Habits to Observe
By Peter Shepherd
Gurdjieff's tool for raising consciousness
Gurdjieff's teachings have been a major influence on the development of The Insight Project and so to illustrate a basic principle of the project - that of the way one identifies with thoughts, beliefs and ways of being such that they are no longer conscious - I am presenting here one of his basic practices: Self-Remembering.
Self-Remembering is not actually part of The Insight Project procedures, which are all done (more effectively) with the aid of biofeedback monitoring, but it is still a valid technique and a precursor to some of those used in The Insight Project . You can read more about Gurdjieff's ideas in Transforming the Mind.
How do you become conscious of your Self? Direct conscious effort is necessary. You become conscious just by attempting to be more conscious and by asking yourself over and over again, Am I conscious? or Am I conscious of myself and what I am doing/thinking/feeling or not? Also, Is this a rational response to my circumstances? and How do my feelings relate to what I am doing? These questions expose those painful or self-defeating emotions that actually relate to self-talk, i.e. negative compulsive (though Preconscious) thinking, and result in behavior that may be irrational in the present circumstances.
Asking these questions will make you temporarily conscious, but probably you will not be able to keep it, your mind will become absorbed in something else and you will forget yourself. You must realize during your self-observation that you are present, that you are here, right now. As you persist in self-remembering, your moments of consciousness as Self will become increasingly longer and you forget your Self increasingly less.
What do you observe? Begin by watching your actions, reactions, responses and behavior. In this out-of-session procedure, be aware that you are like another person looking at your human mind in operation. At first this will be very difficult to do but as you practice, it will become progressively easier and automatic.
Continue by observing your posture, listening to your speech, observing how much you talk, listening to the tone of your voice, i.e. the way you say something. Observe how you automatically assume certain attitudes with some people, and different attitudes with others, i.e. how you unconsciously switch identities and play different roles with different people. Watch all of your emotions, observe your mind wandering aimlessly in pure fantasy. Observe how certain words by certain people trigger reactions in you that you cannot control. Watch your defense mechanisms, your justifications, your rationalizations, your pet superstitions, your favourite criticisms, and so forth. You are now starting to become conscious of your unconsciousness, and thereby bringing it into consciousness.
Normally people erroneously assume that they are constantly one and the same person. However, as you begin to observe yourself, you find this is not true. You assume many different Is and each I manifests itself as a role that you play corresponding to one set of conditions, i.e. you assume different roles with different people and in different circumstances. One role with your parents, another with your children, a loved one, at the corner store, at the theatre, in sports, under stress, when threatened, when praised, when jilted, and so on. You seldom, if ever, notice these differences or how you pass from one role to another. The change of roles or personality masks is always controlled by circumstances, rather than you self-determinedly choosing an appropriate way of being. It is the unconsciousness or compulsion that we are trying to expose. Freely adopting appropriate ways of being, for example, to match the reality of the people you are with, is a necessary social skill and all part of the fun and variety of life.
The illusion of oneness or belief that you are always the same is created by always having the sensation of one physical body, the same name, the same physical habits and so forth; and also by the illusion that each identity is right. After all, you are always right, aren't you? And the same rightness - your safe solution to the circumstances you are in - gives the illusion of the same identity.
By self-observation, you will catch yourself lying. Lying occurs when you pretend to know something when in actuality you do not. People pretend to possess all kinds of knowledge: about themselves, about God, about life and death, about the universe, about evolution, about politics, about sex, about everything. In fact, people do not even know who or what they are. Even when he has no choice and is controlled in life like a reed in the wind, a person will lie to himself that he is self-willed, knows himself and is in control of his destiny. You imagine these things to please yourself, and shortly after you begin to believe it.
As you self-observe, you find that you identify with everything - you emotionalise 24 hours a day. Some people take pride in their irritability, anger or worry. It is extremely difficult to perceive that you actually enjoy negative emotions. Books, movies, TV and popular songs glorify negative emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, boredom, disgust, irritation, hatred, jealousy, suspicion, self-pity, sympathy, depression, etc. Many people are controlled by the expression of negative emotions. But negative emotions are purely mechanical - done without awareness or consciousness - and serve no useful purpose whatsoever.
Negative emotions and all habits require identification or they cease to exist. Thus when you cease to identify, by self-observation, your habits will drop away - they have been exposed, i.e. you have differentiated yourself from them. Habits cannot be stopped by willpower, they can only be erased by self-knowledge.
Religious doctrines like the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule are therefore quite impossible for the normal human being to follow. Habits of mechanicalness will always cause people to violate codes of law and moral rules. Only self-knowledge can direct you to living the right life and you will not need written rules, codes or commandments, you will function intuitively and spontaneously. This is true freedom without license.
A major self-imposed problem is to identify with objects (including people) and in turn become possessed by them. Since things wear out, decay and die, a person becomes bereaved whenever he loses the objects of his affection. This goes further, he begins to regard himself as a thing that must eventually wear out, decay and die. Unfortunately religions do nothing to reverse this macabre compulsion; they preach that death is the reward of life. This is not true; furthermore it is schizophrenic, the beginning of insanity.
Identification with people occurs when you constantly worry what people will think about you, if you are liked or disliked, what someone else will do or say in a given situation, and so on. This can quickly become an obsession of worry, doubt, suspicion, blame, resentment and guilt feelings. Emotion of this sort is the main factor that keeps the spiritual Being attached and unaware in a fixed identification with the human Body-mind.
A primary cause of identification occurs when a bad action is deliberately or accidentally committed, or a good deed omitted, and the resulting sympathy causes an identification with the victim. The compulsion to make self right, then causes a reversal of this, and the victim is made wrong, and the act is considered deserved. This is the bad action-justification sequence. But the sympathy identification, though suppressed, continues to have effect subconsciously.
