Inner Work Friday: Week Five of Eight Week Series by Thomas Telhiard

September 24: Inner Task Week Five – SEEING FROM YOURSELF

You may notice that the tasks we have been doing are complimentary to each other if not even different versions of the same task with some subtle nuance. My experience has been that inner tasks support one another and become touchstones for further work. This is why I have recommended to employ as many of the inner tasks as you wish to, as they can easily flow into each other.

We have worked with stopping our urgent energy of ‘normal’ seeing; we have attempted to appreciate and work with the dimensional vision that we have as humans; we have worked at seeing things as they are untouched by our own associations; we have intentionally noticed and attempted to see what would normally not jump out at us in our day-to-day frame of vision. Now, this week, we are going to focus more on what I would call a form of inner seeing. This is not exactly a turn away from external seeing as much as turning toward inner seeing. In order to do this I am going to pick up on a phrase I used a couple of weeks ago: “The task is to catch yourself…”

Inasmuch as we have been using our so-called outer seeing to guide us in our inner tasks, you may have noticed that there is as much inner seeing going on as outer, and you may have even experienced the two as simultaneous and indeed unified in some cases. Inner seeing requires fortitude, consistency, honesty, impartiality, and in many cases compassion! There are times when we, through our inner work, see things within ourselves that carry a prescribed value which designates them as good or bad, favorable or unfavorable. When this comes up, the critical step is to avoid judgment and identification. We want to simply observe what we are doing.

There is a division here, or more so, there are two simultaneous movements that we are performing. First, there is the seeing, and then, in the seeing, there is the refraining from identifying with what is seen. Non-identification with WHAT is observed is the key element here. In the work, this is referred to as way of self observation.

As Maurice Nicholl clarifies in the PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMENTARIES:

“Self observation begins with the establishing of Observing ‘I’ in your own inner world. Observing ‘I’ is not identified with what it observes. When you say ‘I am feeling negative,’ you are not observing the state. You are the state. You are identified with your state. There is nothing distinct in you that is standing outside your state, something that does not feel your state, something that is different from your state…You are not dividing yourself into two which is the beginning of the work on yourself…Try to understand what it means to divide yourself into two – an observed side and an observing side – and try to feel the sense of ‘I’ in the observing side and not in the observed side.” [Psychological Commentaries (Eureka Editions, 2008)]

So the task is to simply ‘catch’ yourself or, indeed more correctly to see yourself and at the same time free yourself. The ‘catching’ piece is simply observation that this is happening right now within me, that this emotion (positive or negative) is activated within me now, or whatever it is. Then comes the intentionality to NOT identify with WHAT you are observing. ‘Freeing’ here is the non-identification element. This is a separation or simultaneity between WHAT you see and THAT you see. The separation involves nonidentification with what you observe within yourself and the simultaneity signifies the THAT you are seeing. This “seeing from yourself” means to both observe impartially and honestly what you see within yourself without identifying what you see as yourself, or in the Gurdjieff lingo, without identifiying with ‘I.’ The ‘catching and freeing’ can be simply a breath or two that engages bodily sensation, feeling, and the mind. ‘Catch and free yourself’ as you can. This is not about scruples at all, this is about clear seeing from somewhere beyond ego investments. We are attempting to see our ‘selves’ from our SELF.

This ‘catching and freeing yourself’ can be simply noticing the moments that you are present and the moments that you are not present as you go about your day. Presence is a tricky thing, in a way. It’s not about what we are doing, it’s about bringing the awareness to a level of sensation in the body that allows a bigger space that essentially minimizes the tendency to identify in any given circumstance. This is breathing embodiment, which is much more spacious than identification.

This ‘catching and freeing’ can involve the onset of a reaction to external circumstances presented to you in your daily routine. It could also involve the awareness after we have reacted. This is how the task is different from the welcoming prayer, in that the observation could very well involve precisely HOW we do go over the waterfalls of reactivity and identify with our emotional reactions. In this case, this awareness of how negative emotion ‘got the best of us’ is precisely that which we do not identify as our self. The focus is upon the observation and the non-identification.

When we speak of being present or not being present, we are again back to the distinction between immediacy, working within the energy of three-centered presence, and urgency, which is more closely aligned with automatism and not being present. If you are working with a practice, for example, the ATMOSPHERE exercise, you can use your recognition of when you are not within your atmosphere to support this inner task. Non-judgment and impartiality are the veins of self-observation – seeing from yourself within all three centers. This is another form of ‘softening’ in the work that can become a driveshaft toward compassion!

This is the task for the week:

  1. Throughout the day observe yourself, i.e., discover yourself in presence and not in presence; use appointments and, if helpful utilize prior inner tasks of seeing – use whatever method of noticing this that is most helpful for you.
  2. When you are aware of yourself in presence, don’t think about it (don’t self-congratulate or ‘own’ it)! Instead, consciously breathe in and out with your attention in the solar plexus for the inhalation, and your attention along the spine on the exhalation.
  3. When you are aware of yourself NOT in presence, don’t’ think about it (don’t judge or identify)! Instead, consciously breathe in and out with your attention in the solar plexus for the inhalation, and your attention along the spine on the exhalation.
  4. Notice from all three centers what arises in each case and if there is a distinction.

We are attempting to see from ourselves.