• December 10, 2019

    Every human being bends the universe. The fabric of the earth is formed into a sentient being capable of movement, thought and feeling. Such extraordinary order is created, the product of high intelligence and energies which run counter to the law of entropy. Resources are commandeered for our sustenance.

    Each of us is a vortex summoning attention and drawing the attention of others, initiating their thoughts and reactions. We create small universes of things that matter…relationships, special items, daily activities, places to be…that give shape to our lives. This little universe is manifest in our physical form and its habits but it also exists in the invisible world where certain habits of thought and emotion arise.

    In this world, every human being has sovereign power to bend the universe. The very act of living does so. The power derives from access to the non-physical attributes of will and attention. Why assume that this power is entirely dependent on the physical body? Why assume that the invisible dimensions of you and me do not continue?

    Our lives are not our own

    from womb to tomb we are bound to others, past and present.

    The consequences of our individual lives ripple throughout eternity

    and by each crime and every kindness

    we birth our future.

    (Cloud Atlas)

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  • November 3, 2018

    There is immense satisfaction in using only what is needed. There is immense pleasure in having just enough. Indulgence is always weakening to the will. Underneath the enjoyment of excess, conscience saps my strength and opens the door to further error.

    The sacrifice of excess strengthens will. Of course I am referring to my agreement to accept limits for myself, not ones imposed upon me or forced upon others.

    How is sufficiency practiced? First you must discern what is needed, not what is wanted. Sufficiency is saying no to what is not required, saying no to what does not serve a purpose. This form of denial does not inflict pain, rather it conserves attention, energy and an open heart. Self-denial which causes pain to oneself is a distortion. Therefore, as I have said, the exercise of sufficiency is a pleasure, as all virtues inherently are.

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  • July 27, 2017

    Our intentions rarely have the force to proceed. Why is that? If they do have force, it’s because they serve our vanity.

    Intentions are just thoughts, are they not? To have effect, they need to be connected to the unconscious forces that actually motivate me.

    My doctor shocked me yesterday, telling me I should lose some weight or my health will suffer. He seemed very stern with me so I was worried when I left his office. Of course, I could not have known that he was in a bad mood after his wife had run up the credit cards. His demands seemed rational at the time. I formed a vague intention to exercise more and eat less, but not much changed until that hot new girl joined accounting.

    I see my reflection in the window, how unpleasingly rotund I have become. She will never pay any attention to me. So now I resolve to take the doctor’s orders seriously. My intentions are reinforced every time I see myself in a mirror. I have a motive, although I tell everyone “I’m just following doctor’s orders” when I grandly turn down a second piece of cake at dinner. And I believe it too.

    Since I am a member of a work group, I recognize that my infatuation and resulting motive have given me an opportunity to observe self. I observe that I am quite ridiculous. I have a self-image that is 29 years out of date. I pull in my stomach when I go to accounting. I remember how I did not like to be seen in public with my aunt who was very fat. I see that I have many little programs that revolve around my judgments of fat people…pulling back from physical contact…my aunt used to sweat a lot and I recoiled when she hugged me.

    Ok, this prejudice is something I was not conscious of before. I can work with that, first by simply noticing the physical sensations when they arise. But why am I overweight?

    I observe that I have an addiction to certain types of food at certain times. I have rationalized these addictions as habits designed to maintain blood sugar and energy levels. Perhaps, but let’s see. Over time, I observe that these presumed motives do not explain anything. It seems that at certain times of the day, I am uncomfortable if I do not have a particular sensation of fullness, even if I have eaten a good meal. Why is this? I don’t know and don’t need to know. I observe the craving for that sensation when it arises and I let it go.

    Meanwhile, the girl in accounting has been fired. My doctor is surprisingly friendly and supportive at my next check-up as he unconsciously tries to undo the effects of our last visit together. I have begun to lose a little weight.

    But more usefully, I have also begun to notice how suspect my motives are. They are a soup of unexamined impressions and unconscious desires. I dress them up as rational intentions but the motive power is almost always elsewhere, in habitualized sensations and self-images that are often completely irrational. My intentions are mostly a confusing thicket of vain ideas about myself. This realization, as it grows, has unintended consequences. I am not moved to do what I used to do; my once-avid participation in certain activities is now uninteresting and my friends don’t seem to know what to do or say around me anymore.

    Perhaps at this point I will begin to encounter intent. This is a verb, not a noun. Intending is not a word-formula holding onto some desire or benefit of personal interest to me. To tend is to care for something. One of the early meanings of tending is to move in a particular direction. Perhaps intending is to choose to face in a particular direction. To have intent is to hold and care for a point on the compass without wavering. Why? Because it is fulfilling in itself.

