You Have The Power

When a person finally recognizes the significance of cause and effect in his or her own life, the result is a tremendously changed attitude to life. Usually preliminary work has to be undertaken before the pathwork brings you to this understanding. You may have discovered many an image, have understood a number of inner problems and conflicts, and yet you have no inkling of the immediate causes and effects, hence the independent role you play in your fate, in what seems like unalterable circumstances. For the moment, I do not refer to mystical connections of a more far-reaching nature, karmic conditions, causes and effects that are once, twice or ten times removed, but direct, visible links of cause and effect, that is, visible if one chooses to see and understand.

How many times do all of you feel and think and fear and wish, as though your attitude and behavior had no bearing on the desired outcome! For instance, you fear you may not be liked and helplessly hope that perhaps you might be. Meanwhile, what escapes you is that your actions could easily bring about what you truly want. How often do you fear you may not succeed in a venture, passively, helplessly waiting for fate to determine the desired outcome? It does not occur to you that there are many ways in which you, and you alone, can bring about what you want. All your energies are geared to creating the appearance that what you want exists in your life. But deep down, you are convinced that you cannot really have it. You are ashamed to admit this, so you pretend you possess what you do not. You could have what you want if you spent your energies, not on make-believe, but on truly obtaining it. This may be success in any given field, it may be a happy relationship, being loved and fulfilled on all levels of your being, or it may be being a certain kind of person.

The first wall in the maze, then, is your belief that you cannot have what you so easily might have. The second wall, resulting from the first, is your shame about a non-existent and unnecessary deprivation. The third twisted corridor in the labyrinth of the mind is the pretense that you have what you want or could have if you wanted to, while you believe the opposite. In spite of believing that you cannot have it, nevertheless hopes for fate to deliver you from your deprivation. So you have fears and hopes, all based on false premises.

You even fear yourself, your own unconscious mind — as though it contained a monster you have no control over, separated from your volitional processes. Moreover, you foolishly seem to assume that by pretending it does not exist, it will remain tame, but if you looked at it, it would act up, forcing you into actions you have no way of stopping. You completely forget that your unconscious mind is the monster; that once the unconscious is conscious, you are not a slave to it, but its master. You stubbornly insist that you are at the mercy of the workings of this secret mind. You are plagued with superfluous fears of whether or not you will succeed in growing, shedding an unwelcome trait, acting constructively — as though all this had nothing to do with your choices, but was caused by a power over which you have had no influence. Even those of you who have already experienced considerable insights on this path still do not recognize how often you feel this way. You neglect to notice it. If only you would check such reactions and immediately correct the faulty thinking that has such far-reaching effects on your entire evolution, on your very existence! All you need to do after such a detection is to forcefully assert that you, and you alone, determine your actions, your behavior, your decisions. The moment you do this, something begins to happen within, and heretofore unused faculties begin to manifest, first giving you still deeper understanding, and then strengthening you so that you begin to act in a new and more productive way, and are geared to accomplish your goal. In other words, you set new causes in motion by refusing to be the prey of your own destructive aspects.

When you finally come into your own and discover that the solution is so simple, a major transition occurs. It rests on your willingness to dispense with the subtle pretenses that cover up your unnecessary limitations. Then, when you dispense with the limitation itself, you can go out and obtain what you wish. Instead of withdrawing and pulling back from people, you will reach out for them. Hence, you will never worry about not being liked. Instead of causing a paralysis of your best faculties, you will discover and use them. Instead of saying no to life, you will say yes. Instead of helplessly waiting for others, or fate, or life, to make you into an acceptable person, meanwhile hiding in fear from yourself, you will determine what you wish, how to obtain it, what to do about tendencies you do not like. The change lies in doing your best, rather than giving the best impression. If you look at all your past discoveries in that light, you can determine the vast difference between giving the best impression, so that the best will be thought of you, and actually doing the best in order to obtain a particular desired result. This is the very key that determines the real success you want in a vocation, in a rewarding relationship, in growth and in self-unfoldment.

– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Lecture #128, Limitations Created Through Illusory Alternatives

Full lecture here.

Boundaries and Standards of Behavior

Compassion and kindness are beautiful but so are boundaries and standards of behavior.

People want to be held at high standards of behavior even if they don’t know it. Because guilt is harder to bear than anger and truth is more liberating than what seems advantageous.

If you meet people with kindness and compassion all the time for the things that they do, you are also enabling bad behavior. And you are also taking upon yourself the consequences of their actions.

People need to experience the impact of their own mistakes and patterns of behavior and that is what honest reflection allows them to do.

Your boundaries benefit others too.

On Fearing Emotions

When you fear feeling a certain feeling, you set up all sorts of defenses and strategies to keep yourself from feeling that feeling. For instance, if you fear that you might be bad, you will try to convince others of your goodness by not displaying healthy negative emotions and by allowing yourself to be mistreated, thereby bringing to life various formations geared towards obtaining the confirmation from the outside that you are good. The fear of experiencing that emotion of being bad is what sets everything in motion. As always, the difficulty of it is that it is unconscious, which means you are not aware of the force that is driving you into action, appearing as a spontaneous inner impulse. “I just feel that way.”

But if you observe yourself like you are an objective thing in the world you can ask yourself “what am I trying to get from others?” and it is very likely that you will find that you fear the opposite in yourself. So if you try to convince others you are good, you are probably afraid that you are bad.

So what can you do when you find that fear? Agree to it! Fine, I am bad! And feel whatever pain/fear/anger/etc. might arise in association with that. So, ok, fine, I am bad. Game over. But don’t fall into the trap of judging yourself for it or trying to change it, just feel it as it is. And then you can release it.

The thing is that when you fear an experience on the spectrum of emotions, you bind yourself to it and you filter reality through the fear of being that, but the moment you go through the experience, it dissolves. It has nothing on you anymore. The reason you fear it is that you believe it is a permanent, immutable reality when the truth is that you are maintaining it because you fear going through it.

So back in childhood, because you didn’t allow yourself the feeling/experience of being bad, you carried it with you into adulthood, but feelings are there to be felt and let go, they carry information and then they leave. It is us who turn them into verdicts.

“Multiple I’s” by Red Hawk

One of the hardest Work ideas to understand is the claim that, as we are, we are not unified beings inside, a single “I”, always and everywhere the same, but a multitude of “i”s inside, a self divided, fragmented into dozens, even hundreds, of fractious, competing, warring “i”s, each with its own agenda, tone, mood and beliefs. It is impossible to understand this right away in any way except intellectually. I believe I am one, whole, undivided and I am constructed in such a way psychologically that the truth of my inner state is impossible for me to see. Psychology has labeled such a state schizophrenia and called it mental illness. Yet it is the state of the entire humanity; everyone I ever met, without exception, suffers from this inner state.

But we cannot admit to such a thing. To do so would place us in jeopardy. They have a place for people like that. And so to avoid being shot, or jailed, or placed in an institution, we have all developed elaborate disguises, masks, acts, games, false personalities to hide our real inner state of fragmentation. And slowly, slowly I come to believe in this pretense as my real self. I will fight to defend it against attack or exposure.

I am a mass of contradictions. I see this in others, often it is quite obvious, and I cannot understand why they do not see it themselves, even when I point the contradiction out to them. Often they may be quite insulted and defensive when I do so, and deny any such thing in their behavior. I do the same. I cannot believe that inside I am in such a shattered, fragmented state.

