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Summary Overview

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The Four Virtues is designed to help us understand and develop inner capacities essential for PsychoSpiritual growth. The book serves as an inspiring, intelligent and integrative field guide to the inner life.

Drawing from across the wisdom traditions and contemporary sciences The Four Virtues explores how the universal capacities of Presence, Heart, Wisdom, and Creation come to life within us. This builds and balances the psychological and spiritual in order to help us get out of our own way. Exercises and quizzes bookend chapters, providing experiential entry to the material. This is easily applied to personal growth, psychological and spiritual development, in both secular and spiritual contexts.

The Four Virtues

It’s not that we want to sleep our lives away. It’s that it requires a certain amount of energy, certain capacities for taking the world into our consciousness, certain real powers of body and soul to be a match for reality.
- M.C. Richards 

the-four-virtues
We’re on the search for something—money, romance, car keys, chocolate—but also for something that stirs deeper down. Some of us have been searching for:

• A secret that would unlock understanding
• That element we belong to
• An opening into a bigger world
• Something we can put ourselves on the line for

Deep down we search for our life, one packed with meaning and fulfillment, substance and satisfaction, love and liberty.

So in the midst of the growing complexity and intensity of these days, how can we be a match for reality? How do we lead the really Good Life? How do we find our way and help others find theirs?

Maybe what is most remarkable is that we actually know something about this.

We know that what is essential is not merely more computing or purchasing power, more facts to be memorized, a script to follow, or simply something to believe in. Instead, the essentials are inner capacities and qualities that are activated—switched on and embodied. These inner powers open consciousness and thus enable us to meet the world deeply. The world opens and is revealed to us to the extent that we can open to it. This is a kind of physics of the unfolding mind.

The process of opening to the world requires both the psychological and spiritual; when viewed together, these can often seem odd and paradoxical. The psychological develops our will, and the spiritual asks us to be willing. The psychological strengthens our sense of self, and the spiritual asks us to be selfless. The former helps us differentiate and individuate, and the latter invites us to lose our self-separateness. We’ll see just how the inner capacities work together and that without their integration we can have trouble getting out of our own way.

At this unprecedented moment in history, we have access to the secrets from across the wisdom traditions, from the great souls around the globe, and from the human sciences. This incredible body of knowledge and wisdom can help us recognize characteristics of humanity at its best. When brought together, these insights—Eastern and Western, psychological and spiritual, scientific and religious, ancient and modern—form a matrix for growing our humanity and finding our way.

The word matrix itself describes just how this energy lives within us. In Latin, the word means “pregnant animal.” The matrix is “the place or medium where or through which something is developed”—a womb. We are this womb. Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth-century Dominican sage, noted that we are indeed pregnant, and that our progeny is nothing less than everything. Eckhart said, “We are meant to be mothers of God.” Our very purpose here is somehow to birth divinity through our humanity. We make this happen by bringing these powers together within us and taking them into the world. The implications are as extraordinary now as they were heretical for Eckhart then.

Like the compass, this matrix reaches out in four cardinal directions represented by: Presence, Heart, Wisdom, and Creation. All directions reflect a portion of us and a potion—a medicine—for us. In some traditions, the words medicine and power are used interchangeably. These directions are powers that can be used for knowing and navigating in the world.

These virtues are not beliefs or commandments or anything of that sort. Instead, these are dynamic human qualities that appear essential for a life of flourishing, fulfillment, and integrity. In order to tap the depths of our humanity, we have to embody these powers. In other words, these four virtues can only be grown from the inside out and then enacted in our interaction with the world. These become inner arts and inner technologies. Although they never guarantee it, they make it possible to bring our deepest life within reach.

These capacities help open the aperture of consciousness so that we may meet the world deeply from a deep place within. That’s what this is all about: deep to deep.

 

THE FOUR VIRTUES

Contents

Preface
Introduction

ix
xvii

Part I: Presence

1. The Beautiful
2. Sensing
3. Focusing
4. Witnessing
5. Opening

3
15
33
47
61

Part II: Heart

6. The Good
7. Compassion
8. Empathizing
9. Feeling
10. Connecting

81
93
109
127
147

Part III: Wisdom

11. The True
12. Possibility
13. Guidance
14. Clarifying
15. Discerning

167
179
195
209
227

Part IV: Creation

16. Voice
17. Will and Willingness
18. Originality
19. Imagining
20. Calling

247
257
275
293
309

Last Words
Acknowledgments
List of Quizzes & Practices
Notes

327
331
333
335

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