Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the Week of April 8, 2024

Soul Hunger  

(Deepening Our Practice 4)

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I recently undertook 20 days of highly-scheduled tourist travel, which displaced my usual periods of formal, sitting meditation. The consequent soul hunger raised my focus on how I live each day, beyond the sitting cushion. Can I live a thriving inner life within the glare of a full outer life?

This is, after all, one way to formulate the purpose of the Fourth Way spiritual path and why we do not live in a monastery or as a hermit. While those worthy lifestyles can lead to deep spirituality, our current society would collapse if too many went that way. Maybe an intelligent-robot future will make that possible, but for now we need to work and be engaged. Spiritual practice for the non-monastic rest of us, to be totally effective, is the during the day, every day, alongside everything else, type.

We literally have a soul hunger: our soul needs to be fed, with foods appropriate to it. Some of those foods are well-understood, such as kindness, love, purpose, meaning, creativity, and awe. The consequences of inadequate nourishment with those psycho-spiritual foods are also well-known: ennui, depression, alienation, addiction, and so on.

There is a second class of soul nourishment, which consists of spiritual energies. These are generated and accessed by practices such as meditation, prayer, presence, energy breathing, and the blending of energies. It is with these that we build up our inner life. A strong morning sitting feeds us deeply and fully, satisfying our soul hunger. But that crucial action brings on a challenge: that feeling of satisfaction can sap some of our motivation for further spiritual practice during the rest of our day. We have done our duty, our inner body is quite sufficiently energized, our inner energy container is filled, and we can live in a state of inner peace. Yet this very sufficiency can preclude our hunger for further inner work as we go about the day's activities.

However, if we miss our morning sitting, our soul hunger is not sated and we have the feeling of something absent, something left undone. Our inner body is flat and calling to us. We are then driven to feed our soul through inner work during the day, in parallel with whatever outward activities we do.

To move beyond this conundrum, to maintain that inner hunger even after a strong morning sitting, we need to increase our need. One way is to recognize that however full we are of energy, whatever our level of inner peace, and however clear our mind is, there is more work to be done, much more. J.G. Bennett reports [1] that Gurdjieff admonished him not to be satisfied with paradise, but to continue his inner work to the next level, where he would be able to serve more deeply.

Soul hunger becomes spiritual hunger when it goes from being aimed at feeding my soul to becoming able to serve more deeply, to becoming a vehicle for the Sacred, an instrument of Love. This requires not only opening to even more refined qualities of energies, but also the purification of our self-serving nature. For example, we do what is needed even in the face of our laziness and self-indulgence. We examine the thoughts and feelings that create the illusion of our ego-self. We inwardly disavow our criticism and whining. We practice simple, quiet, unwavering presence, concentrating consciousness. We enter contemplative prayer. And we find a way to transcend consciousness and open to the light.

We cannot storm the gates of heaven, but we may come to let go of our egoism and allow the Sacred to take its rightful place in us, as us. Inner work never ends for those who hunger for it.

[1] J.G. Bennett; Witness: The Story a Search; 2013 Kindle Edition, p. 279 & p. 373


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