And the result is that I act as if myself and everyone else were whole, united, a single, stable, unchanging “I” within. Thus, if X says she will do something and the next day she does not do as she has said, I am insulted, angry and believe that X is a liar, not to be trusted. I may even end my friendship with X if the insult is great enough, or even if it is a small thing. We end relationships all the time over petty grievances. Why? Because in the first place we believe the other to be the same “I” always and in every circumstance, and secondly because I myself am governed by many small “i”s, each of which has its own agenda, and one of them, full of self importance and unable to value my friendship with X, decides to end it; it thinks for me, speaks for me, and acts in my name. Having done so, the damage may be irreparable. I may pay for the rest of my life for the momentary impulsive action of a small “i” in me which the next moment or the next hour or the next day no longer is in charge but has disappeared.

And if you ask me the next day why on earth I said and did such things to X, I will tell you quite honestly, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I could have been thinking.” Or else, I will blame X and justify my behavior towards her with the most transparent and obvious falsehoods and excuses. This is my state and it is the state of every single person I have ever met, without exception. This state of fragmentation runs my life. It is why I cannot follow a single line of action to its logical conclusion, especially if such a line of action must be carried out over a long period of time, days, months, or even years. I will begin a certain line, even one which has great importance to me such as marriage, and will begin at once to deviate from this line into a hundred diversions, many of them directly opposed to the original line, until finally I find myself doing the exact opposite of what the original line of action proposed. I end in divorce, or I whore and drink and do terrible damage to my marriage. How can I do such things? It is simple. The “i” which made its vows before God and man to never part, to be ever faithful until death meant these vows with all its heart, so long as it had control of the human biological instrument. But once another “i” gained control, all was forgotten. Or what is worse, the “i” which now holds sway has not forgotten those vows, but it is diametrically, even violently opposed to them and does not want to have anything to do with them. In fact it curses the position it finds itself in and cannot believe it has gotten into such an awful mess in the first place. “What was I thinking when I married her?”” it will ask, having no memory at all of the state of that other “i”. In its world, the only thing which matters is drinking and whoring. Never mind the consequences to self or others. Each of these “i”s wants only what it wants, when it wants it, and how it wants it. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

This is what is happening in me every moment of every day, for my entire life.

Not just me, every one of us. One small “i” will take control of the instrument momentarily, will choose for me, will speak in my voice, will act in my name, and my whole life and the direction that life takes may hinge on that small and seemingly insignificant moment. And “I” am not even present, “I” don’t know what happened, the implications for me, the importance of the choice, none of that. I am not even present or aware. One of a multitude of “i”s in me has chosen, decided with finality and certitude, a life-changing decision.

This “i” which has chosen has an agenda. All of the “i”s have their own agenda. And their only aim is to fulfill the desire of that agenda, at whatever cost to myself, my life, my relationships. Period. End of story. And because I am not a single, unified, solidified and consistent “I” then I am at the mercy of whichever “i” happens by pure chance to be present at the moment I am faced with choice.

Can I even begin to see what this means for myself? Can I even begin to understand the situation which this places me in as a human being? Seeing this is what Mister Gurdjieff calls, “the terror of the situation”. This is the situation of every single human being on Earth. How can the president of the United States say one thing, directly contradict it, spout what appear to be blatantly obvious lies, and appear to believe them himself, and then do another contradictory thing? Because, he is exactly as you and I – a multitude of “i”s, each with its own agenda, and he is ruled by these “i”s, exactly as you and I are.

And these “i”s are of three types:

1) one type knows very well that such a thing as the Work exists, and it is vehemently, even violently opposed to the aims of the Work; it resists self observation strongly because it understands in some way that to do so would expose its agendas, contradictions and beliefs for what they are;
2) a second type does not even know of the existence of the Work, what it is, or what its aims are; it has no memory at all of the Work, or of any aims other than its own; it is unconscious to everything but itself;
3) a third type knows of the existence of the Work, it is influenced by the Work, it agrees to practice the aims of the Work, and is willing to cooperate with those “i”s which feel otherwise.

