Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of January 6, 2014

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Being Your I

(Being Yourself: Part 8)

I can ask myself: who or what am I? Looking as carefully as I can into that question, I see that I am my will. I do not feel that I am my body, for I can sense my body and control many aspects of it. Sometimes though, for example when my body is in pain, it seems that I am my body. But I know it isnít so.

I do not feel that I am my emotions, for I perceive my emotions and sometimes they have a life of their own, out of my control and clearly not me. Sometimes though, for example when my emotions are very strong, it seems that I am my emotions, for I agree with and believe in them. But I know it isnít so.

I do not feel that I am my thoughts, for I perceive my thoughts and can to some extent control them, although like my emotions they seem to have a life of their own and go on without my direction. My thoughts can slow down or even stop momentarily and I am still here without them. Sometimes though, for example when my thoughts express opinions or worries, it seems that I am my thoughts, for I agree with and believe in them. But I know it isnít so.

What about my awareness itself? Am I my awareness? This comes closer to what seems true, yet not quite there. I have some control over my awareness. Through my attention I can direct my awareness, here or there. My awareness is like my body. It is like an inner body made of sensation and consciousness, responsive to my choices, serving a crucial function. Yet my awareness is not me. With practice I become able to be aware of my awareness. It is not who I am.

Who I am is the one who sees, the one who perceives, the one who chooses. This I is not something I can inwardly see or be aware of, for it is the one who is aware. No mirror can show my I to me. So all that is left is for me to be my I, to be my will, my intention, my deciding and choosing, my attention, to be the one who does what I do, the one who experiences my life, the one who lives my life.

But isnít that how we live all the time anyway? Not really. Generally we live in identification, assuming we are some strong emotion, or convincing thought, or bodily sensation, some desire or some repulsion. That seems to be who I am in those moments. But I am none of those things. I am I. There is no content in my I. It is pure will. True, higher emotions like love, compassion, joy, and equanimity can enter my being through my I, coming from a deeper place than my individual I. Still, I am not those higher emotions either. I am I.

This I is not mysterious. It comes through at times in all of us. We each have our own I. We are just out of touch with it and do not recognize it for what it is ó nor for what it is not. We live on the surface of our being, not in and as our core, our I.

So a deep part of our self-development, both psychological and spiritual is truly to be ourselves, to be our I, and not anything else. The most easily recognizable approach to this is to start by being our attention, by being the one who pays attention, the one who directs and focuses our attention, the one who sees what our attention points toward.

Note that our ego is not our I. Our ego manifests as set of patterns of thought, emotion, and action which are self-referential, which create an image of a self that we believe we are. Ego feeds and serves itself, first and foremost. Our I by contrast is not a pattern, is not any set of thoughts, emotions, or actions, and is not self-serving. It is pure will. Of course, we let our I get fooled into believing we are our ego and there our troubles begin, as our ego takes control of our will and we live a self-centered, self-serving life.

For this week, practice being your attention, as the first aspect of being your I. Notice your attention. Get in it. Be the one directing it. Pay attention to some object and be the one seeing that object. Switch to another object and be the one making the switch. Be your attention and thereby be your I.


     

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