Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of October 18, 2010

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Transcending Personality

(Stages of Freedom: Part 5 of 9)

Even after we increase our non-dependence, our measure of freedom in front of our likes, dislikes, and habits, we still suffer from a mistaken identity that enslaves us. We believe in our thoughts and particularly in our patterns of thought and emotion, our opinions and attitudes, our modes of speaking and acting. We believe our thoughts are driven by a thinker, our emotions by an emoter, and our actions by an actor. We believe we are that thinker, emoter, and actor, that we are the one who holds our various opinions and adopts our various attitudes.

But the great majority of the time our thoughts think themselves, our emotions emote, our opinions opine, our attitudes react in a fixed way, and our actions go by predisposed patterns. There is no one behind all this, driving our conditioned and automatic functioning. Like the robot-controlled cars of the future, it all just happens on its own. The whole intricate dance of these self-generating patterns of thought, emotion, and action creates an illusion of a person that we believe we are. We call that illusion personality. And we believe we have a personality, when in truth our personality has us.

The first clue we might notice is that our personality lacks unity. Its various patterns sometimes even conflict with each other. We want to eat the cake and lose weight. We want to have plenty of money, but not have to work for it. We want to watch TV and read and be out and about all at the same time. We wish our space was not such a mess, but we begrudge the time to straighten it up. We want that expensive trinket, but we do not want to spend that much on it. Such inner conflicts force choices on us, choices that deny parts of our self.

Those inner conflicts help perpetuate our personality by energizing both sides of each conflict and drawing our I into that quicksand. Even without conflict, our personality perpetuates itself masterfully. The events of our life are transformed into dramas of inflated importance, dramas that are the very substance of our personality. Our successes and our failures, our joys and our pains all play prominent roles in the pantheon of our personal history, the building blocks of our self-referential world view, our personality. Everything we do and everything that happens to us passes through the filter of our personality and is incorporated into it, even our spiritual search. Because of this, our personality seems all encompassing, seems to be all of what and who we are. But that is the illusion.

Our personality hates silence. In the gaps between thoughts and between emotional reactions, personality vanishes. There are two reasons for this. First, the stuff of our personality consists precisely of those automatic, associative thoughts and reactive emotions. In their absence, our personality just fades out. Second, the silence reveals the conscious energy, which transcends personality.

In transcending our personality, we come toward the possibility of a right relationship with it, of our personality serving a higher purpose under the direction of our I, our true self. Yet this does not mean a separation between our I and our personality. We seek unity. If we attempt to stand back at a distance, viewing the machinations of our personality as if it were not part of us, we exacerbate a catastrophic split in our inner life, setting one part of us above and against another. This only serves to weaken the whole, multiplying and deepening our inner conflicts.

Instead, we seek unity by seeing all the automatic and reactive functioning of our mind and heart, by accepting and welcoming all of it as part of our makeup, and by clearly understanding that no automatic thought, no reactive emotion can speak for our totality. We begin to see that the automatic functioning of our mind and heart is akin to the automatic functioning of our body and its inner organs. Our mind ruminates just as our digestive system digests. Our emotions react just as our hand jerks back from a hot surface. It all just happens in response to inner and outer circumstances. Just as we have a body with its own limited intelligence, we also have a mind and heart with their own limited intelligence. In the midst of it all, we are. Our will and our awareness penetrate and unify all our parts into the wholeness that we are. In this way, our personality transcends itself by joining our greater unity.

The field in which this can occur is just that pure consciousness, the conscious energy that reveals itself in inner silence. Behind our thoughts and emotions, we abide in consciousness. This cognitive stillness embraces all our parts, body, mind, heart, and personality, and enables our I to connect it all into a unified whole. The clear seeing that consciousness enables sees all and includes all and makes room for our I, for the one who sees, to take its rightful place at our core. In our inner stillness, we find the freedom that transcends our personality.

For this week, look at yourself, your patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting. Notice your personality for what it is: this collection of patterns that pretends to be you. Be the one who sees all this from the place of non-judgmental stillness within you. In that state of seeing, no thought or emotional reaction can successfully pretend to be you. You see thoughts as just thoughts and reactive emotions as just reactive emotions. Yet you embrace it all, bringing it within the purview of your greater Self. This is the freedom that transcends personality.


     

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