Inner Work Friday: Week One of Eight Week Series by Jonathan Steele

Hi, my name is Jonathan Steele, and I will be posting the Friday Inner-Tasks over the next 8-weeks (this will by far be the longest post of the series as I’m including a brief introduction of myself along with a bit of context setting for the practices).

I come to the Wisdom Work as a former Christian clergy member, introduced to Cynthia’s work through the contemplative stream of that tradition. While carrying a devotional heart, it has been further deepened through Cynthia’s weaving of the Sufi and Eastern Orthodox streams throughout the written and oral canon of her teaching-as well as my own further exploration of some of those sources. Hands down however it is the grounding of the heart in the body by working directly with sensation, and its explicit foundation in three-centered presence, that Mr. Gurdjieff and the 4th Way have given me access to that has made the biggest difference in how I show up in the world.

Working with attention in this way is something I not only bring into my life as a husband, father and friend, but, is an explicit part of my work as a spiritual director, retreat leader and budding writer.

But if I were to name an aspect that my approach to Wisdom emphasizes it would be the multiplying energetic dynamics of non-local, interpenetrating, interpersonal exchange as an alchemical path. Something Mr. Gurdjieff pointed to as essence friendships. We see these, not only in the extraordinary modality of the likes of work partners like Rumi and Shams for example, but, really drink from it energetically through the shared work, teaching and connection between Cynthia and Rafe.

This invitation to love through the constriction of relationship is something all of us experience on some level however. But in a grounded and authentically mutually kenotic path, it has the ability to actually change the world as we saw in the early explosion of Christianity through the alchemical partnership of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the resulting communities with fewer numbers but deeper dives that served a sturdier container for Wisdom to pool and emanate out of. My work in Wisdom has led me into the experiential exploration of such exchanges as vehicles for service.

So that’s a little where I’m coming from.

Now let me setup a context for the next 8-weeks of inner tasks that I will be inviting.

As of late, I, together with others, have been noting and exploring the difference between the energy I’m calling urgency (frantic, scattered and reactive in nature) versus the energy I’m calling immediacy (grounded in sensation in the body, open-heartedness, and a quiet, clear mind-presence in all three centers in other words). 99% of the time 99.9% of us live and are run by the former. Our ego, our culture, including our spirituality, are driven by and fueled by this.

There are many ways to tell when you’re in the energy of urgency that seems to make everything crucially important even when they’re not, but it’s also difficult because it’s the very water we swim in most of the time.

One clue to catching ourselves being run by the energy of urgency though, is beginning to recognize that the body is carrying tension and that this tension exists mostly above the waist.

The invitation of cooperating more with the energy of immediacy begins by grounding ourselves lower in the body through sensation.

So, here is this week’s invitation for an inner task, followed by a poem by the contemporary poet David Whyte to help lead us into this intention to practice:

Set a time to stop at least once per day to sense the hips and undercarriage of the body and the vital energy therein. One of the things you can do to help with this is to “breathe through” these parts of the body. When we’re breathing consciously, we can begin to direct our breath to parts of the body as well as to the body as a whole.

If you can make contact with sensation in the hips and undercarriage easily enough, try to move it down into the legs and the feet. Sometimes it helps me to widen the stance between my feet and to bend my knees to engage and to move sensation into my legs when I’m standing.

As you sense this part(s) of your body notice what your emotions begin to do…and what about your mind and thoughts…

If you’ve stopped or paused an activity that you were doing, see if you can maintain contact with this sensation as you reengage the activity. Notice how this activity takes on a different quality. How does it differ from before?

Stay with the sensation for as long as you’re able. And set a time each day to come back to this practice.

For those of you in the United States, as you enter this holiday weekend, notice if you’re being run by the quick-heat energy of urgency in its masqueraded forms of fear or excitement? Or are you growing towards the presence of immediacy and its siblings of wonder and relatedness?

Remember to work with delight and enjoy your exploration of this inner task. And remember, no one else need know you’re doing this.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let the
smother something

To hear
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes an
intimate private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start Close In by David Whyte

Inner Task Series by Jonathan Steele

Jonathan Steele posted this Inner Task Series to the Wisdom School Community on Facebook from July 2 – August 21, 2021