NOTES FROM BOB SABATH: INNER PRACTICE AND MOVEMENTS EXERCISES
I was recently reading a handout that Cynthia Bourgeault is going to use in an upcoming Wisdom School in April where she writes about “Jesus’ implacable opposition to any form of clinging” and the internal damage that it does in making us spiritually blind and unable to participate in “the dance of giving-is-receiving.”
She goes on to write about how this is being confirmed in contemporary neurobiology and the findings of the Institute of HeartMath:
With the help of MRI imaging, it is now possible to document that the areas of the brain involved in the perception of any stimulus in the outer world are to a significant degree a function of our inner state at the moment of impact. If we respond to a stimulus in the outer world with an initial negativity or inner constriction, the stimulus will be processed through the amygdala, the evolutionary bedrock of the human brain, governing our most primitive fight and flight responses. “Danger, danger, danger!” its alarm bells warn; the adrenaline flows, and we prepare to defend ourselves.
If we respond with an initial relaxation and can maintain an interior spaciousness, the stimulus is processed through the more evolutionarily advanced parts of the human forebrain—neo-cortex and prefrontal lobes—and amazingly, the rhythms of brain and heart come into entrainment. We move into an inner coherence which makes possible an outer coherence: a response marked by intelligence, creativity, and compassion.
Jesus may not have known this scientifically, but he was certainly profoundly aware of it at an intuitive level. The problem with hoarding—or clinging, or urgency, or any other form of interior emotional constriction—is that it clouds the field of vision and catapults us back into our small self with its insatiable sense of anxiety and threat.
To perceive the abundance that actually is there, and then to live the life of compassion that flows from it—requires that we first step out and do something about that field of perception. Then the rest will follow.
The processing of our perception of any stimulus in the outer world is a function of our inner state at the moment of impact — isn’t that what Self-Remembering is all about, the conscious “digestion” of life impressions?
Cynthia goes on to suggest a simple inner practice that we may want to take up this week as well:
See what you can discover for yourself about the relationship between inner relaxation and outer perception. As you move through your day, whenever you notice yourself tightening inside (either from a situation that causes you specific distress or simply from a mounting daily pressure of stress and irritation), make a conscious effort to stop and physically un-constrict. One way to do this is by drawing several conscious breaths. Another way is simply to be bring your attention to that part of you that feels most in a knot and simply be present to it without any mental commentary (the attention itself will do the trick.) Notice whether anything happens to your emotional state when your physical body relaxes.
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 Eight.
We will continue with our core inner work practice that was given the first week. We can experiment with practice forms of the practice, especially giving attention to the breath at the moments of inner constriction. Work so that all three centers are involved, and that you can sense and feel emotionally your presence and need for higher help.
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 Eight reading and your own inner-life experiments in the Discussion Forum for Week Eight.
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 eight.
Gospel of Thomas – Logion 23: Chosen
Yeshua says …
I choose you,
one from a thousand,
two from then thousand,
and you will stand to your own feet
having become single and whole.
LECTIONARY FOR LENT 2B, February 25, 2018
Mark 8:31-38 (New International Version)
Psalm 22:23-31 (New International Version)
WEEK EIGHT 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. 155-159
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 eight.
THE TEACHING ABOUT PRAYER IN THE WORK
SELF-REMEMBERING: Part I
Without Self-Remembering Prayer is impossible
In the teaching of the Work the idea of Prayer and the idea of Self-Remembering are so closely connected that the one cannot be separated from the other. Without Self-Remembering, Prayer is impossible. Let us look at what this means.
We as we are cannot pray. That is, we in our ordinary daily state cannot pray. In order to pray we must be in a state of Self-Remembering. To pray as one is, in one’s ordinary state, is to pray in a state of sleep, and to pray in a state of sleep is useless. Nothing can happen. Such Prayer cannot be answered, because it does not get anywhere.
Four states of consciousness
Let us recall what is said about states of consciousness in the Work. Four states of consciousness are possible, but ordinarily we know and live in only two, and both are called in the Work states of sleep.
First state: sleep
The first state of consciousness or the lowest is that of bodily sleep, which is a passive state in which a person lies in bed almost without movement. In this state a man spends a third or even more of his life.
Second state: waking
The second state of consciousness is the state in which people spend the remaining part of their lives, in which they move their limbs and walk about and talk and also write books and take part in politics and kill one another, and this state they regard as active and call it “clear consciousness or the waking state of consciousness”.
