Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 7, 2020


Integrating Will: Our Own I

(The Ladder of Will: 5)

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Our own will appears to be, and in practice is, fragmented. Gurdjieff called this our "many I's." The apparent fragmentation, the competing, incompatible, and inconsistent desires, urges, wishes, and actions, arise from our inchoate being, our soul. These souls, our inner energy bodies, are not fully formed; they are thin, disorganized, disjointed, and even chaotic. Our will, which must work through energies to have any effect at all, is constrained to operate through our own body of energies, our incomplete soul. This effectively splinters our will, like light passing through a shattered lens.

The result is that we live as many I's instead of as one. This is a difficult and unsatisfying way to live. Yet in most moments it seems fine. We experience ourselves to be the I that occupies the center stage of our inner world, even if it is only there for a moment. Then another I comes and we are that I. We do not notice the transition and the fragmentation because in each moment we are just the one current I. But we set a goal with one I and need to carry it out with another I that does not believe in that goal. We decide something with one I and when the moment to act arrives we are in another I that does not agree with that decision. And on it goes.

There is, however, hope. By making our soul whole, we can work our way toward integrating our many I's into one I. We can become unified.

This changes many things in our life, including our relationships with other people and with ourselves. Only with an integrated I can we count on ourselves to set a goal and consistently work toward it. Only with an integrated I can a person be truly responsible. Responsibility is a measure of a person and a way to tell how close we are to having our own I. Only with an integrated I can a person be relied upon to keep their word, including to themselves. Only with an integrated I can a person be relied upon consistently to do what is necessary and to act in accord with conscience. Only with an integrated I can we hope to know who we are.

How to work toward our own I? Will comes into us with a dollop of the creative energy but acts through the conscious energy. The conscious energy in us is weak, dispersed, and submerged within our sensitive energies. Because our I must act through consciousness, if consciousness in us is fragmented, then so is our I.

There are several highly effective ways to cultivate consciousness, integrate our will, and come into our own I: stillness, presence, and being the source of our attention. The predicate to all of these, however, is to be in a state that enables such inner work. For that we rely on our work with the sensitive energy. A robust foundation of sensitive energy throughout our body, mind, and emotions creates a stable platform for our practice with the conscious energy. Thus, our work with the sensitive energy remains valuable.

Cultivating Inner Stillness

Cultivating inner stillness allows consciousness to become whole, to emerge from the sensitive energy in us and coalesce into pure awareness. Inner stillness allows that pure awareness to surface from the background toward the foreground. Through the practice of inner stillness, the endless stream of sensory perceptions that overlays the pure awareness in us, that hides the conscious energy from us, subsides to reveal the silent treasure behind it. When our mind grows quiet, we are left in pure awareness. Opening to and abiding in the peace of consciousness allows its inherent wholeness to heal us and make us whole. The more we come into the stillness of consciousness, the more we recognize it and know it, the more we realize it is always here in us and we are in it. We start to be able to live in consciousness. That inner stillness becomes an ongoing aspect of our ordinary experience. And in the wholeness of consciousness our will, our I, also becomes whole.

Of course, the primary way to initiate our practice of inner stillness is through quiet meditation, quiet inside and out. We may need to start with following our breath or using some other method of focusing. But gradually, in a given session, we let those methods go and just sit. We stay on the cushion until our mind quiets down. Then we stay some more, to abide in the stillness, the cognizant stillness of consciousness. Peace suffuses us. That peace makes our meditation practice feel right, while its major benefit of integrating our being and creating a unified vehicle for our will to act through, stays hidden from our ordinary perceptions.

Being the Source of Attention

Where does my attention come from? Finding and being the source of our attention is a fundamental exercise for coming into will, coming as nearly as possible into pure will. Attention is will acting through the conscious energy. It is our will that directs attention, that is the core of attention. By tracing backward along the chord of attention, we come toward its source, toward our source, toward our Self. In that place our I is whole, we are whole and not fragmented. In that place we learn who we are, we learn to be ourselves, we learn to be. In that place we are the one who sees what we see and does what we do.

We take this as a practical exercise, done like a meditation, seated and focused. We investigate our attention itself and trace backwards along it, moving toward and into the source of our attention. Because attention is what looks, we cannot turn around and look at our attention directly. But we can make our way back along it. We make ourselves the source of our attention, so that our attention comes from us, so that our attention is us. This simple, subtle, and important exercise takes practice and experimentation to discover its reality. More explanations could be given, but they do not really help. We need to find the way into it for ourselves. You might consider making this a part of your regular daily meditative practice, in addition to cultivating stillness.

Presence

Presence combines consciousness and will directly in an ongoing manner. Our will, our I, is the one who is present, the core of presence. Our consciousness is the medium of presence, the pure awareness that is the home of presence. Our body of sensation is the foundation of presence. Being able to say wholeheartedly and without reservation "Here I Am" is presence. Being present makes us whole for those moments. We can practice presence at any time, as long as it safe to do so. Driving a car, for example, would not be the best time to take any attention away from what we are doing to consider whether and how to be present. With enough practice, however, we find that presence makes us even more engaged, attentive, and responsive in whatever we are doing.

In presence we can be and our I is the one who is. The practice of presence, simply and continuously being, integrates us; as our will-to-be grows in strength and continuity, everything comes under its umbrella. Everything in us is seen and made part of the whole.

Having our own I, our own integrated and whole will is a major step in our life, though it comes gradually. It also comes with a mystery at its center: even though this is fully our own I, it is not centered in us. It does not have a center. This is due to the inherent oneness of will. This factor grows in importance as we continue climbing the ladder of will.

A confusing factor at this stage is our enduring attachment to our ego. It is surprising that our ego continues to influence us, even in the face of our I. While our ego has been weakened by the Second Fana, it persists even now. The coexistence of ego and I can be bewildering and disturbing. Are these thoughts and emotions coming from me or from my ego? This situation resolves on the next rung of the Ladder of Will.

For this week, in addition to your continuing practice with the sensitive energy, with awareness of and in body, heart, and mind, please take up one or more of the practices of stillness, being the source of your attention, and presence.


     

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