NOTES FROM BOB SABATH: INNER PRACTICE AND MOVEMENTS EXERCISES
If you want to share with others how you are working with this week’s reading, you can post your comments in the Discussion Forum for Week Seven. This week’s reading focuses on the importance of self-observation in work on oneself, and the impossibility of any real self-observation without inner separation. Seeing our identifications and attachments to all that takes place within us is part of the work of self-remembering. This week we can explore inner separation as we continue to experiment with coming back to ourselves when we notice we have “gone.”
We will continue with our core inner work practice that was given the first week. Work against getting too familiar with this practice — see if you can discover something new in it for you. Practice abbreviated forms of the practice — but enough so that all three centers are involved, and you sense and feel emotionally your presence and need for higher help. Don’t let the words get in the way. If Lord is problematic for you, use another of your choosing.
As a reminder, this is the core practice that we will use for the next 12 weeks:
The exercise itself is a form of self-remembering — returning from “all these other things” back to ourselves. Its aim is to practice three-centered awareness — observing (seeing), sensing, feeling. Engaging all three centers and having a sense of whole body awareness is essential. Activating gratitude, wonder, a sense of our own being, or our own inner poverty and need for higher help — all are good catalysts for self-remembering.
Post your reflections on Week Seven reading and your own inner-life experiments in the Discussion Forum for Week Seven.
GOSPEL OF THOMAS AND WEEKLY LECTIONARY READINGS
Do you see any connections between these scripture readings and the Nicoll commentary reading for this week? Post any reflection in the work group discussion for week Seven.
Gospel of Thomas – Logion 22: Convergence
Yeshua noticed infants nursing
and said to his students,
“These little ones taking milk
are like those on their way into the kingdom.”
So they asked him,
“If we too are ‘little ones’
are we on our way into the kingdom?”
“When you are able to make two become one,
the inside like the outside,
and the outside like the inside,
the higher like the lower,
so that a man is no longer male, and a woman, female,
but male and female become a single whole;
When you are able to fashion an eye to replace an eye,
and form a hand in place of a hand, or a foot for a foot,
making one image supersede another —
then you will enter in.”
LECTIONARY FOR LENT 1B, February 18, 2018
Mark 1:9-15 (New International Version)
Psalm 25:1-10 (New International Version)
WEEK SEVEN READING FROM NICOLL’S PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMENTARIES
The following reading is taken from Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Vol. 1, 1996 Edition: Samuel Weiser Inc., pp. 59-62
NOTE: This week’s reading is edited to reflect more inclusive language. Post any reflections from this reading in the work group discussion for week seven. This is the fourth and fifth of a five parts on the idea of transformation in the work and how the work of transformation begins with Self-Remembering and the First Conscious Shock.
THE IDEA OF TRANSFORMATION IN THE WORK: Part IV – Section 1
Work on Oneself
Let us take the idea of Work on Oneself. As you all know, by now, we take the thing which we call Oneself — that is, myself, yourself–as one thing. We think we are ourselves.
Work on Oneself is thus made quite impossible. How can you work on you, if you and you in each case are one and the same thing? But you and yourself are not the same thing. If you and yourself were the same thing, work on yourself would be impossible.
Think for a moment– if you and yourself are identical–that is, one and the same thing– how can you observe yourself? Would it not be impossible? A thing cannot observe itself. How could it do so? So if you take you as yourself and yourself as you, and think that you and yourself are the same thing, then how do you propose to begin to observe yourself?
You will try to observe you–and how can that be possible? A thing cannot observe itself. A thing identical with itself cannot see itself, because it is the same as itself, and a thing which is the same as itself cannot possibly have a standpoint apart from itself, from which to observe itself.
The difficulty of beginning to work on ourselves
I say all this in order to emphasize how difficult it is for people to begin to work on themselves. The reason is that they take themselves as themselves. If you take yourself as yourself you cannot observe yourself. Everything is yourself. You say ‘I’ to everything. And if you say ‘I’ to everything in yourself, then everything in you is ‘I’, and how can you observe yourself? How can ‘I’ observe ‘I’, if they are one and the same thing?