The president of the United States operates almost exclusively with “i” number 2, and all the world’s leaders, those who control the destinies of nations, are doing likewise. A disciplined mind is the rarest thing on this Earth. It is one in a million. You watch the rich and famous and powerful (including all heads of state for all nations) on TV and what you see very quickly is this: these people are fools at best; worse, they are crazy; and at their worst, they are dangerously crazy and do real harm. Some of them kill millions. They destroy the Earth. They are us with the handcuffs of social control and peer pressure removed. They are corrupted by power.

This represents another meaning of “the terror of the situation”. But the true “terror of the situation” arises in me when I have observed myself honestly, without judgement or trying to change what is observed, for a very long time and I see that all wars are one war, all terrorists exist in one place only: the war is within me, the terrorists live in hiding in me – and they depend for their lives, their very existence, upon remaining hidden from my attention: when I begin to see them clearly, their cover is blown; seeing them is profound change (Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle).

Nothing can remain the same in me once I have seen the fact of my “many i’s” and see how that works in me.

Now real suffering – voluntary suffering – begins in earnest within me: “voluntary” because no human being can make me observe myself, no one. There must develop within me what the Work calls “observing-I” which wishes to see. And as it is remembered and utilized by the inner being more, it begins to strengthen and fuse with the inner being; it becomes more and more active through the power of suffering – pain is the great motivator. More and more “i’s” join forces with this “observing-I”, they begin to coalesce and crystallize around it the way particles gather around a charge. And thus, through years of practice, forgetting for hours or days to observe, resisting meditating for fifteen or thirty minutes in the morning, only now and then remembering my Work, this “observing-I” grows stronger and more active.

Slowly, slowly its aim – to see myself as I am – becomes more active, begins to have real strength and force in me. The suffering produced by the practice actually builds and develops something in me which the Work calls conscience. We are all born with a tiny, microscopic “mustard seed” of conscience within us. But this mustard seed remains in embryo, undeveloped in the ordinary person. I may go to my grave ruled by various “i”s, even perhaps religious “i”s but such religious “i”s have no conscience, all they have is an inherited “belief system”, which cannot think, but only condemn and follow rigidly unproven dogma, borrowed ideas. Such people do not understand, they are often rigid, even very violent and war-like in pursuit of these borrowed unproven misunderstood dogma inherited from their fathers. They are often very judgemental and capable of great harm. They will act in the name of an imaginary, illusory, self-created god and do unspeakable things in the name of this god. History is filled with the acts of such beings.

But from “voluntary suffering”, the seed of real conscience may spring. And this is the result of very patient and slow and careful observation over many years. Once that mustard seed is activated, once real conscience is fed and begins to develop, only then will I learn what true voluntary suffering is. Because the “i”s which I love and identify with ( = I am that) will not go away. Just so long as I choose to believe in them and identify with them, they will have power over me. The mature practitioner simply does not give these “i”s the authority, to speak for me, to choose for me, to act for me. I give my power to aim instead. I choose to live from aim, not from the agenda of small “i”s. And I suffer because I see over and over and over just how easily I refuse to stop whoring and drinking (an example, not a fact) never mind the cost to myself, my relationships, or my life: I refuse. And because there is now in me a mustard seed of conscience – not belief systems borrowed from others, but something which is all my own because I have paid for it – now I suffer most intensely, now I suffer in a whole new way and on a whole new level. And this suffering feeds conscience. This is what the ordinary man can never understand.

Only desperate people, who have suffered “the terror of the situation” for years and years, would be driven to such lengths that they surrendered all that they had to the Creator, in return for this mustard seed, this “pearl of great price”. Do you understand? Do I dare to see how every moment I am making a decision to be ruled by small, selfish, unconscious “i”s and am a slave to their wishes? Do I dare to see how my life is being stolen from me for chump-change, for drinking and whoring (which means any and all of the small “i”s agendas)?

