• October 19, 2018

    In my view, the greatest obstacle in this work is self-justification.

    We have become a society of professed victims. The pseudo-science of popular psychology has helped to create a culture of blame. Each of us is encouraged to develop a narrative that explains our difficulties, limitations and unhappiness in terms of the injuries done to us by others.

    What I justify I cannot change. Only by removing the judgment, the blame, can change begin. That is why impartiality is so important in this work.

    Perhaps some of you know that ‘justified’ is an old term used in the printing industry. When copy is ‘right justified’, the spacing of the words has been changed so that the text lines up on the right. Computers now do this automatically. The irregular is jiggled into place, making it conform.

    Our personal narrative is justified in a similar way…a hundred little edits and embellishments to our personal history which support and ‘explain’ our behaviour. This is how it goes: my father was very strict with me so I blame him for my inhibitions. My narrative, repeated endlessly to myself and to my friends (as often as they will listen), leaves out the small gestures of loving attention in favour of the moments of anger. The narrative lines up, I am a victim, I am justified.

    This might suggest to you that the way out is to disprove the narrative, go into your past and find out what really happened. I would not say this is always wrong if you can somehow get to the truth and accept it.

    Is there another way? Consider where the problem lies. Is it not the impulse to blame? Could the solution be impartiality?

    This is why we have such an emphasis on impartial observation of self. Yes, you will follow in the footsteps of the ancients who claimed that the key to spiritual evolution is to ‘know thyself’. You may also have the benefit of releasing yourself from the cult of blame. As the Khwajagan have said: “The undesirable must be relinquished before the desirable can be attained.” From the point of view of this work, blame is undesirable. On the other side of it is compassion, for oneself, for others and for all sentient beings who share in the sufferings and imperfections of this world.

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  • April 26, 2018

    Know Thyself” was written on the wall of the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It is the basic requirement of our work. Our approach is observation of self.

    Notice that the Delphic advice is not to accumulate self-knowledge or to learn about yourself. To know is an active quality that occurs in the present…not knowledge but knowing. Framing in language what is known, what has been observed, is not the aim. Conclusions are not the aim. As soon as you think you know yourself, you have ceased to know.

    Fortunately, our self is constantly revealing itself…in gestures, postures, facial expressions, tone of voice and so on. We begin there. Perhaps you would like to know about your soul or spirit or you would like to observe thought. These diversions will yield nothing. Begin with objective facts.

    I must learn to know. I have many ways of not knowing such as thinking, analyzing and assuming that I already know.

    Another great obstacle to knowing is partiality. Consider an example. I sense that I am experiencing a state of physical agitation. My breath is quick and shallow. My diaphragm is contracted and my hands are clenched. Mind recognizes this as anger and the word arises. No problem so far. I know this state. Knowing and recognizing are not antagonists as long as I remain attentive to present facts.

    Perhaps I see that the anger is a reaction to words spoken by another. Still no problem. This is knowing. These are facts.

    Do I now justify my anger? Do I criticize myself for being angry? Do I experience guilt and try to hide my anger? As soon as I engage in any of these things, I no longer observe impartially. At this point, I am self-observing. One of my identities, perhaps the one that feels guilty or the one that blames others, has stepped into the role of judge. This is the moment of truth. If I see this occur, this process of identification, perhaps I can observe the judge, the critic, the blamer, the partial self that seeks to take control. Can this identity be the observed, and not become the observer? If so, knowing self continues.

    When I am partial, one part of me observes another part. When I am impartial, all parts of self are observed. This is the difference between self-observation and observation of self.

    Who or what is the ‘I’ that observes impartially? It is attention, and the seat of attention which we call presence.

    Many times a day, impartial observations occur. We have moments of non-identification, moments of being present. We see our self in operation. Then our reactions take us out of these moments.

    Therefore, our reactions are key material to observe. In doing so, can we learn not to identify with them? Knowing precisely the process of falling into identification and remaining outside of it is a great skill that arises from observing self. Can we trust that repeated impartial observation is sufficient to neutralize our reactions? That impartial observing is the genuine path to unlearning them? Or do we let our identities take charge, falsely assuming that they can overturn themselves?

    When reactions lose their power, there is much more to see. Beneath the reactions you will find the being that they have obscured.

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