At one moment you are irritable and rude, at the next kind and polite. But you say ‘I’ to it all. And so you cannot see it all. It is all one to you. You cannot see it apart from yourself and you and yourself are one and the same thing to your mind–that is, to your way of thinking.
A massive stumbling block
This massive stumbling block lies across everyone’s path and long, very long overcoming of it is the task of Work on Oneself. And how long it takes before you can begin to see what it all means, and what the work is always saying.
The mistake of saying ‘I’ to everything that takes place in us
I have watched people in the work often for many years, who have not yet caught a single flash of the meaning of self-observation — that is, people who still take everything that takes place in them as ‘I’ and say ‘I’ to every mood, every thought, every impulse, every feeling, every sensation, every criticism, every feeling of anger, every negative state, every objection, every dislike, every hate, every dejection, every depression, every whim, every excitement, every doubt, every fear.
To every train of inner talking they say ‘I’, to every negative monologue they say ‘I’, to every suspicion they say ‘I’, to every hurt feeling they say ‘I’, to every form of imagination they say ‘I’, to every movement they make they say ‘I’. To everything that takes place within them they say ‘I’.
The necessity of not taking everything as ‘I’ in oneself
In such a case the work can only be something listened to externally, something they hear said to them, the words of which they remember, or not, as the case may be. But they have no idea of what work on themselves means because they have no idea as yet that there is such a thing as “themselves”.
They look out of their two eyes, and they listen with their two ears, and see and hear what is outside them. Where, in this case, is this thing called themselves? Is not everything outside them, save something they call ‘I’? Is not life a lot of things outside, and something they take for granted as ‘I’–that is, themselves?
And if this work is not about things outside, that they can hear and see and touch, what is it about really? For there is surely nothing else save outside things and something that is ‘I’.
Who can work on ‘I’ if everything is ‘I’?
At the same time they may feel the work emotionally. They may feel that it is about something strange and genuine and real. But they cannot see exactly what it is about. They continue to talk as they have always talked and say ‘I’ to it all. They continue to feel and to think as they have always felt and thought, and they say ‘I’ to it all. To all their manifestations, to all their mechanicalness, to all their inner life, they say I. And since everything is ‘I’, what is there to work on?
This is quite true. For if everything connected with a person in outer manifestations and in inner life is ‘I’, and if there is only ‘I’, if everything connected with him is ‘I’, then there is nothing to work on. For who can work on ‘I’ if everything is ‘I’? What can observe ‘I’ if everything is ‘I’?
A thing cannot observe itself
The answer, of course, is that nothing can. A thing cannot observe itself. There must be something different in it for the thing to observe itself. And in our own cases, in the case of everyone, if there is nothing in us different from ourselves, how can we observe ourselves, and work on ourselves?
For to work on oneself, it is necessary to begin to observe oneself. But if ‘I’ and ‘myself are one and the same, how can this ever be possible? I will have nothing to work on, for the reason that I regard everything I do, everything I say, everything I feel, everything I think, as ‘I’, so that if you speak to me of myself I will take it, that you are speaking of me–of what I call ‘I’–and whatever you say about me, I will take it as myself–that is, as ‘I’–for to my way of thinking ‘I’ and ‘myself’ are identical. To my way of thinking, they are one and the same thing.
THE IDEA OF TRANSFORMATION IN THE WORK: Part IV – Section II
You have heard it said before that “unless you divide yourself into two you cannot shift from where you are.” This saying, often used in the work, refers to the beginning of the process of what is called inner separation. You must first divide yourself into two. But the further stages of inner separation are more complex than this.
Let me give you an example. It was recently said to me by someone that he had begun to see what self-observation and separation meant for the first time. He said: “I have always been taking negative emotions as a nasty bit of myself. I realize my mistake.”
Inner separation is necessary for self-observation
Self-observation will show us our negative states. But something further is as a rule necessary than mere observation of them and that is inner separation. And no one can separate themselves from anything they observes in themselves if they regard what they observe as being themselves, for then, inevitably, the feeling of ‘I’ will pass into what they observe in themselves and this feeling of ‘I’ will increase the strength and power of what they observe. You have to learn to say in the right way: “This is not me–not ‘I’ “.