Work on The Insight Project supports the process of self-remembering. The more reactive misconceptions and irrational beliefs are eradicated with these advanced techniques, the more conscious and in Present Time you will be. The place to do this work most effectively is in session, following the procedures of the Project. Then you will be more conscious outside of session - as if you were Self-Remembering - but without losing any sense of spontaneity and involvement. It is not a good idea to be constantly introspecting and analyzing your reactions out of session, without the aid of the meter and Indicator Tech. Simply stick to interested self-observation, so that you get to know how reactive mental mechanisms manifest, but keep analysis of its contents to your regular sessions.
One of the most important areas of mechanicalness to observe in yourself is your sexual activity. Man is a sexual being; it is normal and natural for men and women of all ages to have sexual experiences covering a wide range of variation. However the Christian ethic has for centuries foisted a distorted sexual image upon man. It states: Anything pleasurable is sinful. Sexual sensation being the most pleasurable sensation known to man at least at his present state of awareness, it naturally follows that sex should have the most stringent restraints, taboos and restrictions placed upon it by the Church. All of us, atheists included, have been born and reared in a basically Christian culture and its doctrinal anti-sexual (anti-life) attitudes are rooted deeply in our basic personality, if for no other reason than the osmosis of race consciousness. This has caused more suffering, more misery, more inhibitions, more physical illness (due to repressed natural drives) and more insanity than any other teaching in history, and is linked to the other mistruths such as Original Sin and the Last judgment, which have similarly caused such unnecessary consternation. Even the Buddhist teachings, as generally misunderstood, have assumed that the natural desire for sexual pleasure carries a compulsive attachment to it, though that is not necessarily the case.
Strange as it may seem, true spirituality and sexuality are inseparably related. It is impossible to evolve into higher consciousness without a true understanding and practice of uninhibited sexuality. For example, extra-sensory perception, intuition and creativity cannot function in individuals who are sexually inhibited. Unconsciously recognizing this fact, churches have for ages attempted to control and regulate the sexuality of their members.
What Christianity failed to understand is that love, not procreation, is the purpose of sex and that the production of offspring is incidental to love. Only animals use sex solely for procreative purposes. It is exclusively humans that experience the psycho-emotional pleasures and ecstasies of the sex act. By insisting procreation is the only valid purpose of the sex act, under the penalty of sin and Hell, Catholicism lowers man to the level of animals. This has caused untold numbers of men and women to experience guilt in their sexual contacts that were directed solely at bringing pleasure to each other, as an expression of love and intimacy.
All expressions of love are essentially sexual expressions. Sexual energy is not limited to the physical act of sex alone. The energy of sex is sublimated as creative energy at any and every level you find yourself in the universe. Energy travels between positive and negative poles. Indeed, every ascent of consciousness is, in this sense, a sexual process. Sex and love are a fusion, a coming together of thought and feeling and body, the synthesis of masculine and feminine, and this is the essence of creativity. So any creative act is a sexual act - from the writing of a book to baking a cake, from designing a bridge to painting a picture, from a love affair to playing a musical instrument, from a discovery or invention to raising a beautiful family.
It is important to realize that as a human being you are sexual, and that your sexual activity, in whatever manner you find satisfying, is normal and natural for you. Sexual denials, shame, embarrassment, inhibition and guilt concerning your own body organs and various sexual acts causes a great deal of stress and resulting problems. fulfillment of the sex drive and sublimation of it through creative pursuits of all kinds, accompanied by self-knowledge, may then lead to uninhibited happiness and ecstatic satisfaction.
To be free of negative memories
Since you are today, to a significant extent, what your memories have made you, it follows that you must take steps to prevent the creation of new negative memories that exert control over your life. You should know that:
- No one can effect you but your own thinking;
- It is your own mind that keeps you in bondage;
- No-one can ever make you angry but your own thoughts;
- All anguish is self-inflicted and self-imposed;
- No-one can make you worry but yourself.
It is impossible to do anything to you - the actual You - at any time; it is always your thought/consideration/decision/intention that affects you. Thus only you suffer from holding grudges, hatreds, resentments or revengefulness. No-one has ever affected you but your own thoughts. No-one has caused you to be frightened, angry, hurt or happy but your own mind, because if you didn't identify in your own mind with what was said or done to you, you would not have been affected in the least. This is one of the most difficult facets of existence to perceive, but once perceived, its worth becomes priceless. Understanding this is the way to ultimate freedom.
ExerciseGo back over today events and relive as many experiences as you can remember. Take each memory separately and see that it was your own thinking that caused you to feel hurt, happy, angry and so forth. Keep re-feeling the experience until you free everyone in the scene of responsibility for affecting you. Then reverse the process, and be sure that you yourself do not assume responsibility for another's feelings because in like manner, it was their identification in their mind with what you said or did that affected them and not you.
The Gnosis or knowledge you release (for you always knew it) will not immediately make you more comfortable or secure. In fact, it is painful at times, because you will be aware of your false identities, your facades, your defense mechanisms, your silliness, your viciousness, and your primitive self, perhaps for the first time. But persist for you are recovering a genuine identity that no-one can take away from you. Your security and comfort will gradually be found in your change from a pseudo-self to a permanent harmonious Self that is objective and unlimited in scope. This is the way to higher consciousness and higher powers of mind.
The Path of Love
Peter Shepherd is interviewed by Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby, who asks about his background, how and why Trans4mind was founded, what spiritual growth means in practice, and the heights that can be reached with The Insight Project, an advanced course which Peter developed and supervises. Here is the audio (1 hour)...