Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 3, 2014

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The Path of the Path

Introduction: Peaks, Valleys, and Plateaus

Like other aspects of our life, the spiritual path has its inevitable ups and downs, peaks, valleys, and plateaus. The state of our body varies from day to day and has a profound influence on the level of our inner work. The state of our emotions varies from day to day, with a greater influence on our inner work than our body has. The state of our spiritual hunger varies and matters even more than the rest. And the causes of these variations are not usually clear to us.

Then we have our external circumstances, which change all the time and certainly impact our spiritual life. When we are with our spiritual friends, with a spiritual group, or with a spiritual community, it lends invaluable support to our inner work. And when we are not in those situations, our inner life depends even more on our own motivation and initiative. Our life circumstances make demands on us, sometimes more and sometimes less. Life presents us with opportunities, obstacles, and distractions. Events affect us and our ability to be present, to be kind. Even the weather affects us.

In these and other ways, our inner and outer circumstances can awaken us to the Sacred or close us off from That. So we are forced to give up any expectations of a smooth road up the spiritual mountain and instead take it as it comes. The single most important act, in terms of our progress on the spiritual path, is to resolve and continually renew our resolution to keep with our practice come what may. The seasons of our path, with the rebirth of spring, the growth of summer, the inward turn of fall, and treadmill of winter, come and go of their own accord, without a schedule. As we have seen, the causes are complex and often indecipherable. It taxes our wisdom to do more than just muddle through.

The resolution to continue our inner work, come what may, holds the key. When everything is rosy and we feel on top of the world, we also face the temptation to coast inwardly, to sit back and enjoy our state and our life and downplay our inner work. But do we engage in our spiritual practice in order to be happy or in order to serve our neighbor, our planet, and the Sacred? In serving the spirit, happiness often comes as a byproduct of leading a right life. In primarily seeking happiness, we tend not to find it. The extent to which we stay committed to our inner work in the sunny moments, reveals our motivations to us.

In the down times, the valleys of our life, we may more keenly feel the need for spiritual succor. So if we are able to muster the energy for our practice, we do. Truly though, our need is always there: itís just masked from us at times.

But itís not just that our life has peaks and valleys, our path itself does. As noted above, so many influences, inner and outer, affect our ability and our wish to practice. This is where experience, wisdom, and an unflagging commitment help. We notice what helps and what hinders our inner work and we bring our intelligence, creativity, determination, and love to bear. In the coming weeks we will look at how to manage our spiritual practice in the face of the peaks, valleys, and plateaus of our inner life.

    1. Handling Our Peaks
    2. Profiting From Our Valleys
    3. Rising Above Our Plateaus

During this week, please look at the ups, downs, and flatlands of your spiritual practice.


        

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