Can I see in myself the true “terror of my situation”? Try to observe in yourself the entire cycle of a single “i” – not only the acting out of its agenda, but the resulting judgement about that action, and the feelings about self which resulted as well; that is, the entire “cycle-of-the-i” not just one half, which is the action, but the other half too, which is the reaction and judgement and feeling about myself. Verify for yourself what is true about your inner state. Try to observe yourself without judgement or changing what is observed. When I am able to be aware of an “i” in me and what it is doing, greed and the “i” which is greedy, this is a moment of real self remembering and self observation.

The effort to change what is observed is the result of identification with what is observed, believing in it, giving it power, feeling “helpless” to do otherwise because “I am that”. Thus, one part of me, one small “i” in me judges another small “i” and says that this “i” must be stopped and “i” will stop it. The result? Civil war, a self divided, and the effort to change what is observed merely serves to further empower that which is observed and which “I” am making effort to change. Result? No change, habitual repetition of act – judgement of act – effort to change act – resulting guilt and condemnation when it does not change – further repression of act. It is a cycle. It repeats. It can be predicted, because it is habitual. All habits are “i”s.

Here is a good example. Yesterday I spent about three hours working out this chapter, writing and rewriting it. I felt that I had a reasonably good first draft. Here I was at home with this borrowed laptop making a few last minute changes when, with a single key stroke, I lost the whole chapter. I tried frantically to find and retrieve it. Nothing.

I sat there in a state, stunned disbelief and despair. Certain well-known “i”s arose in me very forcefully then. One was rage. But who or what to rage against? The laptop? Quickly it morphed to my default position: self-hatred, the blind spot. Then another “i” arose, one which urged me to abandon the whole book project. It went on for several minutes, until I remembered myself, found myself, and managed the body.

I made a conscious decision not to dramatize the event or speak of it right away with my wife. Instead, I shut down the laptop, went to the backyard where my wife was sitting, and joined her in a glass of wine. When she asked me how it went, I said it had been a good day and that I was satisfied. Later that evening at a friend’s house after dinner, I mentioned what had happened, got the appropriate sympathy, we laughed about it, and I let it go. The next day several “i”s with no trust, fear-based and self hating were eager to exploit the available energy. But I was willing to hold to my aim, so I sat down and began. The result is this chapter, better than the first draft by a lot. Perhaps not great, but better. So you see how it goes with me. Sometimes I eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats me. It goes on.

– Self-Observation by Red Hawk, chapter Multiple I’s

Knowledge vs. Shoulds

“You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.”

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.

– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Nothing is more revealing than personal experience. One can read hundreds of books on personal development and spirituality, understand them intellectually and still find, despite all the teachings, that the personality is geared towards immature attitudes.

You see, you haven’t been acquainted with yourself. You think yourself to be only that part of you that wills and decides. But if you pay attention, if you learn to look at yourself like an objective thing in the world, you will learn that you actually hold beliefs that go against those that you hold in your mind.

So what is that part that pulls in the opposite direction, seemingly geared towards self-sabotage or towards distrust, fear, anxiety? Why does it seem to have a mind of its own?

The things we don’t know about ourselves are in our unconscious. From there, they manifest as feelings, disturbances, conflicts, fears that seem out of proportion to what we experience or completely out of place. What we usually do when we encounter them is explain them away as caused by an external stimulus. After all, the mind likes to make assumptions about what it sees, that is precisely the way optical illusions work.

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But if you sit with the emotions, if you observe yourself and draw out the underlying belief, you will get in contact with a part of you that has been suppressed for a long time and because of this suppression, it did not get a chance to mature. So in one part of the personality you are an adult, a mature individual, capable of great insight, and in this other part, you are still a child, because you had disowned a part of yourself early on.

Now, as long as you don’t link knowledge with experience, as long as you don’t bring this truth into your emotions, into that immature part of your being, not by force, but by self-observation, truth can become disembodied knowledge. It can become a rule, a should, a rigid demand, disconnected from the being, as though it were an authority figure giving out orders.

I mean, nobody likes preachers, right?

