Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 12, 2011

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Living as I

(Living in Presence: Aspect 5 of 7)

In looking for who we are, in trying to discover ourselves, our I, we often labor under the misconception that our I is like everything else in the world, that it can be objectified, looked at, studied and known. If even our consciousness can be known to some extent, then why not our I also? I must be something, so let me find that thing.

But that is just the point: our I is not a thing, not even an energy. Our I is always subjective, the knower and never the known. We cannot isolate or display our I, even to ourselves, for our I is the one who looks, the one who chooses to look, the seer and never the seen.

At first blush, it would seem that there is no problem here. I am the one who does what I do: end of story. If only that were the case. Nearly all of what I do just happens, I dont really do it at all. It is easiest to see this in my automatic associative thoughts and reactive emotions. Clearly I am not intentionally thinking those thoughts, nor intentionally feeling those emotions. They just happen on their own by habit, by conditioning, and by programmed responses to sensory inputs. These thoughts that run through my mind are not typically my doing.

Surprisingly, this habitual, conditioned, programmed way of living extends into our life far beyond just driving our automatic thoughts and emotions. Indeed, most of what we do and say just happens. We learn a task and then do it by program. We let our long-established personality patterns drive our interactions with people. Our intentions in what we do are weak, non-existent, or not active in the moment.

But there is another possibility, another way of living: living as I. We do not need look for our I, as if it were some sacred object hidden in the depths of our soul. We just need to be our I, to be ourselves, and not let our body, heart, and mind drift through life with little or no direction or choice on our part.

You cannot find yourself, but you can be yourself. This is not just a slogan or idea. It is an action, open to us to take. It is an act of will, in a moment, an act that can be renewed, moment-to-moment. The act is to be, to be the one who is you, the one who does what you do, who sees what you see, the one at your very core. Ordinarily, no one is at our core. We leave it empty, by default. But we can choose. We can choose to be, to be our core. We can invoke our will-to-be. It is both simple and profound, but its depth and significance can be hidden from us by that very simplicity. Just be. Just be yourself. Be the one who is reading these words.

Heres one specific approach to this. Inwardly say I am. Get behind it and say it with meaning. Be the one who is saying it. Say it inwardly, silent and calm, but firm and full-throated, with the whole of yourself. Even though the word I is just a thought, you can use it as signal to call forth your actual I, to invest the thinking of the thought with the action of being here, being present, being the thinker, the one who you are, your I.

Try it for a minute or two when you can give it your full attention, perhaps a few times a day. To further strengthen the effort, you can simultaneously sense your body. So then you are the one who is thinking I am and sensing. Just be clear that the sensation in your body and thought I are not you, not your I. You are the one who is choosing, who is thinking that thought and sensing your body. Gradually this exercise can train you to be yourself, your I, train you to live as I.

This practice of thinking I am is only a temporary, training expedient. It is neither necessary nor desirable to go about your whole day thinking I am. That would only get in the way of living your life, interposing the thought I between you, your actual I, and what you do or experience. To be your I, yourself, you do not need to think I. You can be yourself, your I, without thinking it, because you are not a thought. We just occasionally use the thought I am to elicit our sense of I, to reinforce the experience of being I.

When our inner life is in disarray, difficult emotions rampant or persistently vociferous thoughts cascading, that situation can remind us to return to ourselves. If someone, our I, is at home in us, in our core, that brings order to our inner world. This simultaneously relieves the disarray and intensifies our experiencing. We live more. For that moment, we stop drifting. We live. In true presence, we continuously choose to be aware, here and now, to be the one who is aware, the one who is living our life.

For this week, work to increase your ability to live as yourself, as I.


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