Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of: October 11, 2004

Losing Face

The chairman of a large corporation recently noted that we only need to make one or two good decisions in our life. Whether that’s true or not, the idea certainly points to the fact that many of our choices, large and small, miss the mark. We make mistakes or fail, and experience a kind of remorse.

Furthermore, we all have limitations. To the extent we either do not recognize or do not fully accept those limitations, we repeatedly enter situations that impose a rude awakening upon us. Unpleasant situations and events whose roots lie in our own shortcomings cause us to lose face. What is this painful experience? What face do we lose?

The sum total of our conditioning, experience, habits, and patterns form a psychological face, our personality, that we mistakenly believe in as our authentic self, as who we are. This personality face looks toward externals for fulfillment. When something in life goes badly, especially due to our own inadequacy, it can happen that our personality face, our mask, loses part of its overarching and unchallenged grip on us.

In its place, through that hole in the mask, we may glimpse what in Zen is known as our Original Face Before We Were Born. Instead of solely looking out through the eyes of our externally-oriented personality face, we begin to face the rich, vibrant, living depth beyond thoughts and reactions, a depth that encompasses both inner and outer.

The shock and discomfort of the inevitable failures, disappointments, and humiliations of life, present us with a choice. We can wallow in self-pity, self-loathing, despondency and anger, or we can use the occasion to turn toward Something incomparably greater than any passing situation, Something that will never fail. We use the shock and energy of mistakes and failures to reinvigorate our spiritual quest.

We never seek out failure, for life readily provides us our share. Externally, when we fail, we forthrightly pick ourselves up, assess what we can learn from the debacle, and then work to succeed. Inwardly though, when we fail or suffer humiliation, we turn from our personality face. Then comes the opportunity to return to our Original Face, looking toward and from the Real.

For this week, notice how you respond to mistakes, failures, and disappointments in life, be they large or small. See if you can extricate the released energy from its downward spiral and turn to face what will always matter.



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