And just like you can shift responsibility on authority figures, so you can shift responsibility onto ideas, instead of following the truth within. And what value does your act have if it doesn’t come from within?

If there’s a part of you that is still inclined to do something despite the knowledge you have, then do you really know? Do you really understand? In that sense, I think there is value in negative experience, in choosing what you want to do. Then you will learn by experience how that knowledge applies, even if it means suffering.

Now, I do not meant to advice doing something despite knowing it to be wrong. If you know it to be wrong, I think all effort should be geared towards understanding why it is wrong and where that inclination originates from within you. But if you are not convinced that something is right or wrong, then I think there is value in that experience for you.

I think that’s why they say “don’t take my word for it, see for yourself”. I always thought that they say that in a way that means… “hey, you can verify it if you like, but I’m telling you, it’s true.” When in fact they mean “you must understand this for yourself, experientially – in your emotions, otherwise it has no value, it just becomes yet another idea onto which you shift responsibility.” That’s why you need to see how it applies to you! You must let your actions stem from within, from your own perspective, not from the perspective of your shoulds, as good as they sound.

If you are unconvinced, experience will reveal it to you. There is a world of difference between finding things in yourself intellectually vs. experientially.

On Blame

In a conflict both parties are responsible for the interaction. It is almost never the case that only one party is entirely responsible. Blame is a way to try to place your own negativity onto the other person as well, so that they are responsible for your own failings too.

The way I think about it is the following: say a thief has a particular style, that he leaves messages on the walls of the houses he steals from: “XYZ was here” or something like that. Then, another thief, picking up on this, will use the same style to pin it on the first thief so that when the thief gets caught, he will be punished for the crimes of the second thief as well. In the same way, blame uses the other person’s negativity as an excuse to make them responsible for our own negativity too.

It is a very subtle exchange but very powerful and with many consequences. One of those consequences is that we feel victimized by the other and feel quite depended on them and afraid of them, because unconsciously we have made ourselves helpless in the face of their negativity. It is one side of the coin creating the other. The victim creating the persecutor. The moment we accept our own negativity, we take our power back and both roles dissolve.

“There are particular phases in human development where an entity finds it almost impossible to come out of his or her negative defense system, and of the conviction that this defense is necessary, unless one of those people with whom the person is entangled lets them off the hook by admitting his or her own negative intentionality, destructive attitude, dishonesty, and meanness.  Just imagine how you would feel when someone close to you, who has given you pain by pointing out your real and your false guilts, but who has also confused you by the denial of his or her guilt, suddenly said to you:  “I realize that I do not want to give you love.  I want to demand from you and then blame you, accuse you, and punish you when you do not comply with my demands.  But I do not allow you to feel hurt, because although I want to hurt you, I do not want to be made to feel guilty by your hurt.”  Just imagine how this would set you free!  How such an admission can suddenly clear up many confusions!  It is not very likely that you would respond to this act of love by being self-righteous and acting the all-innocent one who has always known this and is now established as the innocent victim.

If you admit your similar unfair demands, your cowardice in giving your feelings, and your negative intentionality, it may indeed be hurtful for your pride, but truly for nothing else!  The other who hears it has, in that moment, received a gift of love from you, even though you may still not want to love with your heart, with your feelings, with your inner being.  But you have begun to love by being truthful.

By setting others free from the false guilt you have placed on them in order to conceal your own, you allow them to look at their own real guilt without self-devastation and without this painful inner struggle in which the mutual guilts and accusations are all confused.  Release and clarification often lead to the solution of the deepest problems.  It is as though the personality needed this “outer” grace, this helping hand.  For the dishonest placing of guilt on others makes their true self-revelation almost impossible; it implies that if they admit guilt you are right in accusing them of being bad and of being the cause of your misery.  This is how people are hooked together in denial, guilt-projection, either/or struggle, confusion, and negative interactions.  Someone must begin to loosen the hook-up and disentangle the knots.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Lecture #202: Psychic Interaction of Negativity