Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of February 24, 2020

Respectful Presence

(Relationship Presence: 9)

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Presence is about more than being in contact with our self, being our self. It includes being in contact with what is around us, with the people around us. That contact, with our self and with the other person, implicitly shows our sameness, the humanity that we share with the other person. Naturally arising from this visceral recognition of our shared humanity is the motivation to treat the other person as we want to be treated: The Golden Rule. That begins with respecting the other person both inwardly, in our thoughts and attitudes, and outwardly in our actions.

Notice that we skipped over something here. We have assumed that we want to be treated with respect, so that by The Golden Rule, we treat others with respect also. But wanting to be treated with respect also means that we treat ourselves with respect. There is an entire scale of self-respect. Where do we stand on that? How much respect do we exhibit toward ourselves? What do we respect in ourselves?

For example, do we respect our immediate desire to eat large quantities of tasty foods more than our body's long-term need to be healthy? Do we respect our inertia and laziness more than our body's need for exercise? And so on, in many other domains. One way out of such conundrums is to look more toward the big picture, our long-term opportunities and needs, while compromising prudently in small ways with our immediate desires. We try to be frugal, though not too frugal. We enjoy indulging, without over-indulging. In that middle way, we move toward respecting the whole of ourselves.

But even prior to that is the question of whether we respect ourselves at all. For most of us, we are not as good as we wish we were in some ways, maybe many ways. Perhaps it is the limitations and inadequacies of our body or mind, our education, or our ingrained patterns of acting. Can we accept ourselves as we are? Perhaps it is a matter of mistakes we have made, things we wish we had not done, or opportunities we did not seize. Can we forgive ourselves? Can we start again from where we? Can we respect ourselves despite all the shortcomings? Can we respect our future self by getting on with our life?

The same holds for regrets: we do not have to buy into them. Forgiving ourselves is letting go of our negative attitude toward ourselves, toward our past actions. This is not an excuse, of course, to persist in actions that are immoral or harmful to anyone. But it does mean that this self-negativity is just a pattern of thoughts. Can we let it go and, in its place, allow our natural respect for ourselves and for others? That is forgiveness.

If I have a view of myself as being inadequate in some way, as having some shortcoming, can I see that as just a pattern of thoughts and emotions? Can I see that pattern is not who I am? Can I give up my belief in those self-bashing thoughts and emotions? Though they may not stop, can I stop buying into them? It's just thoughts. It's just attitudes. Can I let it go?

More fundamentally, our personality, our ego-self does not really exist. It also is just a collection of patterns of thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. We buy into it. We believe it is who we are. Through that belief we give it our will, and we act and think from that illusory ego. So if we blame ourselves for not being good enough, the self that we are blaming does not really exist. It is just a constructed mirage. And the self that is doing the blaming is part of that construction. Neither one is who I am. Seeing through and letting go of that whole business of who we thought we were, is a major step into freedom.

The unencumbered mind and the unencumbered heart open to the reality of love, kindness, and natural respect. If we can respect ourselves, we can respect others. If we can respect others, we can respect ourselves.

We aim to live respectfully. And to live respectfully requires us to be here, moment to moment, to be in touch with living. If we are not here, there is no one to do the respecting. Treating people with respect out of habit is good, but not nearly as potent as treating people with respect out of alert, non-self-centered intention.

This is where presence enters. If we wish to live respectfully, to respect both ourselves and others, then we need first simply to be. And to be means to be present. In presence, respect arises from our recognition of who they are, which is the same as who we are. Treating everyone with respect implicitly acknowledges that they, like us, are a particle of the Divine.

For this week, please practice respectful presence.


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