• September 11, 2022

    Work on self is utterly dependent on observation of self, not just the big events of anger and fear but also the small flutterings of sensation that lie beneath my actions, words, thoughts and gestures. Ambitious people on the spiritual path overlook this fact. They are so busy trying to do the ‘work’ that they do not know they are not reliable enough to have a connection to it.

    I must become reliable. What does this mean? I must see exactly what is going on in me and be able to shift it, even the most minute reactions, in real time. Failing this, I must be able to account for all my uneasiness…the residual disturbances of sensation…after the fact of making them, and correct them. Cleaning up the mess in aisle 6 as it were.

    This knowing of self in not analytical. It is perceiving in real time. The why of it is an indulgence, a backward look. What is wanted is the ability to dance among my own phenomena, using them or dismissing them as they arise.

    Attention, attention attention. I have no other genuine tool for transforming me.

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  • July 15, 2016

    You have put a lot of emphasis in the past on being reliable. What does it mean to be reliable?

    At the most basic level, it means being true to your word, which means that you honor your commitments regardless of circumstances. Nothing is too insignificant to be free of the binding nature of having given your word. Each time you find an excuse to relieve yourself of a promise, you become more unreliable. I would say that in so doing, you weaken your confidence in yourself and make it more difficult to complete even simple tasks.

    Is your word reliable? Are you very careful to give your word on something only when you intend to keep it, even in seemingly trivial matters?

    The word ‘reliable’ comes from liable and liability which are carefully defined terms in law and accounting. A liability is something that is owed and must be paid or discharged by specific performance. You receive something and then you are liable for a payment of some kind. You have a liability and the one who has given you something holds your liability as an asset. This is an exchange which is binding. The terms are known and agreed in advance. You are compelled to honor them or face the consequences.

    Now, how would this apply to our work?

    I guess you could say that I am required to come to meetings and to be in the right state for zikr. To do these things would mean I am reliable.

    Ok, but what have you received for which you are now liable? There are no rules here that must be followed. No money changes hands in the work group. This is not a club with members. You are not paid to be here and you cannot pay for this work in monetary terms. What is the transaction?

    I do not know how to answer you.

    Why do you do what you think is required of you by this work? There is no compulsion, no rule and no obvious benefit.

    I don’t know. It’s not like any other motivation I have experienced. It feels like work efforts come from a neutral state, one without the usual emotions or self-gratification.

    Yes, after the first burst of enthusiasm, this is how it is. I propose to you that what you are given in this work group is the ability to work and your liability for this gift is to the work itself, not to me or the group. The work lends you the will to work for the sake of the work and you pay for this liability by working. It is perfectly circular, as it must be, because any grounding in this world, any personal motive to work, ensures that no real work will result. And if I make you feel liable to me personally, I have taken your opportunity to work.

    It is only possible to work when the effort to work stands outside of ourselves and the ordinary world as we know it. Only the work makes it possible to work. When you know this, and can sense the truth of it in the work efforts you make as you make them, you are reliable because the effort does not come from you. You begin to sense the force of the work and the will that it lends you for your work efforts, and only for your work efforts.

    This suggests that as much of our life as possible should be included in our work.

    Yes. Even business can be work if you are not working in the ordinary way. Rabia Basri said: “I am eating the bread of this world and doing the work of that world.” This statement contains a very great truth.

    Would this understanding make someone an asset of the work?

    Yes. But only the work knows for certain when real work is being done.

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  • July 3, 2015

    After our inquiry into remorse, I have lost the distinction you made between remorse and guilt. They still seem pretty much the same to me.

    They are closely associated but the mechanism of each is different. Guilt is a sensation that is meant to inform us of wrong action, kind of like a warning on the dash board of your car. Guilt says stop and consider what you are doing. There is no benefit to dwelling on guilt. The correct process for dealing with guilt is recognizing and confessing the wrong, expiation for the transgression and forgiveness if possible, whether of oneself or another. No priest or church is required for this…it is a matter of clearing the slate and starting again. The key is simple sincerity.

    Remorse is also a sensation and it also advises us of being in the wrong. The difference is that remorse contains regret concerning something that cannot be undone. The word comes from the Latin ‘remord’, meaning to bite again. Remorse arises from offenses against my own conscience that are permanent. I have been tried and found wanting. Remorse goes to the very nature of being human, which is to be lacking, unreliable and selfish. Remorse is born of shame and leads to inexpressible sorrow.

