• 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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  • November 17, 2018

    What is the role of sacrifice in this work?

    At some point in your work on self, you may discover the mysterious power of sacrifice. To me, sacrifice belongs to the old ways, the ancient traditions which once shaped our understanding of our place in the world. Now, it is largely forgotten if not rejected…having been superseded by a more user-friendly sense of personal evolution with a minimum of pain.

    I do not wish to make a logical assessment of sacrifice…what it means or how it works….just some observations.

    That for which I make sacrifice is made more valuable; its power is enhanced by the value of what has been sacrificed to it. The message of Jesus has survived 2000 years because of his voluntary sacrifice. Without Easter, who would remember Christmas?

    Genuine sacrifice seems to require that it be voluntary but I am not certain this is so.

    Sacrifice for my own benefit is not sacrifice but a kind of bargaining or exchange. To sacrifice I must lose something of value to me without compensation. Yet, there is also a sacrifice of substitutes, where I may give up a personal attachment in order to come closer to my Friend.

    When an impasse is reached and there appears to be no way out, sacrifice may be called for, to break the stalemate. A sacrifice releases energy and opens up fixed positions. In this case, the sacrifice may need to be known but there are other times when it must be hidden so as not to attract the notice and approval of others.

    Sacrifice that engenders resentment or self-importance is not real sacrifice and would better not be made.

    Every kind of work can lose its virtue when mixed with human fears and ambitions…burnt offerings to propitiate the gods, for example. There are no rules to follow here. You must discern the murmurings of your heart to find a gesture which is sacred, one which lifts the spirit.

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  • August 21, 2018

    I would like you to consider the underlying assumptions of your life. Where do you turn for meaning, to make sense of your life? Who or what do you rely upon for support?

    Do you struggle with these questions? Perhaps you manage to be distracted most of the time by the details of your doings and wantings? But if we are at all alike, I think your life is circling around these questions.

    Speaking for myself, I know that I need context. I need my life to relate to a larger context. When I discovered Mr. G and the idea of the work, I thought this would prove to be the context that I needed. This discovery was very important and it has helped me to realize some key insights into myself and the world. However, I found that the work also runs out of meaning if it does not serve. The work itself needs context.

    Now, service is a word that is freighted with pre-conceptions. There is service to good causes, service to others, service to humanity. You will need to test them. Can they bear the weight of your life? If not, there is something missing. Can you find out what is missing?

    Perhaps you think that it makes no sense to look for something that isn’t there. However, I suggest to you that if you recognize something very important is missing, and allow yourself to feel this, you could enable that precious something to find you, because it is also missing you.

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  • June 25, 2017

    I think that most of us do not appreciate how much our work efforts are shaped and limited by what we think we know.

    Mark Twain famously said that “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

    My knowledge of this work is similar. What I think I know may have been useful when I first came upon it, a step to stand on, but now it is a stumbling block that closes off the questioning needed to open new horizons. I develop a dependency upon old ways of thinking. I take refuge in old aims and I cling to established procedures without recognizing that’s what I’m doing.

    “I can place attention on sensation, I can invoke presence, I can observe self… I know what I’m doing. Any day now, it will all come together and I will move on to the next level.”

    Maybe I need to give up.

    Do I really think this is my work? That I can do it my way according to my understanding? Do I think that I know what is needed? When was the last time I was surprised to see things in an entirely new way?

    What do I really know? Can I explain it to a young friend who has no background in this work and none of our specialized vocabulary?

    Giving up is not the same thing as quitting. Quitting has a quality of rejection. Giving up is acknowledging that my efforts are fruitless because I need help and I am open to being led, or shown something new. There is humility in that and humility is a most wonderful opener of doors.

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  • April 29, 2017

    Do you feel fragile? Are there setbacks or disappointments that you don’t think you could bear?

    I have things I depend on…relationships mostly…that I have constructed my life around. I have certain aims and values that I sense I cannot live without. These dependencies make me fragile, vulnerable, anxious. Is there a sane way to deal with this issue?

    Let me first examine my dependencies. Where am I fragile? Why? If I inquire carefully, pulling apart the strands of my sensing, I may find that some of these fragilities are unworthy. They reflect my unwillingness to face a challenge, my lack of courage or confidence to deal with the efforts that would be required if my fears are realized. Faced with real situations, I am often more resilient than I think I am.

    But there are deeper dependencies, ones that would seemingly extinguish any remaining wish to live. How do I deal with these?

    It seems to me that much of this fragility comes from a false sense of certain knowledge. If this thing happens, this is what will follow and this is how it will end. The discovery on the other side of the unbearable event is unknown to me. My imaginings are not the whole story, they never are. This has been shown to me many times. How many losses also prove to be a gain?

    Can I go deeper? Life is inherently unreliable. It is temporary and highly uncertain. There is no permanence anywhere in the outer world. The structure of dependency I have created is inherently unstable. I know that I am insufficient. Can I, while here, find something that is reliable and cannot be taken away? This is not an idle philosophical question. I would say this is a real work question that is worth a lifetime of inquiry.

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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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