Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of: November 29, 2004


The theme of return appears in many aspects of spiritual work: returning to God, returning to our spiritual home, returning from waywardness, and so on. For this week we practice returning to ourselves, returning to awareness of our body, returning to presence, returning to this moment in its fullness. In a real sense, this returning is the most basic and most important of all spiritual practices, for it brings us into this moment, into ourselves, into the only place from which our spirit can unfold.

In the practice of presence, the most apparent characteristic is that we fall away from it. The crux of the practice then is to return to presence whenever we notice that we are not. Our attitude shapes the possibility of return. Perhaps we do not wish to return just at this moment, because to return to presence means to see. If we are reacting or indulging, griping or sniping, or behaving in some other unbecoming fashion, be it inwardly or outwardly, we may not want to see. To face ourselves at that moment exposes us to an intimate and difficult kind of suffering. But the suffering that comes in the self-exposure of seeing, if not reacted to, leads to healing and freedom. Can we accept to see and to live in that seeing?

Or, more typically, we put off returning to presence because we are passive and lazy in our inner work. We lose contact with its importance. We would rather not be bothered with it just now. Can we muster the will to be active in returning to presence, again and again?

For this week, practice the art of coming back to presence whenever you notice that you are not. Return to presence without self-recriminations at having fallen out of it, without shrinking from what you might see, and without postponing it. Whether in happiness or in sorrow, in pleasure or in pain, in boredom or in exuberance, we respect every part of our life by returning to be present in it, to live it fully. Step by step, this carries us closer to our true center of peace, our refuge and our hope, the source of our possibilities for good.



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