The only tool you have for your possible evolution is impartial attention.
July 13, 2023
May 5, 2017
I understand that we are fragile as humans. Doesn’t that mean that we should try to create a safe environment where we don’t have to fight against negative influences?
It is rational to value physical safety and to take reasonable precautions to preserve it, recognizing that perfect safety is not attainable. Psychological safety is another matter. In a sleeping world, there are negative influences everywhere. You cannot protect yourself from them. The problem is not in the environment. The problem is in you. So-called triggers cannot be eliminated by managing the behaviour of others. If your ego is fragile and sensitive, there is no end of possible so-called micro-aggressions. The answer is to be less fragile.
Ego fragility…let’s call it identity fragility…is the first target of work on self. What triggers reactions in you? Find out. Observe the sensations, physical expressions, emotions and thoughts that arise. Learn to observe them impartially. What does impartiality mean? It means that you do not justify or defend any of these reactions. They are programmed reactions. They have no psychological validity in themselves, they are not special in any way and they have no significance that needs to be rationalized or understood. Nor are these reactions failings you should feel ashamed of. They are simply conditioning, which every human has. The moment you judge or justify them, you are identified. The aim of this work, if we can put it into one sentence, is to dis-identify.
Therefore, triggers and micro-aggressions are welcome evidence that work on self can proceed. Not work on others, where they must refrain from triggering you, but work on impartial observation of yourself, which in time will free you from unnecessary reactions. Let me be clear that impartial observation is the work of voluntary attention, not the little voice in your head that tries to explain everything.
Attention is the key. Your circuitry has been compromised by life in this world. Impressions have imprinted themselves on your nervous system. Certain experiences in the present now trigger a reaction from the past. You can engage in therapy to explore the origins of this programming, understand it and forgive yourself and others in order to move past judgment and justification. Or you can expose your reactions to wordless impartial attention and let it gradually remove the charge from your nervous system. In so doing, you may discover compassion for yourself and others. I leave it to you.
Does impartial voluntary attention have the power to erase my fixations?
Yes. The essential issue is identification. If your engagement with the fixation is to defend or condemn it, you are identified with it and it has power over you. You become its slave. This is because the fixation is being observed by your personality which is not separate from the observed although it pretends to be. The fixation is you. Can your personality surrender itself to being observed, leaving the false seat of authority and exposing itself to impartial attention along with its fixations? Who, then is the observer? Why, attention itself.
Voluntary impartial attention is by its very nature dis-identifying. It proceeds without the interference of the thinking self. This form of attention is a higher form of energy than the energy of the fixation. Attention is able to reorganize and free the energy of the fixation. This process may require repeated exposure to accomplish its task but like wind and water it can erode even the hardest material.
September 19, 2015
I have trouble deciding to work on self and I find that I often cannot remember to work.
You are describing the functioning of the head brain. You assume that thinking, the little voice in your head, is you…who you are…and that it is the thinker that actually remembers and decides to do things because thinking appears to precede the doing. This is a false assumption.
Almost everything we decide to do in our daily life begins in the body, with sensations and impulses to move and speak. Once these impulses are underway, the thinker comes along to take credit for deciding the actions that are already proceeding. It will take many years of observing self to see this clearly. Impartial attention can know this immediately but your early efforts to observe will likely use head brain attention, which is attention intermediated and interpreted by thought. Head brain attention is too slow and limited to enter real time; it lags behind the occurrences of ordinary reality, so much so that it can falsely think it is the one who decides.
If you want to remember to work, you must be able to plant the impulse to do so in the body. For example, impartially observing the momentum of sleep in your machine for many years, certain gestures become clear indicators of mechanical sleep functioning. When observed, these gestures spontaneously provoke the immediate recognition of sleep and activate the impulse to invoke attention and presence. Related thinking may then arise. This process can be described as making ‘conscious habits’. By nature, habits are the foundation of sleeping behaviour but they can be made otherwise.
If the thinking ‘I’ is an illusion, who am I?
A good question. In the sleep state, no one is home. There are various rotating identities…haphazard assemblages of self-images, loops of self-talk, personal history and past conditioning…which take their turn on the stage. When an identity is operational, it provides a semblance of predictable behaviour and thinking until it is displaced by another. Observing self makes clear that there are no real decisions in the sleep state because there is no one there to make them. Everything is already programmed.
The illusion of ‘I’ is one of the most difficult to break. Surely I can be taken seriously as someone who thinks and decides. Seeing through this illusion may initially be somewhat frightening but it opens the possibility of knowing another ‘I’, the ‘I’ of presence, which is conscious and unboundaried.
March 10, 2015
What does it mean, to observe self?
You have correctly stated the question. In this school, we do not speak of self-observation. When self is observing, observation is partial. By partial I mean that observation is divided between observer and observed and I also mean that observation is biased—the observer is injecting into observing innumerable judgments and evaluations based on past experiences and conditioning which the observer is largely unconscious of. Therefore, much is not observed.
Observing must be impartial to be effective. For this to be so, the would-be observer must be part of what is observed. A quality of attention must be accessed that does not require the mediation of an observer and is therefore not limited by partiality determing what is observed. It is the self in all its manifestations that must be observed. Thus, observation of self, not self-observation.
How is this to be done?
Always the ‘how’ question. First, you must be willing to give up being the observer and trust that an attention much greater than your own can perform the needed task. You must be willing to be seen. Essentially, you have to learn to release the need to be in control. Patience is also required. There are exercises for uncovering insight into the nature of impartial attention which can help you to learn to trust it without interfering. But the main thing is to learn to recognize the impulse to act from self and release it.