Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 2, 2006

Full Engagement

"When walking, just walk. When sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble."
Zen Master Lin Chi (Rinzai)

To bring the whole of ourselves into everything we do would, for most of us, constitute a radical remake of our life. Many fissures undermine our would-be wholeness. We do one thing while wishing we were doing something else, while planning or worrying about tomorrow, while hurrying toward the next thing, or perhaps stewing over the last insult we received. If we move slightly closer to what we are doing, we may fall into criticism or fear of what’s happening, of the people around us, of the situation. We may have one foot in this moment, but the rest of us flees elsewhere.

To engage fully in what we do means not only to be the one doing it, through our attention and intention, but also to bring our body, heart, and mind into it. It means to jump into this moment with both feet.

Let’s take a common example. We find ourselves in a conversation that does not interest us. Rather than fall into boredom or inattentiveness, we switch gears by choosing to engage. We listen carefully and without being distracted by our inner criticism, our disinterest, our concern with what the others may think of us, or our pressing urge to state our opinion right now. Bringing our inherent curiosity to bear, we ask questions. We speak on the topic at hand or, at the right moment, we segue into another. We adopt an attitude appropriate to the situation. For the moment, our entire world consists of this conversation. In the end we may find ourselves a notch closer to other people and our energies conserved or even enhanced.

More mundane examples abound in all the necessary “chores” of life, activities we would prefer not to engage in. That lack of engagement while doing the “chore” makes us wobble off our center, out of the present moment. Full engagement rights us, brings us wholly into presence. It does not necessarily imply an intense, furrowed brow approach. Rather, full engagement can be very relaxed, but always with its hallmark of wholeness.

With inner work, such as prayer or meditation, our level of engagement largely determines the depth we attain. Distractions eviscerate such moments of practice. Without our whole mind and heart turned toward the sacred, we pray a perfunctory, half-hearted prayer.

For this week, notice situations in which less than the whole of you participates. Choose to engage fully at those times.


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