Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 23, 2009

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More Presence

Our inner work of presence during our daily life has a strong tendency to stay within the plateau of our level of being. We do encounter breakthrough periods where we have a significant, deeper experience, or we learn or discover some new method of inner work, or suddenly find ourselves able to practice a method we already knew about, or we become inspired by something we see or hear. But those breakthrough periods and the associated enthusiasm we feel almost inevitably wane back to our norm, back to our typical capacity for inner work. So we cannot hope for, much less depend on, unusual events to carry us to more presence.

For that we must find the fire within us and fan that flame of our spirit. Day after day we practice presence, choosing it again and again. Each day we aim for more presence, more often, more sustained, and deeper. We pay close attention to our down days, not allowing our self to fall into a zone bereft of all presence. So even on those down days of spiritual dryness, we rouse our self to practice presence, if only a little.

Our aim in this regard is stable, continuous presence. And though that may seem a distant goal, we can partially attain it now, even if our continuity only lasts 10 seconds, because 10 seconds is better than 9. And then we strive for 11. For those 11 seconds, we are more complete, living, experiencing, and engaging our life more fully in body, mind, heart, and Self.

Some say that spirituality is not a matter of striving. But to enter the deeper realms on anything more than a rare, accidental, and fleeting basis, we must strive. We strive for presence and for connection, with others through hearfelt kindness and with the higher through genuine prayer. Then we may attain a state of true spiritual effortlessness. But if we start with no effort, we merely remain in an ordinary state on the surface of life. That may be effortless, but also lacks the deeper spirit.

In presence we are our Self. In working toward more presence, we create our Self. We build the inner wholeness, our soul, that gives us access to our Self. One reason to practice presence as much as possible during our ordinary day is so that when we come to the depths of prayer, to surrender to God, we have something to surrender, namely our Self.

We can dramatically enhance our work of presence during the day by starting each day with a period of meditation. Meditation methods in general have the effect of raising the quantity and quality of the energies available for presence. And we can use part of the meditation period for direct, intensive practice of presence. That training in strong and deep presence carries over, along with the energies generated, to enliven our inner life as we go about our daily business.

But regardless of how profound or powerful the results of our morning sitting, if we just take a free-ride on those results for the rest of day, they will quickly dissipate. Instead we can take the opportunity offered by the energies generated in meditation to build on them through our intentional work on presence during our day. That way, our formal periods of meditation practice and our less structured practice of presence during our day support each other. If we are present even before we sit down to meditate, that state of presence deepens our meditation by giving it a conscious starting point. And meditation helps our work at presence, principally by the energies produced.

For this week, work to live fully, work for more presence.


     

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