• May 15, 2020

    The fourth secret of the work: there is nothing I can affirm that is worth a plugged nickel because my ordinary efforts come from my personality. This is not to say that I do not experience exalted states from time to time. But they are not from me or by my effort. They are gifts.

    Let us say I notice that I have a tendency to exaggerate and that I often claim to know things that I do not know. I wish to break this habit and be more honest and sincere. Can I decide to be honest; can I affirm the quality of honesty without self-flattery, in a sincere way?

    I am willing to bet I can’t affirm a positive quality. Any quality. Perhaps I can fake the behavior or posture…the outward appearance of sincerity…in a convincing manner but my habitual tendency to lie will reassert itself. Over years, I have accumulated a persona built on reacting to stimulus using a range of behaviours learned from mimicking those around me. This persona is the counterfeit, preventing the unfolding of real being. Anything flowing from the persona is a substitute.

    There is another way: to become sincere, can I observe my lying objectively…perceive its every nuance in real time, the fluttering sensations that lead the mind down false alleys into the momentary pleasure of deceiving and exaggerating. When I know it well, in real time, I no longer experience the attractions of lying. Then l can call upon the quality of sincerity.

    Every good and bad thing can be called to us, voluntarily or not. By observation of self, without justification or judgment, we are able to discard the unreal and open a space for the real to be invoked.  The undesirable must be relinquished before the desirable can be attained. Note the word ‘relinquished’. When we know something very well, we can let it go… the habitual substitute is no longer needed.

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  • May 5, 2020

    I wish to have a deeper experience of my life. Do I know where to begin? Knowing where to begin anything is critical. Every good thing must be approached correctly. Before love, humility. Before humility, remorse. Before remorse, confession. Before prayer, an apology. Know the steps. The inner world is not commanded, it is seduced by delicacy of manner.

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  • January 31, 2020

    The most important tool for work on self is attention. Without access to attention, there is no work.

    Perhaps you think you can develop your attention, that you can have more attention if you make efforts. There are qualities that can be developed over time with effort but, in my experience, attention is not one of them.

    The secret to accessing more attention is to observe and understand inattention. This is yet another example of the via negativa. The problem is that the ‘me’ that would practice attention is itself the source of inattention…the source of distraction. Attention itself is not a property of the ordinary world and it is not something that can be manipulated by the elements of this world for more than a few moments. Instead, can I observe my tendency to be distracted?

    Attention is a natural function of the universe by which it establishes connections with itself. Attention is the very life of the universe, the means for knowing itself in its particulars. This will not make sense to you until it is part of your experience.

    One thing I can do to enhance my access to attention is to clean up the vestiges of past attention. I leave behind me a trail of connections which are held by attention…things promised but not completed, unnecessary worries, possessiveness about things like a car, a wallet, a future meeting and so on. Can I lift attention from these small fixations when it is not needed there? Is this something I ‘do’ or is this simply allowing attention to call itself back from the places where it has been left and is no longer needed or where it is not needed now?

    Let’s call this ‘retrieval’. Can I retrieve misplaced attention? Can I invoke attention and then allow it to call to itself the scattered bits of itself that are not needed where they are? Obviously, this does not include removing attention where it is properly placed on people, things and tasks you are committed to.

    Invocation of attention is a potent tool. Attention can attend to itself. In fact, only attention can attend to itself; everything else is too slow.

    The secret? Learn how to summon attention and learn how to submit to it. Presence is your reward.

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  • January 13, 2020

    This is my failsafe, my touchstone. Can I let my mind rest upon nothing? Just for a moment? I am not talking about blanking out the mind or stopping thought. This is the opposite of control. Can I let go, fully release? Can I, in one moment, completely submit…my self, my breath, my posture. And if I can? I get an immediate hit of ecstasy.

    Now I’ll warn you about this ecstasy thing. It’s not the same as extra joy, not euphoria nor extreme happiness. Ecstasy is laced with pain, with sorrow and with exaltation. Its exquisite intensity is inherent in its contradictory nature. Ecstasy is not one thing but rather the simultaneity of many things…a dose of another reality. This is the door-opener that takes you to the heart of the Universe.

    This is not something that can be maintained for long periods, at least in my experience. But if I can perform this maneuver, it’s like being shot out of a cannon and I have a moment when the work can be remembered and understood.

    The key is submission. Can I learn to submit? The whole of life is a lesson in submission. Every sacrifice I make for another’s sake, every sincere confession of my limitations, every time I voluntarily give up my point of view, I am learning the path of submission.

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  • May 13, 2019

    What happens when work on self makes it possible for me to work in a selfless way? What does this mean?

    It is easier to say what ordinary efforts are like. Ordinarily, I am identified with my work. My efforts are motivated by my wish for attention and praise, a feeling of worth, to belong, to achieve a personal aim, to make money that I ‘need’ for the things I want. This is all perfectly normal and mostly unconscious, but easily observed nonetheless.

    To be identified with one’s work is to harness the enormous power derived from making work an extension of me. In effect, I defend my work with my life. I may feign a cynical attitude or pretend to be detached but without the psychological props provided by my work, I virtually cease to exist. If I can live outside my work it is because I have found an even stronger identification. Ordinary work is animated by self and is an expression of self.

    So, to return to my question, what happens when it becomes possible to work in a selfless way? Could work efforts be much more difficult if they are not powered by ego and the perpetually humming motor of identification? Where will the motive come from? I suspect there would be less resistance if ordinary self is not involved, but the power plug I have depended upon all my life has been pulled.

    And how would I feel about my work? Ordinary work comes pre-defended by my ego. My view of my work is centered in me, I know what it means and what it is worth and I have my reasons to explain why others may not accept it. Without this protection, my work is incredibly fragile. I do not see it centered in my own context but in a much wider sphere where there are many eyes and judgments, all valid in their own way. The certainty with which I make a gesture is immediately prismed when it enters the world, fractioned by the limitations it must inhabit.

    This is my surmise. Selfless work, what I might call real work, is extraordinarily difficult and exhausting, not the effortless unfolding of some spiritual fiction.

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  • January 10, 2019

    I have said many times that the real enemy of work on self and the greater Work is self-importance. Perhaps this statement needs further elaboration?

    What is self-importance? Is it the strutting, boastful ego attempting to impose its will on others? Or is it much deeper and more pervasive than that?

    Is self-importance also the ongoing concern about self, anxiety over what happens to me, to my plans, my wants, my accomplishments, my happiness? Can I live without the worry that I could be doing so much better?

    Is an exaggerated sense of guilt about what I have done or not done also evidence of self-importance? Yes, I need to make efforts to keep my word and to respect the needs of others, not only for the sake of others but also for the sake of my own conscience. When my conscience is clear, my capacity for work is much greater. But despite my best efforts, I will fail to meet my own standards and I will certainly fail to satisfy the wants of others. Do I become excessively concerned about, and bound to, the judgments I make about myself? Do I assume that my life and the lives of others rotate around my shortcomings? Is holding onto my guilt also evidence of my self-importance?

    When do I accept my imperfections, when do I accept forgiveness, when do I agree to feel compassion for myself and for all the other sentient beings who are doing the best they can in a world that does not favour or support our best intentions? Does my ongoing judgment of myself stem from a sense of self-importance?

    If I am not important, if I am not precious to myself and others, perhaps there can be room for the importance of relating to a universal being. Perhaps by realizing my unimportance, I am more able to find and express the gesture that is right for this moment. Can I then trust the work to guide me?

    Of course, if you take this view as a blank cheque to do what you want without guilt, you have missed the point…which is that what I do from a sense of self-importance takes me away from the work.

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