    Remorse is for the transgressions that cannot be forgiven but can be understood and taken to heart. Remorse is the burden imposed by my forgetfulness, my heedlessness. Understanding does not lessen the burden but it does begin the process of real self-knowledge. Guilt is for forgiveness. Remorse is for understanding.

    The Sufi prayer ‘istaferallah’ is an expression of remorse. It recognizes that I have betrayed my origin, I have forgotten my lord. Having forgotten, I fail in the deepest sense and my thoughts and actions reflect this.

    Conscience is the mirror that awakens the sensation of remorse. Conscience sees and discerns. Conscience is an action of the heart and has nothing to do with rules. The sensation of remorse reprograms the body and mind in an indelible manner. Its gift is to diminish self-importance and open the way to compassion. Its further gift is to make us more reliable. Learn what you can from remorse. You can have no better teacher.

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  • June 26, 2015

    Are there people on this planet in a position of authority who are conscious and know what to do to improve the human condition?

    Are there evolved power-possessing beings who direct humanity, whether known or unknown to the world? Perhaps we could say that this is a question about power?

    It seems that there are two kinds of power. One kind is what we ordinarily think of as power, which is to have control of people and events in the ordinary world. This has the outward appearance of power and certainly those who are under its influence feel this as power. But if these power-possessing individuals have no knowledge of themselves, they are driven by the same unconscious motives as those they rule and are really no different from them.

    In my view, acquiring and maintaining worldly power is not conducive to awakening. I do not believe there are Illuminati guiding human affairs. I have met members of the illustrious families who are thought by some to be in this role and I find them very like the rest of us. Yes, they are wealthy and their wealth has shaped them, but they have terrible relationships and drug-addicted children just like the rest of us. The scope of their self-interest is greater and they exercise influence in support of their self-interest, but they do not have consciousness beyond the measure of ordinary human beings. They have control over others but none over themselves. They sleep along with the rest of us.

    Our work suggests the possibility of a different form of power that comes from dismantling self…erasing personal history, overcoming self-importance and learning to serve. Individuals who take this path are reliable because they no longer have personal ambitions. Because they are not blind, they see possibilities that the ordinarily powerful do not see and they are able to marshal forces that are not easily perceived by others. The allegory of Noah is about this kind of power…someone who can see the direction of future events and prepare a response that satisfies real needs. The awakening this role requires does not come to kings and presidents who are preoccupied by the demands of their positions. They do not have attention for anything else.

    Can social, cultural or community groups and institutions provide the basis for more enlightened action and self-governance? I understand that the evolution of the community is the current cornerstone of idealists and activists of all varieties. In my opinion, this is most unlikely except in small work groups that avoid public awareness. In my experience, human group behavior and human institutions are deeply unconscious and unable to evolve such that they would be able to support the existence and functioning of real human beings. Again, these are my personal observations. Why is this so? Social action is outer-oriented while the process of awakening is inward and individual.

    Conscience is a function of a human heart, not a group or institution. Presence and attention are realized at the level of the individual. They can be shared in a group by the miracle of invocation but activation almost always begins with one person. Groups can share ideas and beliefs, which can be wonderful, but ideas and beliefs are not reliable and they are far from being voluntarily conscious, which is surely the requirement of real change. On an individual level, much is possible; in fact, I would say that only on an individual level can anyone awaken, although group work can certainly be helpful.

    The nature of sleep can easily be discovered by impartial observation of self. The specific behaviors and motivations are different from one person to the next but sleep is essentially the same for all of us: to be asleep is to be governed by habitual reactions, to be blind to the consequences of our actions and to limit the possibilities that exist at every moment. Perhaps most important, when we sleep we are unreliable. Ordinary human beings are capable of remarkable acts of courage and charity whether or not they know anything about sleep and awakening, and at the same time they are capable of the most depraved behavior.

    Each of us is faced with a choice…I can try to change the world or I can try to change myself. Either direction involves a battle with sleep. Either direction is likely to take all the resources I can muster. If I succeed in changing myself, which is first and foremost a dismantling of self, perhaps I will be able to contribute to the evolution of those who are in relationship to me. Perhaps I can become reliable to myself and others.

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