Introduction to the Series)

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Various situationally activated parts of me make most of the choices that life requires. What to have for dinner. Which shirt to wear. Which route to the grocery. Which email to respond to first. What to think. And so on throughout the day. Something in me, some automated, semi-independent part of me chooses, with little deliberation because deliberation is not needed.

All those small choices, which we leave more or less to themselves, do not, however, prepare us to make the decisions that matter or that require sustained follow through. We unwittingly allow these small choices to be made for us by our pre-programmed tendencies. This points to the difference between I and me, between who I really am, my I, and my personality, my me, with its many established patterns. It also hints that our I, our will, is unused, unengaged, and submerged behind all those habituated attitudes of thought, emotion, and bodily impulses.

The "choices" made by our personality are not true choices, but rather predictable paths through the interlocking labyrinths of our conditioning, experience, knowledge, likes, dislikes, and constraints. But none of this is clear. All these choices happen behind the curtain, invisible to us until they emerge into the light of action. We, our I, play no role in that. We are just along for the ride, to wherever our personality, our me, takes us. And those paths are well trodden. Nothing new or truly creative occurs through our personality, which can only rehash and revise. Even more seriously, by obscuring our I, this belief in our personality patterns prevents us from becoming fully ourselves, and it prevents us from spiritually transcending ourselves. One way to illuminate this situation is by temporarily blocking some of the patterns.

There is also another, more insidious part of me, namely our ego: our self-referential, self-centered, false but appearing very real, construct of who I believe I am. This keeps us from our true I by usurping its place. When our mind thinks I or me, it appears to be pointing to something. But that something, our ego, turns out to be nothing more than all the pointers, all the thoughts and all the emotions that swirl around the vacant axis of our pseudo-I. What they point to, this supposed self, this ego, is empty. It does not exist. Yet this conditioned personality of ours is structured around me as the center of the universe. Our ego leads us to live a self-serving, self-centered life. Like our personality, this belief in our ego prevents us from becoming fully ourselves, and it prevents us from spiritually transcending ourselves. Purification from egoism comes through seeing it operating in us, through seeing its emptiness, and through the sacrifice of not acting according to its impulses.

Such inner work clears the way for us to become fully ourselves, to be who we really are, our I. And beyond that, it clears the path for deepening our inner life, our relationships, our creativity, our experience and appreciation of life, our joy, our contributions, and our soul. That work is progressive and then sudden. We chip away at our identification with our ego. We chip away at living on autopilot, driven by our personality. We become more and more free. Until the day comes when we are no longer fooled into believing we are what we are not.

In this inner work series, we will explore our inner life, make some sense of the cacophony, to see our me and perhaps engage our I hidden behind it.


     

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