Fence at a ruined abbey near Canigou
Photograph by the author
Manifest your work within—and go out and live.
This is the definite aim, in the external sense, of our inner work. The aim is not to sit in discussion groups, or conceal my relationship to life itself within the darkness and relative safety of a meditation practice. The aim is not to be part of an organization that makes my spiritual search safe for me, surrounded by like-minded persons who will agree with most of what I say.
The aim is to become a human being with a whole experience of one’s inner and outer life, to breathe that in and out during every possible moment through the faculties of intellect, sensation, and feeling, and own that capacity as a fundamental premise of life which takes place without believing in all of my assumptions and predisposed attitudes.
Beginning there, where I have the capacity and intention to live, a willingness to be in my ordinary life as it is— and a willingness to doubt myself, whatever I may think I am— I go out to life, that ordinary place that isn’t safe, where people don’t agree with me, and I have no idea what will happen next.
Out there (right here, right now) I inhabit life as it is. I try not to construct arguments with it. (I will, but I try as best I can to listen to them.)
I make an effort to remember that I am here and that most of what I think up is questionable.
I make an effort to remember that I am here and most of my reactions are carefully thought out and deserve more of my attention.
Above all, I am trying to live. To inhabit life, to inhabit the experience of it, to understand myself as a resident of this moment, and not just a resident, but the one who perceives creation within it. Both the creation of all that takes place, and the creation of the perception of it. This is a humbling experience, because I realize none of this could possibly have much of anything to do with me as I am; forces much more complex and greater than my own awareness are at work all around me, and I ought to be intelligent enough to see that, and obedient enough to submit to it. Any presumption I have that this is about me is faulty from the beginning, though that is the presumption I always have about everything,
Especially my inner work.
—Part 1 of an essay written November 18, 2018, Sparkill, NY
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.