Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 21, 2013

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Affirming the Higher

(Learning to Be: Part 10)

Of the two major components of presence, the far more obvious but still quite subtle one is awareness, particularly the pure awareness of consciousness, which we experience as a substantive, cognizant stillness. The other major component and the true core of presence is us, the one who is present, the one who is aware of our awareness, the experiencer and doer. This is sometimes put in the form of a question, such as who am I? or where does attention come from?

There are three levels of responses to such questions, three levels of who is present. The first is our ordinary I. This is an abstract amalgam of all our learned attitudes, patterns of thought and emotion, physical and emotional needs and desires, skills, memories, and tendencies. Some are mutually reinforcing, while many others conflict. Together they form our personality with its illusion of unity, an illusion created by the fact that at any given moment, only one of these many Iís takes center stage and controls what we do. Later another one comes to the fore. The great majority of these many little selves of ours have as their core mission their own satisfaction. In aggregate this forms the illusion that is our ego, centered on this supposed self of ours. But if we look deeply into that self, into who we assume we are, we find nothing there, nothing independent and lasting, no self, which of course is one of the central tenets of Buddhism. It is remarkable to deconstruct our ego, our false I, and find that it simply does not exist and never did. It is just a label with our name on it that we continually build up and defend. But with nothing at its core, this is a futile endeavor and the source of many of our problems. This many-faced, false I is difficult to see directly. Nevertheless, we can gradually work our way beyond it, toward true unity, by the practice of presence.

The second level of who we are concerns our true I, our real unity. This is beyond our thoughts, emotions, and body. This is our will: the will, for example, at the root of our attention. This is the core of our presence, the core that we affirm in presence, as discussed in the previous Part 9 of this inner work series. Having seen through our false I and continuing to look for who we are, we find that one in us who does what we do and sees what we see, the one who lives our life, the one beyond all the myriad thoughts and emotions, beyond all the noise of our personality and false I. Here I am, as myself. If we could be, just be, really be, we would be ourselves, our true I. That is a revolution in our inner world, because instead of being driven by our automatic reactions to what happens to us, the flow of our actions begins with us, with our real self.

Yet even this high, real self, our true I, is limited, in that we believe it to begin in us, to have its origin and center in us. But it both does and does not begin with us. This is the great mystery of the sacred and of will. The third level of who we are concerns the higher will, the sacred will, of which we are part, and which is our source, the source of our will, of who we are. Here we confront a deeper illusion than the illusion of our ordinary I. We have come into ourselves, into our own, into full responsibility, and yet we need to go deeper still. It is not just a matter of connecting with the sacred, of praying as a creature before the Divine. It is more radical than that. Itís about becoming the sacred, or more accurately, allowing the sacred to become us, recognizing that the sacred is us, letting our center pass into the center of All. We do not begin in our own inner world. Our true and current origin, our true center, in this very moment, lies in the sacred mountain of purpose, the Divine Will of the Creator. That Will is in us, is us, each and every one of us.

The higher levels of prayer involve opening our very self, letting our innermost self go, letting our deepest notion of our self evaporate in favor of the Great Self of the sacred. The mystery is that it then becomes possible both to be fully ourselves and for the sacred to be fully us. We get out of the way and serve with the full complement of our skills and abilities, including our ability to be present. Only now, when we affirm presence, we are affirming the sacred in us, as us. It is the sacred that is present ó and us, both, and with no difference between the two. A thirteenth century kabbalist put it this way: that we seek to elevate ourselves through the power of our intention so that the higher will is clothed in our will, and not only so that our will is clothed in the higher will. [1]

A note of caution is worth putting in here. We are not talking about having the Divine Will manifest to us as a voice or urge telling us what to do. Almost always that inner voice is one of our own, not Godís. In our actions we maintain common sense, the golden rule, and adherence to the norms and laws of our society.

What we do want is simply to be, and to open the inner door of our being so as to allow the sacred to be in us, as us. This can also happen when we are doing something, with the whole of ourselves, with full awareness of ourselves and the action, and leaving ourselves as the source of the action out, letting the action flow through us. More on that in the next part of this series.

For this week, practice affirming the higher in your presence, in your being, by opening your innermost door and asking, begging, hoping for the sacred to enter. Allow the higher to affirm you. Allow the higher to affirm Itself in you. This is the road to Love.

[1] The Heart and the Fountain: An Anthology of Jewish Mystical Experiences, edited by Joseph Dan (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 119


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