    Intentions are in the realm of the mind, under the influence of our vanity and our habits. Intent is in the field of the will, under the magnetic influence of something larger than me. I wish for intent.

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  • August 1, 2016

    In our ‘modern’ society, nothing is more reviled than indifference. To be indifferent means you are without feeling, callous and uncaring, lacking in human sensibilities, probably empty-headed, tired and bored, to say nothing of boring. Imagine having no opinions, no preferences. Death would surely be an improvement.

    Such a broad consensus from the sleeping world should immediately alert you to the possibility that reality has once more been turned on its head. Indifference is a place of great potential, especially for our work but also for much ordinary accomplishment. Indifference has power.

    First, let’s consider what indifference is not. It is not dislike nor distaste, not lethargy or some other veiled negative or rejecting state. Indifference is to see no difference between one thing and another and not to prefer one thing over another. Indifference is not rejecting, but nor is it accepting. Perhaps we could say it is a special form of equanimity without the experience of pleasure usually associated with that state.

    What makes indifference useful? It offers clarity and objectivity. It is free from compulsion and fixation. It has no emotional attachment. This allows for something new and surprising to arise.

    From the work perspective, indifference offers the possibility of acting from real will. Most of our actions originate in emotion. Motive and emotion amount to the same thing for most of us.

    Emotion is a movement of sensitive energy in the nervous system with physical and biochemical components. Emotion is triggered by an external stimulus—perhaps a sensation, a word spoken, an association of one thing with another, which then proceeds habitually in terms of breath, posture, gesture, pulse as well as the thought-tapes that sustain and colour the emotion. Subsequent behaviour is predictable. This is not the action of will; rather it is precisely mechanical in nature, no matter how pleasant or productive it might be. Indifference is freedom from this loop, which allows for the possible action of will.

    Because indifference is without resistance or conflict, it can move quickly and forcefully in unexpected directions. It can also sit in the same spot for a long time, requiring the patience to wait for whispers from unknown places. In these periods between, like the Horse Latitudes, you may be severely tested. Perhaps you will panic into depression or senseless behaviour. The Sufis call this a Kemal state and it can be dangerous.

    In my understanding, the Kemal state is both a blessing and a test that begins to manifest when you have seen enough of yourself and the world. It is not an end state, nor is it something to be sought, but rather a point of possible transition to something new.

    How can indifference be separated from boredom or lethargy?

    True indifference is alert and questioning. The one who is indifferent wishes to proceed but not from dead habits.

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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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  • January 30, 2016

    You have often made the distinction between living in the present and being present in the present. Could you explain this distinction one more time?

    Yes, there is an important difference between them. When I am in the present, I have attention on my sensations and my surroundings. I experience the here and now. This marks an important transition in the quality of my experience, from dispersed and dissociated to observing and connected.

    Being present in the present is another step. It reflects a shift in ‘I’ as well as a connection to the present, a shift from personality to being.

    What enables this shift to happen?

    Agreement…which is an inner alignment with the present. Agreement is an act of will. It is much more than acquiescence, or acceptance, or a lack of disagreement. Agreement is a magic somersault in which we jump over our own knees, as Gurdjieff would say. It changes everything, at least for a moment, and yet it remains largely unknown to us.

    Do you understand how much of our life is spent in disagreement? Even when we appear to agree, we are partial in response, we reserve our disagreements and wait to see how it all plays out. We are half-hearted. We doubt, reject, resist, withhold. Therefore, we are never really where we are and when we are. Do we not usually have a preference for something else, somewhere else, at another time? How, then, is it possible to be present in the present?

    Agreement is a complete inner action which awakens the heart and engages being. The most available opportunity to initiate an action of the will is to agree to be where you are and when you are. In doing so, you become present in the present. Your being is engaged. You have momentary unity of your faculties.

    Agreement is not centered in the mind. It is an action experienced in the body. It can be known as a subtle sensation of movement in your viscera which frees the heart to feel.

    The most amazing thing is that when I am present in the present, I experience the present as a limitless volume of space and time. From the point of view of ordinary life, the present is impossibly brief and insubstantial…a fleeting moment of transition from somewhere to somewhere else, from what just happened to what could happen next.  The presence of my presence in the present shrinks the past and the future into very small compressed places, too small for presence to inhabit, while the present becomes a vast space for encountering the unknown.

    Related Posts:

    Being Present – May 28, 2015

    Agreement – April 23, 2015

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