• July 20, 2018

    By this I do not mean work on self, which is preliminary, to bring me to the point where I am reliable. I mean something else, the Work.

    Can I speak to you about the Work? Describing the Work is not the experience of it. The experience involves a completely different view of what life is for…that it is not about my personal aims and satisfactions, not about changing the world for the better. It is not about anything familiar.

    At this stage, what I say may enter you only as an idea. Ideas have value if they undermine your habitual view of things. What is obscure and confusing, what cannot be grasped now, becomes clear when the haze of self-interest has been lifted.

    The Work is Work for the Absolute. It begins with an understanding that there is something the Absolute needs from us, which in turn suggests that the Absolute is not all-powerful and perfect the way He is described in religion. How could this be? Let us try to think about this.

    Perhaps the Absolute was perfect and all-powerful before time began but He was unknown to Himself. Desiring to know His own Nature, He made the Creation as an expression of Himself. From what did He create? Why, from the only one existing, Himself. The only One entered the Creation by becoming the Creation itself, accepting limitation as the price of self-discovery. He became the possibilities within His own Nature and therefore, at least in part, became less than perfect.

    Having identified with His Creation, He sleeps within it as do we and all who identify with other than their own essence. At the same time, He never ceases to be the Absolute.

    What does He need from us? First, He needs us to be, and to realize in our life, the qualities He has manifested in us as His creation, so that He might know Himself. Each of us is a unique mirror in which He could regard Himself. For this, I must learn not to live for myself. I must learn to let Him into my life, allow Him to participate. As I begin to see His gifts in me, they become available also to Him. I see myself in Him as He sees Himself in me…a mutual regarding or mushahida.

    He sleeps within the Creation. He sleeps within me. If I awaken, the Creation awakens and the Absolute awakens.

    There is something more we can do for Him. Accepting the limitation of Creation imposes immense, unending suffering upon the Absolute. All the suffering in the world is His. His agony is unendurable yet must be endured. Did He know this would be the result?

    Mr. G wrote in his first series that the aim of this Work is “to have the possibility of consciously taking part in diminishing the sorrow of our Common Endless Father.” Can we who are His creatures accept some small measure of His suffering and feel compassion for Him and His Creation? Can we, despite our suffering, love Him, praise Him and glorify Him, which, it is said in our tradition, provides some small measure of temporary relief for Our Common Creator? This does not mean to seek out some new or special suffering…there is more than enough already…but rather to meet the suffering that comes my way with objective compassion for myself and Him.

    You might ask, if this is true, why He prolongs His suffering? Could He not wind up Creation? Reverse it? Or is He so immersed in the love of His Creation, and so caught in the shocking facts of His self-disclosure, that He needs the help of those who Work?

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  • June 13, 2018

    One of the most powerful myths of our time is the myth of limitless potential. It seems that every commencement speech, every news story about young people, has this cliché…anything is possible, you can be anyone or anything you want, there is nothing impossible for those who hold on to their dream and strive to achieve it. In my view, there is no better foundation for sleep than this one.

    The class of child-like billionaires spawned by the technology revolution in places like Silicon Valley are planning and investing for a day when death will be no more, when science prolongs their life indefinitely and they will emigrate to Mars. They do not need to deal with the consequences of their actions, they just move on into a more wonderful future. The result is that they remain encased in their own self-importance, unable to penetrate the realm of feeling.

    It is my struggle with my limitations that enables me to observe self and achieve some measure of self-mastery. My failures enable me to feel compassion. My death, which every day grows closer, invokes sobriety and also, paradoxically, the qualities of passion and impersonal joy.

    The moth is attracted to the flame. The light is blinding. The flame is deadly. But where else can the moth experience such wild intensity. The moment of dancing its death is the summation of its life. So may it be for me.

    Searching for the limitless is complete nonsense. And it is very damaging, a fantasy that blocks our engagement with reality and the possibility of being human. Potential is never now. Something without limit never arrives. It’s a way to avoid the facts of our existence.

    This work leads not to the celebration of limitless possibilities but to the discovery of what is…the Terror of the Situation…and, with that, a possible awakening of conscience and compassion…qualities that are found in failure, suffering and the loss of illusion. Do you still hope that things will work out for you in the end, a comfortable conclusion, a Hollywood ending? If so, you still haven’t got the message. And despite the poor prospects, I am asked to do my best anyway, just for its own sake.

    Can I recognize that the limitations written into life have been imposed by the universe on itself? This world is not some cruel joke played on us. In this work, God is not thought of as some separate being untouched by the pain of His creation. Nor is the universe a dead material thing. As Mr. G noted, He has entered His world, crucified Himself in His own creation, become a full participant in the details, limited by the laws He has used to form this world*. There truly is no escape. Since we cannot get out, we must go farther in, accepting the flame, not seeking to avoid it.

