Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 21, 2008

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Self-Acceptance

All our inner shortcomings and outer imperfections lead us to obsess about them and reject certain aspects of our body and personality. That rejection wastes our precious time and energy in a self-absorbed, fruitless, and unnecessary battle among our rejected parts and our rejecting ego. Contrary to some views of spirituality, that inner battle hinders our spiritual path.

The basic and enduring resolution to the whole predicament must be founded on love for ourselves, on a radical, all-inclusive acceptance of ourselves as we are, today. If we embark on a program of self-improvement, we shall never reach its end. Neither our personality nor our body can ever be perfect enough, nor can our financial net worth ever be large enough to satisfy our ego. Not even great spiritual masters manifest complete perfection in all their actions, inner and outer. Even they fall prey to mistakes; it comes with being human. Freedom lies in transcending our personal psychology, not in totally reforming it, nor in totally indulging it.

We respect and accept that this is me, this is how I am made, this is my conditioning, this is my body, this is my mind, and these are my feelings. Some parts of myself I like, some I dont like, but its all me, and if I am to move along the path, I must open to and accept the whole catastrophe. This sobering act of self-acceptance gradually destroys the false images we have of ourselves. We make the necessary minor reforms toward moderation and move on. Rejection of parts of our inner landscape results from the action of self-centered egoism in the cloak of the pseudo-spiritual. I will make myself perfect. I will be better than everyone else. Or I am terrible, weak, worthless, undeserving, and hopeless. These are but two sides of the counterfeit coin of self-centeredness, and we can easily waste years careening back and forth between them.

As our spiritual work progresses and we have more contact with the conscious energy, we sometimes see previously hidden aspects of our own makeup, of our personality and character. Often these aspects were hidden only from us and not from others. These shocking new glimpses of ourselves, these realizations that we are not exactly who we thought we were, may bring disappointment. But they arise naturally as a result of our inner work and present us with a choice. We may wallow in self-pity and self-hatred and, thereby, short-circuit the process of practice. Or we may simply accept that the good in us exists alongside the not-so-good, and practice with renewed vigor toward transformation. Not necessarily seeking to change the details of our personality, we rather seek to change our being.

One quite direct way to practice the art of self-acceptance is through mindfulness meditation. We sit and we watch what goes on in us: all the thoughts, emotions, memories, images, and sensations. We see and we allow it all to be as it is, without trying to stop the flow, without encouraging it, without allowing ourselves to be drawn into the drama or into rejection of any of it. This trains us to accept, to accept ourselves as we are. It also develops our contact with consciousness so that we can be ourselves, rather than mistakenly being our self-generating thoughts and emotions.

For this week, notice self-rejection at work in you and practice self-acceptance.


     

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