Life is a balancing act on a fundamental level, but what we choose to balance between can have e huge impact on our spiritual journey. In my own life I have broken it down to how I balance the inner and outer aspects of my life.
It is easy to justify to yourself that your inner and outer priorities are out of balance because you’ve got a demanding job, your child is at a critical age, or you are not settled in your relationship. These are aspects that we certainly must address and respect in this life, but often we neglect our inner life and perspectives. Once again we must enter the present moment. There is only this time, and your only choice is to work with life just as it is at present. This is the key to developing and understanding a healthy inner life.
In order to develop your inner life, you are not required to give up all those things you care about in daily life, but rather you learn to balance them in a manner that is reflective of your true values. For most of people this means repeatedly letting go of things that the mind is telling us we want. It is not that you want things that are unwholesome, rather it is that your ego wants too much; it is insatiably hungry. The only way to be free of this craving is to stop organizing around it, to shift the balance between your inner and outer life. Making such a shift often does not feel good initially, but in time you experience a spaciousness that is far more precious than that which you sacrificed.
The most skillful means is shifting your awareness to pay more attention to the inner experiences of not only yourself but of those around you, staying mindful of how their wants and fears may be manifesting in your interactions. To make this shift in priority, you forsake being reactive to the actions of others; instead, you hold them with compassion and empathy. Also, you can shift to the inner by saying no to things your ego desires in the way of activities and opportunities that will distract your mind. Can you even imagine not taking a promotion or not serving on an important committee in order to have more time in your life for study and reflection? In our culture it is almost a sacrilege to refuse more. To do so is to make your own inner growth process as worthy as anything in your outer life.
It is living with these questions and regularly asking them in regard to all aspects of your life that elicits the spiritual vision of the transcendent or the manifest, which in turn will yield your answer. The venerable Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi once explained: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” Be a beginner, empty your mind of answers, and learn to live and love the questions.
Peace and Love, Jim