Doing our inner work

What are we doing when we “do our inner work”? What is there to show for our efforts?

First, we become aware of what is operating in us. Becoming aware turns into a practice, an orientation, a priority. It gets built into our lives as there is no limit to what we can learn about ourselves as we peel away the layers like an onion – sometimes the same issues at work, but at a new level – and like also a vortex, circling back around but to a higher level, or deeper down.

Becoming aware is like cultivating a garden: you set up the conditions for growth, but you don’t grow the plants, you enable them to grow on their own. Becoming aware is the practice of weeding, and thus the beauty and the nourishing already in you at last has the space to live and flourish.

Did you ever see the latest movie of the Karate Kid? The boy was told to simply drop his jacket and pick it up countless times at the beginning of his Karate training. He had no idea why he was asked to do this by his teacher, until one day he had developed sufficient strength and fluidity in the gesture. And then, in one dramatic scene, he was shown why such a seemingly pointless exercise of dropping and picking up his jacket was at the heart of karate, both as symbol – karate penetrating all aspects of life as a spiritual discipline – and as skill – the act of picking up and dropping the jacket and slinging it around his shoulders directly correlated to basic karate moves. Inner work is like this, we do the work without knowing why until one day we get a flash of insight into how the pieces we have been working on fit together as a profound whole.

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