    Last week, another person I know died from cancer. For years, he avoided his fate, convinced everything would be ok and his life would continue. At the very end, he discarded this view and in an act of great courage, he faced the end. This was a gift that may benefit others.

    * “In the beginning, I alone was. I had nothing but Myself with which to make the world; out of Myself the world was made.”  E.J. Gold, The Man on the Cross.

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  • January 9, 2018

    The aim of work on self is dis-identification. The means is impartial observation of self in my life. It is clear from doing this work that identification is sleep, loss of will, slavery to habits, a loss of my capacities.

    It therefore follows that to become less identified is to achieve greater fulfillment and satisfaction, does it not? It does not. Being unidentified, unidentified and therefore being, is true, when it is true, in the moment it arises. And then I fall into identification again. But not as before. Because now identification is not innocent, not easily justified, not satisfying but deeply disappointing.

    Falling into a habitual identity is contracting, painful, shameful. The reliable motivations of sleep slowly wither leaving…questions, doubt, disenchantment, inaction. When spontaneously present, these issues have no substance, they are swept away by responsiveness to the possibilities of the present. But when I fall, I do not have a comfortable, self-indulgent, self-important self to catch me.

    Once I have left the matrix often enough, I cannot go back. I cannot stay where I am; the pain is too great. I can only go forward. May a way forward be shown to me.

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  • November 14, 2017

    Students of this work often seem to think that presence is an end-state, a goal to be accomplished. This thinking is far short of the mark. The state of presence is a point of transition. Presence provides mobility. Its great value is that it allows you to move, to change states, to enter other categories of experience.

    What does this mean, to enter other categories of experience?

    Our ordinary state is one of involuntary identification. The identities I assume are deeply ingrained ways of behaving which are based on even deeper habits of perceiving and reacting, based on even deeper self-images and assumptions about myself. These layers of habituation do not allow me to behave, perceive or think differently. In my ordinary state, I have zero degrees of freedom. This is what it means to be asleep. I can only truly know this through observation of self. Hearing or reading this will not convince me of this most basic fact of my existence.

    To be present is to be unidentified. My habitual patterns no longer contain and limit the range of experience available to me. My body and my ordinary mind may continue to ramble on during presence…we can call this the momentum of sleep…but the ‘I’ of presence, a not ordinary I, can see over the barricades and also experience its own presence in the present. This is an opening. Or perhaps we could call it a threshold. It is what we call being.

    Sleep continues while you are present?

    Remnants of it, yes. These reverberations of the biological machine die down in time. This is because the body and ordinary mind exist in successive time. Their processes unfold and change from moment to moment. Presence does not. It has the quality of immediacy, therefore timelessness, from the point of view of body and mind. Presence exists in the second dimension of time as a kind of alien outside the flow of successive occurrence.

    Presence can continue to be present in the present only if it is continually renewed. Only presence can know itself to be present. Only presence can hold itself in the present. When I fall into identification once more, presence is no longer in the present…it has succumbed to the momentum of sleep and I have re-entered successive time, time passing.

    But while I am unidentified, I can feel, I can contemplate, I can invoke. I can know things immediately from the inside as if they are myself. You could call this voluntary identification…not repeating the habits of the body and ordinary mind but engaging in the essence of other beings. This is the mobility possible in the state of presence.

    This sounds easy but it is not. To remain present in the present for any period of time involves ongoing struggle. Somehow I must function in two different worlds, two different dimensions of time. I remain in a body. The pull of sleep does not cease. At any time my presence can be pulled into forgetting itself. Then I am swept into the river of successive time, the fashioner and sustainer of my identities.

    Only presence can know it is present. It does so immediately, in the place of no time. Anything in successive time is in a different realm, of a different nature, too slow to participate.

    Only presence can hold itself in presence. It remembers itself. Presence is sustained by its own experience until it is interrupted. While engaged in its experience, presence can also know the tiniest slip towards sleep, those interrupting sensations and thoughts that beckon me to re-join my limited but known universe. Has observation of self impartially exposed the ways of sleep so that they can be seen and resisted as they arise? If so, presence may be able to continue in the present.

    My ordinary self cannot will itself to be present.

    From the point of view of ordinary mind, moments of presence are very fleeting, if knowable at all. Can I remember being present? In my ordinary state, it is inaccessible.

    From the point of view of presence, its moments are eternal, comprising all the time there is. When presence returns after an absence, it is completely itself, as if it never left. This is what it means to be.

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  • June 19, 2017

    The world appears to be moving towards greater disorder, socially, politically and economically. This is observable within one’s own lifetime. It is always suspect to try to make judgments about times and places we have not ourselves inhabited. But if you leave aside your assumptions and preferences and consider your experience and that of your friends and family, it is not difficult to see the growing disorder of our lives.

