Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Basics: Heart, Energy, and Will

We weave the tapestry of our path with threads of heart, energy, and will. The way starts and ends with heart. The first stirrings of the spirit guide our heart toward the path. Without this call we would never begin. Along the way, the closer we approach the Source of all, the more our heart opens. Our commitment and determination to practice grow, coupled with newfound reservoirs of kindness, compassion, and love. But our heart's range extends from the most banal and self-centered desires to the most sublime and hidden depths. Whenever we wish to assess our progress on the path, we need look no further than the state of our heart.

The inner substance of the path, the field of our practice, consists of energies. Energies drive our inner life and form the various levels of our soul, yet we typically remain unaware of them. An astonishingly wide range of inner and spiritual energies nourish and condition our life and our practice, from the automatic energy that enables us to function in a pre-programmed way with minimal awareness, all the way up to the transcendent energy of the Divine. One of the great adventures of the spiritual path consists of gradually discovering the profound subtleties of the energies within us.

Any endeavor first requires contact with the necessary materials. A major challenge of the energies, the substances that form our inner world, lies in their disparate natures and our inability to see or recognize them. We work most effectively with those energies that we can actually perceive. Step-by-step, the path refines our perceptions, so that we can recognize more of the energies and learn to use them.

As our contact with energies grows, we notice variations in the amount of particular energies present. We start to see that some of our inner and outer activities waste our energies. In response, we pursue efforts to plug the holes in our bucket, to conserve our energies for more important uses, such as deepening our awareness or building our soul. Unnecessary muscular tensions, for example, needlessly waste our energy. Relaxation of those tensions conserves the energy.

Awareness of an energy and actions to conserve it show us that more energy enables more inner work, enriching our inner life. Understanding this, we fervently seek to increase the quantity of energy available and to concentrate it within ourselves. We learn and practice methods like energy breathing to draw in energy directly from outside ourselves, augmenting the energy our bodies ordinarily produce.

The extra energy, however, disperses from us just as readily. To assimilate those energies into our growing soul, we practice methods to allow the energies to settle in us, to merge with our own substance. One such method of energy absorption is deep relaxation. The new energies assimilated gradually accumulate in the reservoir of our being.

A pool of a particular energy provides a base which helps us attract the next higher quality of energy. Our work with the lower energy prepares our perceptions for the further refinements required for contact with the higher energy. Our endeavor to deepen the quality of energy that we can perceive starts another cycle of energy work, but at a new level.

These cycles of practice bring a variety of energies to our being. Certain interactions among the different levels of energies produce new energies in a process of transformation. Most meditation practices lead to such energy transformations.

But this emphasis on energies raises a whole series of questions: what holds these energies together, what draws them in, what brings them to assimilation, what enables their transformation, what contains them, and what tools work in the medium of energies? The one answer to all these questions is will, the core of who we really are. The timeless realms of energy and will closely interact at all the levels. The whole work on energies hinges on will, on choice, intention, and attention. But will, in turn, needs energies to make its acts effective. Will can operate with any of the energies, but works quite differently depending on the level of energy available to it. The direct understanding of will as that central factor in us which intends, chooses, decides, attends, and acts, proves crucial to our inner work.[1]

Will is essential to spiritual transformation. Like energies, will belongs to a realm outside of time and space. So our limited perceptions condition the process of working with will. However, with will the problem deepens even further. Energies can be perceived, whereas will can never be seen or perceived. Will is always the one who sees, the one who perceives, the one who does. This most subjective element in us cannot readily turn back to perceive itself. In a profound sense, we are our will.

But despite its absolute subjectivity, we can experience will as who we are. We can be our will. Thus, contact with will comes through being it, whether an affirming will, as in directed attention, or an open, accepting will, as in non-directed meditation. We can be will in action in the choices we make, in everything we do. Will participates in all our experiences as the one in us who is having the experience, who is making our choices or non-choices. All spiritual practices from every tradition concern will as their key but sometimes hidden factor. The more we intentionally work with aspects of will, the more our recognition and contact with it grows.

Early on we notice the fragmented state of our will. A multitude of conflicting urges, desires, dreams, fears, and habits coexist uneasily in us. We rarely act from the whole of ourselves. Our inner life suffers from chaotic disarray. This state of affairs results from the fact that our activities run in a pre-programmed mode with the automatic energy. We operate on autopilot, reacting in a conditioned manner to the situations and events of our life. Our inner automatism, our conditioning and programming dominate us. All this constrains our will into working almost exclusively through the automatic energy with its inherent fragmentation.

Through our spiritual practice, we initiate a process of defragmenting our will. As we gain access to higher levels of energies, the isolated pieces of our will start coalescing into greater wholeness, less fragmentation. We become more fully ourselves, more unique.

Despite this reconstruction, we soon discover that nearly all that drives us arises solely from our self-centered agendas and attachments. We call this false center of the universe ego, the great usurper. Our growing dismay with this thief in our midst starts a process of deconstruction and purification. With the help of the higher energies, we gradually release the multifarious grip of self-centeredness. We become more open to the magnificent world of which we individually form a small but significant part – a significance precisely due to our special potential for will to act consciously through us

As the purification of our will, intentions, and motivations proceeds on the periphery, the egoistic core at our center stands immune, slipping through unscathed. The day comes, however, when the only way forward is for us, for our ego to give way, to surrender, to empty ourselves utterly. Through the stages of this surrender, the Divine Will finds a home in us, as our will rejoins It, opening the door for Love.

In this process of liberating our will, we seek a strong, affirming will in ourselves, and a tenderhearted will open toward the Divine. Our strong, affirming will in this lower realm then transforms into a substantial instrument for the higher. Liberation, whether partial or full, enables the person to serve more deeply, more effectively.

Every spiritual tradition, every spiritual practice, and every person on a spiritual path plays a role in the universal processes of the transformation of energies and the liberation of will. In contemplating the context of our life journey, we may catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring evolution and spiritualization of life on the Earth. The challenge of participating in that evolution manifests in our own inner work as the disordering influence of much of life, making spiritual practice like swimming upstream against the currents of time that draw us into our lower potentials, our pre-programmed, reactive modes of living. Our nascent soul constitutes the inner frontier in which the upstream and downstream forces interact. Pursuing the path to liberate our will and open to the Divine, we participate, on our own small scale, in the prodigious process whereby the Divine Will extends into the material universe, including our human community. All this touches our hearts intimately because the greatest force for spiritualization is Love.

See Also: Modes of Will

[1] Bennett, J.G., The Dramatic Universe Vol. 2 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1961), 74-76



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