Some of us have been given specific work tasks but it seems to me that the key to fourth way work on self is to make ordinary life into work.
This is an important observation. Ordinary life is happening all the time and it’s always providing us with opportunities to observe self and voluntarize attention and presence.
Ok, what do you mean by voluntarize?
Let’s start with watching television or a movie. If you have observed yourself in these activities, you know that you tend to identify very quickly with characters or points of view. You involuntarily enter the scene as if it is real. The producers of these entertainments know this, whatever the content may be, including news. Can you, first of all, observe the arousal of identification? By this I mean to observe the sensations and emotions that come up, the preferences that arise, the conflicts you experience when the story line goes against your adopted interests? Observation of self creates some separation from the process of identification and exposes it.
Now, can you agree to the identifications that arise and enter into them fully? In this case, to voluntarize is to participate actively in the identification. Ordinarily, you are passive. Can you agree to favour one character over another and to experience consciously the emotions the director wishes you to have? What do you discover by doing this? Does this process enable you to see your identifications more clearly and objectively, perhaps even to laugh at them?
One more exercise. Can you watch the screen, invoke presence and remain present? Perhaps in your body, you experience the tug of identification, the sensations and emotions the director intends, but yet remain present, at least for a few moments at a time? Perhaps you can remain aware of the fact that you are watching the play of light and shadow across the front of a plastic box, which has no reality other than what your attention gives it?
This is real training. I would say it is more valuable than most of the so-called spiritual exercises that you find in certain schools. This is making life work. You are sitting there anyway, taking in impressions. Why not work as well?