Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

 

Inner Work


For the week of: April 1, 2002


Chiming In

In our search for ways to bring spiritual practice into more of our day, the regularity of taking a few moments every hour, or most hours, to reconnect with our inner life and reestablish presence, serves as a powerful support, threading the path into our daily rounds. The idea is simple: on the hour, engage in a brief practice. Choose the hours and the practice in advance.

One excellent candidate for repeated practice involves opening to bodily sensation. For example, focus attention on each limb in turn, briefly but long enough to draw the sensitive energy there. Or you might practice conscious breathing for seven breaths, simple awareness of your breath. Or you might practice breathing in the energy from the air. Or you could work with any other practice that brings you toward presence.

We do this on the hour: say at 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, and so on. Choose the hours. To work at every hour during the day may be too much: better not to overreach and crash. But to work at only one hour may be too little. We look for a balance to challenge ourselves, to push our envelope, but not break it. So you might choose three hours, or the even hours from breakfast until dinner. But choose in advance.

Then when the times come, do the exercise. If you miss the exact time, please do not indulge the self-recriminations that waste your energy. Instead, simply work at the exercise when you realize that the time for it has past. Whether 10 minutes or 4 hours late, the important thing is to come back to presence through the practice you have chosen.

If you have an alarm clock, or an alarm watch, or a watch that chimes the hours, do not be tempted to use it to remind you. One aspect of this task is to create an inner bell of awakening, an impulse within you to remember to practice. Use a watch to check the time, but not to ring the bell of mindfulness. External reminders typically lose their force all too soon.

At the beginning of the week, decide what hours you will practice each day and what method you will use to work toward presence at those times. As the week progresses, adjust those choices as necessary. Make the practice one that will not interfere with your daily activities. You can safely work at being aware of your breath or your body in the midst of many different life situations.


     

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