Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the weeks of August 28 & September 4, 2017

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Narrative Self

(The Fog of Self 4)

Stories! We love stories. The vast world of modern media that so captivates us largely consists of stories. By fitting the pieces into stories, we try to make sense of the unfolding, sometimes chaotic, events of the world each day. And clearly, our favorite story, or at least the one that most captivates us, is the unique story of our self: past and future.

Could it be that the story is not only about our self, but is our self? Could it be that the story makes our self? Consider how vivid and lifelike some of the characters of fictional stories are. Like historical novels, could our self be a fictional character placed in the center of a true story? Yes, and that character is our narrative or autobiographical self, created by our story, the story of me.

Every page of a novel builds the characters. Every day of my life, feeds my narrative and thereby feeds my self. Every event of my life happened to me or was experienced by me. This personal narrative revolves around a protagonist, namely me. With such a rich history embedded in our memories, with such a rich future of plans, hopes, dreams, and goals, this ever-unfolding story of my self surely means that self is real. Indeed, the vivid reality of the story makes the existence of the self at its center go unquestioned, unchallenged, and stronger than any dogma. That self gives the true narrative of actual events its continuity and coherence, by serving as the protagonist, the central character so necessary for a good story.

Our personal narrative tells itself from a first-person perspective. Through the mechanism of inner talk, we have a running, eyewitness commentary on everything that happens in our life. The existence of this ongoing commentary implies the existence of a commentator, namely me.

The narrative grows richer moment to moment, as new experiences turn into memories. The existence of this storehouse of experience implies the existence of a self who experienced all that, namely me.

Can we see beyond all this overwhelming evidence for that self? Yes we can, through the present. The domain of our story is the past and the future, the domain of time. The present is not in time. The present is timeless; it is in eternity.

Standing in presence, outside of time, we can see that the commentary, that inner talk that expresses our narrative, is mostly just thoughts thinking themselves. Our inner talk comes from our mental software spinning our story. That mental software works quite well without any direction from us, without any intention on our part. It spins the story of our self, and thereby spins our self.

One of the clues to this reveals itself when we notice that our mind spins these self-stories both from actual facts and events as well as from fantasy facts and events. Our existence in our imaginary, daydream life seems just as real as our existence in our actual life. Are both real or neither?

Our actual life moves and unfolds, propelled by time. It is rich and wonderful to behold. It invites us to live fully, with appreciation, vigor, and love. When we live in presence, we see that this actual life does not need a narrative self of dubious reality layered on top of it. Indeed, that self just complicates matters, distracts from the richness of each moment, and is not only unnecessary, but also a hindrance to living fully.

For this week, please notice your narrative self as it spins its own story out of the raw material of your life.


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