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

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity

I want to talk about a topic that we can easily hoodwink ourselves into believing we know something about. In the work it is referred to as external considering. Its misunderstandings are, I think, compacted by our western cultural milieu’s tendency to affirm and believe that we know what’s best for ourselves and others and that we therefore know how to help in a given situation. (I am speaking from having spent the better part of two decades as a “helping professional” by the way.)

I’ve “saved” this topic for one of the last of these 8-week exercises because it can’t really be talked about without some basis and experience of three-centered presence in oneself. Otherwise, there is literally no physiological basis for its otherwise practical application.

Remember, we’ve been working in these 8 weeks with the distinction between the energies of urgency and immediacy.

The energy of urgency always operates under the assumption that something is amiss and we, as we are, know how to make whatever it is, right. The energy of immediacy on the other hand operates under the assumption that things are whole even when something is indeed actually amiss, and that aligning the part with the whole is the starting place and endpoint of righting whatever it may be. In other words, even when things are misaligned, they’re misaligned within a coherent and unified whole. If you’ve worked at all with the law of three this is an affirmation of the assumption that third force is present, even if latent, in any given impasse.

Action out of the energy of immediacy is ultimately embodied third force or reconciling energy. As a tune up we leaned into working with sincerity last week through blending the affective side of thought and the thinking side of emotion to begin to taste this force of reconciliation in our emotional and intellectual centers.

There is much written on external considering that you can research on your own. But I simply will invite the following for this week’s inner task if you choose to take it on.

Identify a person (without letting them know) with whom you have regular interactions. Choose a time when in their company to return to consciously observing the breath and bringing sensation to the feet (as inconspicuously as you can). Make contact with your moving center and the mysterious force of your own body. If you can do nothing else, remain in contact with this sense of yourself through sensation while with this person. Hold it. It’s enough to be with yourself in this way in shared company with this person. Practice this on several occasions. What do you observe? If you begin to get this sense about yourself, without leaving it, allow your attention to expand to include the possibility that you don’t actually know this other person. At least not as well as you normally think. Perhaps it’s been a long time since you’ve actually been present with this person. Allow this recognition to open you up to encountering them as familiar yet unknown. Allow the sense of mystery of your own physical presence to expand to include and envelop the other individual in a shared field without letting go of your particularity. What do you discover about your typical interaction? How is this different? What arises in you? What arises between you? What does it do for how you speak or even if and when you speak? Work with this practice making your own observations. Let this be an entrée to working toward the important practice of external considering.

As usual I invite you to read a poem in preparing to work with this week’s task.

Everything is Waiting For You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

-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