Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice



Inner Work

For the week of: March 18, 2002

What Blocks the Path?

Without obstacles, our path to the higher would be smooth and fast. We are constructed in such a way, however, that obstacles abound and even proliferate.

Each religion presents a view of the obstacles to spiritual freedom and love. The Buddha taught about five hindrances on the path: (1) grasping, (2) ill will, (3) sloth and torpor, (4) agitation, hurry and worry, and (5) doubt. The latter includes doubts about the path and about one’s own ability to walk the path. To those five, the Buddha added the core fetter of belief in a separate self: egoism. The Christian seven deadly sins present a similar view of the obstacles: pride and vanity, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth.

In the context of the spiritual path, sloth is perhaps one of the least obvious but most detrimental hindrances. Its source is a lack of need for liberation. This lack stops us before we begin. If we do not have a strong spiritual hunger driving us to practice, then spiritual sloth rules and we do not move. Fortunately, the more we practice, the more our longing grows.

If we look carefully at our own experience, to see what keeps us from awakening, from being more present, we will discover our own personalized set of obstacles. We need to know these well and experiment with how to overcome, avoid, accept or dissolve them. This requires true intelligence. Butting heads with deeply ingrained patterns only adds to the problems. Self-acceptance can be much more effective. But first, we have to see clearly what is blocking us. Bringing intelligence, creativity, discernment, and determination to bear within the daily rounds empty of practice pays handsome dividends.


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