Taking our negative emotions as a nasty bit of ourselves
Now if you take your negative emotions as a nasty bit of yourself, you will not be able to separate yourself from them. Do you see why? You will not be able to separate yourself from them because you are taking them as yourself and so giving them the validity of ‘I’.
And as was said in the last talk, if we give to everything in ourselves the feeling of ‘I’, if we say ‘I’ to everything we think or feel or say or imagine, nothing can alter. For ‘I’ cannot alter ‘I’. And if we practice self-observation on this basis, everything we observe will be I.
Everything in us, practically speaking, is not ‘I’ but ‘It’
Whereas the case really is that everything in us, practically speaking, is “It”–that is, a machine going by itself. Instead of saying “I think”, we should realize it would be far nearer the truth if we said “It thinks”. And instead of saying “I feel” it would be nearer the mark to say “It feels”.
What we call ourselves, what we say ‘I’ to, is actually an immense world, larger and more varied than the outer world we behold through our external senses. We do not say ‘I’ to what we see in the outer world. But we say ‘I’ to everything that takes place in our inner world.
The mistake of taking everything within us as ‘I’
This mistake takes many years even to modify a little. But sometimes we are given the clear light of understanding for a moment and we realize what it means and what the work is continually telling us. If you ascribe evil to yourself you are in the wrong position in regard to it, just as if you ascribe good to yourself and the merit of it.
Every kind of thought can enter your mind; every kind of feeling can enter your heart. But if you ascribe them to yourself and say ‘I’ to all of them, you fasten them to you and cannot separate internally from them. One can avoid negative thoughts and feelings if one does not take them as oneself– as ‘I’. But if one takes them as ‘I’, one combines with them–that is, one identifies oneself with them–and then one cannot avoid them.
There are inner states–states within us all–that we must avoid just as one avoids walking into mud in the external visible world. One must not listen to them, must not go with them, must not touch them or let them touch you. This is inner separation. But you cannot practice inner separation if you ascribe everything that takes place in your inner invisible life–where you really all live–to yourselves.
I have often been struck by people asking me about themselves in regard to thoughts that plague and worry them. For example, people who pride themselves on being what is called “clean-minded” often find themselves tortured by indecent thoughts and images; this is exactly what happens if a person insists on thinking that everything in him or her is ‘I’.
Are we responsible for our thoughts?
In this connection, I remember that after we left the Institute in France we went to Scotland, to my grandfather’s house. He had collected an immense library, among which were a great many theological and moral volumes. They were, of course, entirely formatory. But having nothing else to read I spent some of the long winter evenings there in trying to understand what they were about. There were the usual endless acrimonious arguments about the nature of the Trinity, the nature of heresy, and so on, but I noticed that one subject of debate that often came up was whether we are responsible for our thoughts.
Some of the most severe moralists insisted that we were, but a few of these now long dead theologians took the point of view that we were not. Some said that the devil sent us our thoughts. But no one of those writers whom I read took a psychological view of this question.
Not saying ‘I’ to our thoughts
At any moment the strangest thoughts and images can enter us. If we say ‘I’ to them, if we think that we thought them, they have power over us. And if we then try to eliminate them, we find it impossible. Why? I will repeat one of my own illustrations of this situation. Suppose you are standing on a plank and trying to lift it and struggling as hard as you can to do so. Will you succeed? No, because you yourself are trying to lift yourself and this is impossible.
It requires a considerable re-orientation of one’s whole conception of oneself to be able to realize what all this means. So many buffers and forms of pride and stupid ways of thinking prevent us from seeing what the situation within us is really like. We imagine we are in control of ourselves. We imagine we are conscious and always know what we are thinking and saying and doing. We imagine we are a unity, and that we have a real permanent ‘I’ and so have will, and we imagine many other things besides. All this stands in our way and before we can practice inner separation, a quite new feeling about oneself and about what one really is, is necessary.
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