It is not too much to say that the terms clear consciousness or waking state of consciousness seem to have been given in jest especially when, through your own self-observation, you begin to realize what clear consciousness ought in reality to be, and what the state in which we live and act really is. For in this so-called waking state we are neither conscious of ourselves nor conscious of another. We lives and die in darkness. And it would be better for us in one way if we remained passive in the first state of consciousness for then we could not move about and kill our neighbor.
Third state of consciousness: Self-Remembering
The third state of consciousness is Self-Remembering or Self-Consciousness or the state of Self-Awareness. It is usual to consider that we have this state already and are always aware of ourselves and that we act, think and feel with full consciousness of what we are doing.
But Western science has overlooked the fact that we do not possess this state of consciousness. And we cannot create it in ourselves by immediate desire alone, or decide that we will henceforth always live in a state of Self-Consciousness.
But this third state constitutes our natural right as we are and if we do not possess it, it is because of the wrong conditions of our life. Today this state of consciousness occurs only in the form of rare flashes and it is only by long practice, by trial and error, that we can begin to re-establish a state of Self-Remembering in ourselves.
Help only reaches to the third state of consciousness
Now help only reaches to the third state of consciousness. It cannot reach down to the darkness that people live their daily lives in and in which they are so often content to exist.
Therefore to pray from the state of sleep—to pray from the so-called waking state—is like dreaming that one is praying, for in this second state of consciousness we are also dreaming and everything is unreal, only we do not notice that we are doing everything in a dream unless we experience a moment of consciousness belonging to the 3rd and 4th states of consciousness and see the contrast.
So when you pray you must remember yourself. You must be conscious of yourself and of what you are praying for. You must feel the meaning of everything you say and feel yourself saying it. You must feel it is really ‘I’ in you that prays and not a set of frightened little ‘I’s or a set of mechanical ‘I’s formed by habit. And finally you can neither pray nor remember yourself unless you feel there is both a higher state of yourself and something higher than you are.
Fourth state: objective consciousness
We must now consider the 4th state of consciousness in connection with all that class of praying which can be called praying for enlightenment. When you pray for enlightenment you pray that you may see things as they really are, apart from your imagination and your subjective ideas.
In the religions of all nations there are indications of the possibility of such a state of consciousness, which is called “Enlightenment” and other names, but which cannot be described in words for it transcends all words.
When you pray for enlightenment you pray for Objective Consciousness. But you must first be in the 3rd state of consciousness for it is only this 3rd state that can be touched and can retain the meaning of any experience or help coming from those who are at the level of the 4th state of consciousness.
But you must realize that if you pray for enlightenment, say about yourself, you are praying to awaken and if you fully awoke to yourself and saw yourself as you really are, that is, objectively, you would go mad.
It is better to think of praying for more understanding. But of course this is useless if you make no effort to understand better for yourself. If a person in the Work works neither on the Line of Knowledge nor the Line of Being and merely prays for more understanding, their view of the Universe is very naive. They must realize the harshness of things and the price that must be paid and get rid of childish and sentimental views.
I must repeat that to pray for something you should work for and can, if you try, is quite idle. But people take idle views and cannot wake up to their own danger. You must fight for the Work and fight to keep it, and you will not keep it unless you jump and catch hold of its rope and insist on holding on to it.
THE THREE BROTHERS OR SISTERS IN OURSELVES: Part II
The next thing that the Work says of Prayer is that all three centers in us must pray. To begin with, if only the mind prays and the heart does not, there can be no response. The whole self must pray and the whole self is first of all three selves—three brothers or sisters who do not agree.
If these three centers, in the three-story house that we are, worked in harmony, we would already be in the 3rd state of consciousness. We would be sufficiently awake to receive help, to obtain a response to our requests.
The state of our centers
But these three brothers or sisters in us do not co-operate and especially today is this the case. For this reason, let us glance briefly at some of the teaching given in the Work about the state of our centers nowadays.
You know that the study of the multiplicity of our being which characterizes our level of being begins with the observation of centers. The three centers work independently owing to the abnormal conditions of modern life, which produce one-sided developments.
Every conscious perception and every manifestation of ourselves, everything taken in and given out, should be the result of the co-ordinated working of the three centers, each of which should furnish its own share of associations and knowledge and experiences.
The working of these different centers is almost entirely disconnected
In place of this, the working of these different centers is almost entirely disconnected nowadays. In consequence of this the intellectual, emotional and instinct-moving centers do not co-operate with one another and so correct and complement one another, but, as it were, travel along different roads which rarely meet.
