Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of July 15, 2013

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Love for All

(Opening Our Heart: Part 6)

Love your neighbor as yourself.
(Matthew 22:39)

Some of us tend to walk around in our own little world, indifferent toward the people we see or meet. Others live in world of rudimentary emotions about people, inwardly reacting in a positive or negative, attraction or repulsion, envying or criticizing, liking or disliking way. But whether indifferent or reactive, our attitude to people is shaped by our habits and hormones, with little or nothing intentional about it. We see or meet someone, indifference or reaction takes over our heart, and we blindly accept that as a given, accept this automatic attitude as right and true and our own, and we let it color our perception of the other person. If we aspire to a spiritual inner life, then we aspire to move beyond indifference and reaction toward love.

There are degrees or levels of love. The automatic and reactive kinds depend on chemistry and preferences, on the likes and dislikes we have acquired. This results in admiration from a distance or in attachment, in wanting to have, to control, to keep the object of such love. With sensitive love we start to care about the other person, with less reference to how they feel about us or what they do for us. Conscious love is altogether different, for we start to recognize our sameness with other people, that their personhood is the same as our personhood, and that we share equally in the great field of consciousness. Ultimately, we aspire to the love that goes beyond sameness to enter unity, to recognition of the One Divine Will, our common and immediate source, from Whom we each have our own unique will.

To train our hearts toward love, we practice kindness, courtesy, and respect toward all. These are essential. And there is also another effective practice that can help us open our heart toward love: the practice of well-wishing. It takes many forms in the various spiritual traditions, but the kernel of them all is to cultivate a heart-felt, positive, warmth toward others, even without speaking to them or meeting them. Well-wishing can be practiced with perfect strangers. We see other people and we inwardly wish them well, as sincerely and warmly as our heart and mind will allow. Intention matters; the well-wishing needs to have our full intention behind it. We need to mean it. By attempting to do so, we see the elements in us that block or pollute the purity of our well-wishing, we see our closed-heartedness, and we begin to let all that go.

That is the general approach toward well-wishing. There are specific techniques that can help bring us toward true well-wishing. They mostly include an inward affirmation of well-wishing directed toward someone. Here are a few traditional formulations:

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease. (Buddhist loving-kindness practice)

May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on. (Traditional Irish Blessing)

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lordís face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His face to you and grant you peace. (Jewish Priestly Blessing)

It is not the words, but the warmth of heart and goodness of intention that matter. The words, though, can help guide our heart and intention. Whether with one of these or your own formulation, practice well-wishing toward other people, even with people you do not know and only see from some distance. In close quarters, such as in a conversation, the verbal formulations, repeated inwardly, may actually interfere. So in those cases it is easier simply to warm your heart to the people you are with.

For this week, open your heart in well-wishing toward others.


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