Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of July 8, 2013

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Love of Life

(Opening Our Heart: Part 5)

The key to a happy life isnít necessarily finding a way to do what you love, it is to love what you do. We can make room in our life to do some of what we love and consider ourselves fortunate thereby. But necessity, contingency, and service may constrain us to do other things, things we do not love to do. And we do them anyway, because we must or we should or we simply choose to do so.

Yes, sometimes we need to make a change in what we do, but at all times we benefit from learning to love what we are already doing. It begins with accepting our life as it is. We still work to improve it, but all the while we accept it, we do not reject it. But how is that possible, given that we have jobs to do and chores to complete, lines to wait in, difficult people to deal with, aches and pains, sweat and tears? Some of that is distasteful to us and we may wish we could avoid it. Yet there it is, life in its full unavoidable splendor. What to do?

Here our spiritual inner work can profoundly affect our experience of life. The mind of desire, with what it wants and what it does not want, leads us into rejection, into dissatisfaction. Spiritual practice offers many approaches to this: here are several.

First, we practice sensing our body. In sensing we have contact with our body, we become fully embodied. Unless we are in pain, our usual experience of our body is vague and neutral. Enhancing our contact with our body through direct and intentional awareness of it, through sensing, makes it vivid and even pleasurable. Through sensing, we revel in the mere fact of having a body. Through sensing, we love our body. And since our life is synonymous with having a body, through sensing we learn to love our life. During this life, we always have a body and thus always have the opportunity of sensing our body. Living in the sensitive energy, brings more aliveness to life. Through sensing, we can take pleasure in the simple fact of being in our body.

To practice sensing, begin in a quiet situation where you can focus exclusively on your body. Put all your attention in your right hand. Keep your attention there. When you notice that your attention has wandered off into thoughts or anything else, gently bring it back to your right hand. Be aware of the hand directly, from within the hand. Now notice the difference between your experience in this moment of your right hand and your left hand. Your right hand may feel more alive, warmer, more vivid. If so, this is due to the presence of the sensitive energy in your right hand, brought and awakened there by your sustained attention. This is sensing the right hand. With this taste, you can then practice sensing your right foot, left foot, left hand, right arm, right leg, left leg, left arm, all four limbs at once. Then without focusing on particular inner organs so as not to interfere with their instinctive functioning, sense your torso and head, and finally your whole body. This practice of sensing can be carried into your day, so that you sense while you go about your daily activities, except of course during life critical activities, such as driving, where you need all your attention on what you are doing. Sensing enhances your experience of what you are doing. It brings you more in touch with your life. It lifts you toward presence and away from being at the mercy of the reactive thoughts and emotions that obscure your natural joy of living.

Second, we practice presence, based in sensing our body, in visceral body awareness, but also incorporating the full content of consciousness, including awareness of our emotions, our thoughts, and all that our senses bring us of our environment. The core of presence, though, is our I, the direct experience that I am here, that I am aware of this moment, that I am doing what I am doing. Presence brings the innate pleasure of the bare fact that we exist. Here I am. This is not just awareness, mindfulness, but the ongoing recognition that there is someone who is aware, that I am here and aware of all this, that I am one who is aware, the one who does what I do. The more fully we come into our self, the more fully we love life. Our I connects our body, our world, with the deeper spirit within and beyond us. Here I am, in wonder, in joy, and in love.

Third, who or what is it in us that rejects aspects of our life, that blocks our appreciation of our life? We have in us mental and emotional patterns of judging, fault-finding, wanting more. Even in the midst of some wonderful experience, our inner critic stays aloof, sees what could be better, and looks forward to the next thing. In difficult experiences, we tend to fall into depressing or angry feelings, abetted by negative thoughts. What all such emotional and thought patterns have in common is that they refer to me or I: what I want or donít want, how this is affecting me or might affect me. This self-centered attitude is the source of so many of our difficulties, the source of our rejection of aspects of life. It is egoism and is very different than the true I of presence. These self-centered thoughts and emotions refer to me, but that me does not exist. It is the illusion of ego. The I of presence does exist; we can be that I. Seeing all this more and more clearly, as it operates in us, gives us a chance to move toward freedom. Ego may like, but it does not love. With ego, everything starts and ends in this constructed, illusory self. Love, on the other hand, starts beyond us. Love only comes when we allow it to come through us. We relax. See that we are not our thoughts, not our reactive emotions. See that we just are, and allow ourselves to love our life. Here we come back to presence, the enabling practice for just being, for just being in love.

For this week, sense your body and be the one who lives your life, so that you can practice loving your life.


     

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