Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the Week of February 14, 2022

I Am 

(Fourth Way Practice: 12)

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One of the fundamental ideas put forward by Gurdjieff is that we each live as many I's, but can work to become a single, unified I, which would transform our lives. We can picture our inner life as having a center stage, a single point of control, in which one of our many different desires, impulses, thoughts, or emotions takes the spotlight. For a brief period, even only a moment, that desire, that I, takes the reins of our life. It chooses what we say or do or think or feel for the duration of its empowerment. And then it recedes, overtaken by another I, another desire, impulse, or passing thought, perhaps even completely opposed to the one that held sway just prior. And so it goes with our life. One moment we want or decide one thing, the next moment we forget about that and go in a different direction, and the next moment it changes again.

We are a mass of contradictions and never know who we will be at any given moment. I want my body to be fit, but another I would rather not exercise. I want my body to be healthy, but another I overindulges unhealthy foods in unhealthy amounts. I want to read that book, but the TV captivates another I. I want to be financially secure, but another I gambles or spends needlessly. I want to learn a language, a musical instrument, or write the great novel, but no other I chooses to practice. One I daydreams wonderful fantasies, but no I makes them real. I want to create a soul, but let other I's take precedence and no I persists with enough spiritual practice. This is my life, spinning wheels and going nowhere.

How can we make these wheels turn together, in the same direction? We need to connect them to one vehicle. It begins with seeing and with choosing in small, consistent ways. The seeing means impartial, non-judgmental, compassionate self-observation, to see our many I's, one at a time, see the contradictory impulses, the lack of follow-through, the unreliability, the tensions of being pulled in different directions. We open our inner vision to see how things are in us. By seeing and accepting what we see, not rejecting our shortcomings, we gradually build a tent large enough to welcome and shelter the whole of us. This is one meaning of conscience: seeing all our many I's and accepting them, accepting our fractured and fractious selves, bringing all our bits, all our thoughts, all our emotions under the one umbrella that is our hidden, real I, the one who sees.

Concurrently with the work of seeing our many I's, we practice making choices, small choices, and sticking with them. By doing that, we enable the I that made the choice to persist in the face of other, contravening I's. This builds our will, strengthening the I that chose. We start with small, simple, even trivial choices and we take them seriously, making sure we follow-through with them. Once a day, or once a week, we make such a will choice and commit ourselves to carry it through. Out of respect for ourselves, for our real self, we do not forget, we do what we chose to do. If we fail, we start again the next day with something simpler and easier, so that we do not fail. We do not wish to fail ourselves. If we persist, this practice slowly unifies us, merging our many I's into our real I.

We are not any thought. We are not any emotion. We are not any desire. We are not any impulse. We are the one who sees what we see, chooses what we choose, and does what we do. Ultimately, we find ourselves at the point where we can say "I am" and know it to be true. Opto ergo sum: I choose, therefore I am.

For this week, please renew your work of becoming yourself.


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