    I do not wish to present you with a critique of our current situation. Rather, I wish for you to consider what is required for you to navigate it.

    First, consider the possibility that the reasons we come up with to explain the problems we see around us are likely to be entirely wrong. Typically, we confuse symptoms and causes. When I get up to cross the room and close the window because I am uncomfortable, did I assess my state, recognize that I am cold, notice the open window, connect that with my discomfort, decide to get up and cross the room and then close the window? Or did I find myself getting up and crossing the room and then ‘decide’ to close the window?

    We need to understand the nature of sleep. In a sleep state, whether personal or on a larger scale, we invent the reasons for things, we fantasize about causation but we do not see the governing patterns. Just because I think something as it happens does not establish causation. My reactions of anger, my expressions of delight…are they not most often in progress before I recognize them and ‘intend’ them? This is what we mean by sleep.

    The macro level…the behavior of crowds…surely parallels the behavior of individuals. As individuals, we charge and discharge as we go through the day. Objectively observing self uncovers the fact that much of my experience is simply the ebb and flow of unconscious reactions to my environment. Is this not even more likely at the level of the mass? This is why our social analysis and planning come to nothing.

    War follows peace, poverty follows wealth, fear follows greed, confidence follows insecurity, ebullience follows remorse, as night follows day. Political movements come and go, social norms rise and fall. The process is largely mechanical, independent of what we think, like the tides.

    Does this mean we should dismiss the social and political context we live in? Not at all. Should we see all developments as equally mechanical? Again, not at all. Discernment is needed. Just as my behavior is occasionally motivated by the blessings visited upon me by unseen grace, so too the behavior of others, even the mass. Can I be there to participate? Or will I be caught in my dull, practiced cynicism, assuming I am awake and above it all?

    The political environment I live in, the atmosphere it creates, have immediate consequences for the success of my endeavors. If I am able to observe the surrounding atmosphere objectively, I can perhaps find the way to maintain my sanity and protect what is dear to me, avoiding unnecessary reactions and stepping between the raindrops. At the very least, I can avoid swimming against the tide when no amount of effort will suffice.

    This is a path of sobriety and skill.

    Emotion is extremely contagious, mediated not only by words but also by gestures and even perhaps the very air we breathe. But when an emotion has passed through its human medium, a wave with peak and trough, sobriety can have its turn.

    To be sober, to be objective, does not mean to be free of opinion. It does not mean that all phenomena are the same to you. Some of the developments around me are more dangerous than others. I need to be alert to the shifting tides. To be objective is to set aside my assumptions and prejudices, look at the evidence as objectively as I can and decide where to place my attention. Attention has force. This does not mean choosing sides. The only point of view I belong to is my own.

    The sure sign of a wrong turn is to lose self-awareness. When I no longer challenge the irrational and incongruent quality of my speech and actions, I know I have fallen asleep. Knowing the dangers, I can perhaps find my own path.

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  • March 31, 2017

    I would like to come back to the difficulty of remembering to work on self. I get into my day and that’s it. I fall into my habitual identifications and I sleep through the day.

    Yes. Work on self, voluntary attention and presence…none of it is needed to bounce through the day on automatic pilot.

    How can I make my work important to the rest of my life? Would that be a solution?

    I think this would be dangerous to your work efforts. Could I adopt a work identity? Sure. I could say that I have reached a certain level of capacity, say man number four. I could call myself a teacher or guide, a guru or murshid. I could go to a weekend seminar on shamanism. If these roles support my self-esteem, if I enjoy the status and enhanced self-importance, I will find it much easier to remember the ideas of the work and the postures and gestures of someone who is “in the work”.

    All I need to do is make the work valuable to me personally. But the trick is, then I am no longer doing the work. I am not engaging in impartial observation of self. I am not present. I am just another insufferable idiot who is pretending to know something. This is what Mr. G called wrong crystallization. It’s a short cut that proves to be a dead end. The work protects itself.

    We do not have ceremonies other than zikr. We do not have regulation prayers and rituals. Why? Of course it would be comforting. These activities would give us something to do that would allow us to think that we are doing the work. We would have more structure, more apparent continuity of effort. But the insincerity involved in making formalized efforts would eat away any real motive to do real work.

    What is the real motive to work? Wishing to wake up and see things as they are. Recognizing sleep in myself and feeling that it cannot be accepted. This is a path of constant failure. It is our nature on this planet to forget, to become lost in ourselves. But I do not wish to fool myself, pretending that I am what I am not. In this path I commit myself again and again to see the truth and to deal with that. This makes my life a constant battle with myself. Everything is workable but the work is never done. There is no end point, no final arrival. But there is also much beauty on the way.

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