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The Positive Approach - Lesson 27

Finding Out Who You Are

By Peter Shepherd

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No doubt some times you have felt inspired to act - to make or say or do something. There is an extraordinary rush of energy and clarity that accompanies this. You feel excited, can't wait to begin and everything seems possible. But putting the vision into effect can be a sobering process. Spirit meets the resistance of materiality and the vision fades. We may fall back into habitual, limiting thought and behavior patterns and the new perspective becomes obscured. But if we can hold on to the spiritual connection and integrate it with the mental, emotional and behavioral aspects of our self, we can 'makes things happen' and experience our creative potential.

As we get to know and trust our inner intuitive awareness, this produces a clarity of thought that illuminates the areas where we have created blocks - it throws light on patterns of thought and behavior that are now seen as inappropriate. It becomes easier to make decisions and act spontaneously.

On the other hand, if we lose touch with the creative source that is our inner being, we identify with negative thoughts, emotions and behavior patterns. We can't see them for what they are because we are being them. So at the other end of the spectrum we see self-conscious people with low self-esteem, hiding, either in frantic activity or in withdrawal. Imagine yourself in the following situations:

You are at a party and you don't know anyone except for the host. You have returned an article of clothing that has split along the seam, but the shop assistant tells you they have a 'no returns' policy. Your doctor is evasive about answering your questions properly.

In each case, what would you do? How would you feel? What would you be thinking (underlying your emotions)? And what would be your true desire in that situation?

When our true desires inform our thinking and our feelings then we are being true to ourselves and this enhances self-esteem. When our true desires are submerged by distorted thinking and painful emotions then the resulting behavior is in conflict and our self-esteem lowers.

To Know Yourself
Try to set aside some time, each day, to fulfill solely your own needs and for your own personal enjoyment. This may include doing this course or it may be with other people, but it is for you. The willingness to be self-nurturing plays a vital part in the development of your 'beingness'. As you start looking at your own needs and stop playing the victim of other people's demands you will be treated with more respect because you will gain more self respect.

You are 'going inside yourself' and this requires that you break your identification with worldly links - you are going beyond your thoughts, feelings and desires. You will have found that the mind keeps on chattering and trying to stop it doesn't work, you have to become a detached observer of it, and then it starts to fade away. What you resist persists.

When we are truly being ourselves, without the barrier of mind chatter and negative emotions, it is easier to make direct connection between you, the spiritual being, and the world around you. This is an aesthetic experience, one of truth. Have you ever become totally absorbed by a project, a picture, a piece of music, a landscape? The mind becomes concentrated and still and you feel 'at one'.

A shift in awareness - an awakening - can be triggered by such things as a dream, a memory, an evocative smell, falling in love, being afraid. It is only necessary for our defenses to be down (which means we are holding no preconceived ideas) in order that we can experience something more intensely, as if for the first time, in a new moment. Can you recall such an experience of connecting, and the feeling of it?

To experience connection rather than separation, we need to break all attachments with our thoughts and desires and so learn to suspend our judgment. It is possible to connect and experience your spiritual self at any time, whatever you are doing. With Gurdjieff's technique of 'self remembering' we adopt the role of witness as we go about our everyday lives. The witness observes all your doings but is non-evaluative; it does not judge your actions (remember, you are not your actions). For example, you might eat a chocolate cake and then get annoyed with yourself for having eaten it. The witness (if and when it arrives) would note: "He is eating a cake; he is annoyed at himself for doing so". The witness is dispassionate and does not care what you do, think and feel but simply notes it.

Of course, like stopping thoughts, this is easier said than done. You might be driving down the street and the witness notes that; you feel content and that is noted; then someone cuts right in front of you causing you to slam on the brakes. You forget about witnessing and immediately identify with your emotions of anger or frustration. Only much later do you remember that you were attempting to witness! But with practice you find it is possible to 'wake up' in the middle of a drama and observe a part of yourself hooked by an emotion; to that degree you have then learned that you are not your emotions, you have differentiated your real self, the spiritual being that has intrinsic worth and cannot be judged in the same way that the inappropriate or self-defeating emotions and behaviors may be. And because you stop judging your self, you notice that the same applies to others, so you can cease judging them too.

You notice that as you dramatize various thoughts, emotions and behaviors it is as though you were different people at the time, other little personalities that come and go as appropriate, but usually reactively, according to patterns of behavior rather than consciously.

How many 'yous' are there inside you? Very many. By lunch time today you may have been thoughtful, serious, annoyed, lustful, tired, forgetful, and have had many fleeting intentions and purposes toward others or ideas about what you want or don't want. You may have been acting like some person you admire or not like another who you don't want to be associated with. And many, many other ways of being. Each 'sub-personality' is all-consuming while it lasts, and some of these sub-personalities may play a major role in your make-up. Who you think you are may even actually be a sub-personality and not the real essence of you.

Gurdjieff points out that sometimes one 'you' does something for which every other 'you' must pay, maybe for the rest of your life. Our 'yous' are numerous and ephemeral and all are evaluative and judgmental, and have plenty of irrational thoughts and beliefs, harmful intentions and painful emotions attached to them. Each is actually a solution to past problems that is retained and replaid in the present. To break this ceaseless train of identifications with the technique of self remembering is to give ourselves some inner freedom.

The more you use this technique the more powerful it becomes. Each 'you' is a reflection of a link with a desire, feeling or thought - these are our links with the material world. By taking on the role of witness we can objectify these 'yous' and so break our identification with them.

When we experience our spirituality we recognize our true place in the world and we know that we have our own vital role to play. This feeling of truly belonging creates a sense of worthiness that enhances our self-esteem.

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Next Lesson: 28. Body, Mind & Spirit
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