For this reason we are very rarely conscious, and again, for the same reason, we are, to begin with, not one individual, but three distinct people that are not in harmony.
The first thinks in total isolation from the rest; the second feels in the same way; and the third acts mechanically, according to long-established habits. If development were normal these three people in us, the intellectual self, the emotional self and the instinct-moving self, would form one single self, in harmony with all the different sides of ourselves.
We are in a condition of disharmony
As it is, we are, in ourselves, in a condition of disharmony. We are first of all three people, three brothers or sisters, who rarely agree, and who indeed spend their time in frustrating one another, quarrelling with one another and each dominating the other in turn.
Any general result of their combined action, in which each of them is in agreement and each signs his name, so to speak, to the agreement, is thus very rare, but when this does happen, we are at that moment in another state of consciousness.
In a state of consciousness all three centers work together
We are, in fact, conscious, in the sense of the Work teaching, for we are in simultaneous possession of all our faculties and conscious of each. Our consciousness embraces all the centers at the same time, instead of being confined to one or another center, or a small part of it, at a time.
This extension or expansion of consciousness to include at the same time all the centers is not supernormal but is actually what a normal person should possess. This is the 3rd state of consciousness—the state of Self-Remembering or Self-Awareness—which is our right and into which we are born, but which we lose very soon owing to the effect of the sleeping people by whom we are surrounded.
It is through wrong influences, wrong education, and the wrong conditions of modern life that we have fallen away from this state of consciousness, which is our natural right, and which, if we possessed it, would make it impossible for us to act as we do today.
Part III: Prayer
I will now speak of one or two things that the Work says which indirectly bear on the subject of Prayer. The Work says that in the Lord’s Prayer, as in the parables and sayings in the Gospels, there is meaning within meaning. This is why it is said in the Work that the Gospels are a test for our level of understanding, and also that as we change, so do the Gospels for us.
The Lord’s Prayer contains the whole of the Work
In the Lord’s Prayer there are innumerable ideas. Each phrase has inner octaves. There are so many things in it to a man or a woman who has formed the ideas of the Work in his or her mind that to speak at all fully about the Lord’s Prayer is to speak about every side and every single thing in the Work itself.
To read the Prayer at times and think of all its connections, beginning with the octave from the Divine Intelligence of the Sun in which Humanity is created and of all the Work says of Humanity and our inner state and what we must do to awaken, is to use the Prayer in its real sense. To repeat the words is useless.
Praying and receiving
Now I will refer to one of the sayings of Christ quoted in the past paper on Prayer, where it is said that we must pray for a thing and have faith that we have it, and we will get it. “All things whatsoever ye pray for and ask for, have faith that ye have received them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark XI xxiv).
Now it is said in the Work that we must not wait until we have the force to do something but must act, if it is our aim, as if we had it already, and then we will attract it. To wait until you have the strength and understanding to do something-—I am speaking of the Work—makes it impossible to do it. But you must each think of this for yourselves.
Now I will add a few things. All prayer from self-pity is, of course useless. Prayer for others is only possible through understanding their difficulties and so through understanding yourself, for you understand others only so far as you understand yourself.
The higher centers are fully developed and working, but we cannot hear them
All work is the preparation of lower centers for the reception of the influences coming from higher centers. We have two centers fully developed in us and belonging to higher levels of intelligence. But though they are working all the time in him, we cannot hear them.
Their influences touch the state of Self-Remembering, but go no further. So all work is prayer: for all real prayer is to connect us with Heaven, and all work on oneself is to purify lower centers and make right order in the mind through being taught right knowledge, so that the influences of higher centers can be heard.
Different kinds of prayer
We can speak of different sorts of prayer:
As regards #2, Prayer about Temptation, this refers to temptation about the Work. It is not necessarily answered, because the Work will answer it if you fight to hold to its teaching and apply it and use it.
Remember that temptation in the Work and about it is necessary in order to change a person, and it follows that if you pray in this connection your prayer will not be answered, but if you work instead you will get a response. As I said, to pray when you should work, to expect help when you should make effort, is idle.
Three levels of work
As regards prayer about oneself, it must be about others first and oneself last. Remember there are three levels of Work—Work for the Work, Work with others, Work on oneself.
To pray only for oneself, to work only with regard to oneself and those connected by self-interests with one cannot give any result. Three forces must enter prayer, and this is too difficult to speak of at present, but you will find them in the Lord’s Prayer if you think long enough about it.
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