Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

The Seven Pillars of Spiritual Practice

Like life itself, the spiritual path begins and ends with letting go. And in between we have much to do and discover. In ending this book, we summarize the path by looking at the seven basic pillars of spiritual practice:

    1. Relaxation, letting go, and equanimity
    2. Building the energy reservoir
    3. Developing the energy body
    4. Opening to consciousness
    5. Presence and I am
    6. Conscience, right action, and kindness
    7. Prayer and meditation

Each of these seven represents a cluster of types of practice, which can be considered as a graduated series. In this linear view, we can see that healing and letting go of destructive habits of body, heart, and mind protects the energy we acquire though practices like conscious breathing, sensing, attention exercises, and opening to the spiritual depths. Without the letting go of our leaks, our energies waste themselves fruitlessly. With the energy leakage curtailed, our energy body gradually builds up. Then our body of sensation can awaken us and provide a platform in the present from which to pursue our inner work. From this base of sensation, we can more readily open to the stillness of the conscious energy underlying all awareness, all experience. Into this conscious realm, our will can enter to establish real presence, our place in the inner and outer worlds. In presence, we can discern the promptings of conscience and love. In presence, we can have the inner freedom to do the right thing even in difficult situations and to act in kindness toward others. Finally, with a clear conscience and a yearning heart, we can work toward a full relationship with the Creator through prayer, gratitude, joy, love, and opening to that Boundless Heart of the World.

As an alternative to this linear-progression view of the path, we can see that the seven pillars of practice intertwine to form a nonlinear whole, balancing and complementing each other, serving and developing different sides of our being. If we have more energy, we can have more presence, and find ourselves able to face difficulties with equanimity. While we may engage in right action both inwardly and outwardly, by turning to prayer we recall the source and purpose of that action. The interlinked practices of letting go and the I Am of presence also balance each other. If I only work at letting go and relaxing, I might become weak and spineless. If I only work at active presence, I might become rigid. With both, I may find my way. Lastly, the practice of developing the sensitive energy body grounds us in the here and now, while consciousness, prayer and meditation give us wings.

A cyclical view also illumines the path. Over the years of inner work, we return to the same practices repeatedly, but each time with deepened understanding and being, with greater appreciation for the context, purpose, and effects of the practice, and with enhanced ability to engage in it. We return to a practice as to an old friend, with joy and renewed vigor. And because we are different, the practice itself is different, and through it we ascend to unexpected and previously unknown heights. So the cycle of the path becomes a spiral or helix: we repeatedly return but, if we have worked diligently in the meantime, not to the same place. To inspire us to persevere, we may even be given an occasional glimpse of what lies ahead on the next turn of the spiral.

Ultimately, the whole of spiritual practice is about service and the path becomes our life. The production of finer energies, the strength of presence, the clarity of conscience, the open-hearted kindness, the depth of prayer and meditation — all contribute to the spiritual evolution of the world. Our inner work serves our own welfare in building our soul, our neighbor's welfare in creating an atmosphere of peace and joy, and God in fulfilling our true destiny. To become conscious participants in that Divine Greatness, that is our hope and our quest. The one priceless gift that we can offer is our willingness and determination to travel to its end the path that purifies our heart and establishes our soul, that we may bear the seeds of Love into this world.

May the One, to Whom we owe our existence and Whom we all serve, find us worthy, accept our work, bless our efforts, and grant us entry to that sacred realm in this very life.


     

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