For the Week of April 30 - May 6: Self-Remembering
Star formation cloud nebula, Goodfreephotos.com
Come to Center; come and feast in Me. Come to Center; come and live in Me. Remember who you are; Remember where you come from. Remember who you are; Remember where you come from.
- Taizé chant
For the past two weeks, we have explored self-observation and non-identification, two out of three movements in the foundational triadic process of the Work. Now we come to Self-remembering. As we are learning, these three practices are a moving system – interconnected and inseparable. Yet it can assist our Work efforts to examine the nuances and distinctions of each.
"Remember, Man is created a self-developing organism, but he must receive help from esoteric teaching in order to evolve. He is disconnected from Real I which belongs to Higher Centers and can transmit their meaning. Real I understands the language of Higher Centers … Real I is what you are and why you exist: or, rather, why you exist is to come into contact with Real I. … Since everyone has Real I in them but at a higher, that is, a deeper level than that from which they ordinarily live and think and feel, everyone is created with a possibility of making contact with this Real I … Everyone has an eternal center of gravity, but, being swayed by the senses, by the feeling that they are nothing but their bodies and by the impact of impressions coming from external life, they get far away from this center of gravity. Self-remembering is the beginning of the attempt to bring us back into ourselves and so into our real center of gravity."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Observation and Self-Remembering II," Oct. 21, 1944, Vol. 2, p. 534
Attention and the Practice of Self-Remembering
As we have already learned (see email and teaching notes for the week of January 23 – 29), Self-remembering is both astate of being in which one experiences increased consciousness and Presence and a practice – an effort – which can lead to that state.
"Let us try to illustrate this in an easy way. The act of taking my guitar and striking notes on it is different from the state of being able to play music on it. However, I will have to make an effort to take the guitar and play on it before I can reach the state of being able to play music. … The act of trying to remember myself is to endeavor by trial and failure to reach some new state of oneself called the state of Self-remembering."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Observation and Self-Remembering II," Oct. 21, 1944, Vol. 2, p. 534
The quality of our practice of the Work depends on the development of our "muscles" of attention. We learn to ask ourselves, "To what am I paying attention?" Perhaps of even greater importance is the question, "From where am I paying attention?" These two questions are paramount in the three-fold process of the Work. Here are some ways that the growth and maturing of attention plays out in the Work:
To be identified means there is no separation between our reactions to events and our sense of self; we are our thoughts, emotions and sensations. We have no independent will; we are at the mercy of our reactions, which steal life-force from us. There is zero attention.
In the practice of non-critical self-observation, our attention is on what is going on inside us – specifically the mechanical firing of all three centers playing out in the outer parts of our being during the events of life.
With the objectivity of a scientist, we wish to observe and document -- take photographs and name – the recurring, force-draining reactions.
Non-identification is the effort of moving the point of attention, i.e. stepping back enough to fully observe. Non-identification requires directed attention, that is, Work in the intellectual center. Attention is a major currency in paying for the Work (Beryl Pogson, Brighton Work Talks).
It should be noted that no Work student is competent in this from the beginning, maybe ever as a consistent, unchanging practice. Ancient patterns snap us back into identification. For many of us, this is a life-long training. Trial and failure seem to be a part of the process. Yet with each so-called failure, our wishdeepens and our understandinggrows. With practice, Observing I stabilizes within us; our vantage point is subtly moving inward towards inner parts of centers. Clearly, we are no longer our reactions, but who – or what – are we?
While the first two movements in the three-fold process confirm the uselessness and unreality of our habitual, mechanical reactions to life, the Work constantly stresses the preeminence of the third movement, Self-remembering, paying attention to and receiving help from what is higher.
"To be protected psychologically from the external scene of life one must remember oneself. This means that one must find something to take the place of identifying with all that goes on in life. If you take life as the whole business, and think you are nothing but your body, you will not be able to remember yourself. If you think your eyes see, and not that something sees through them, you will not be able to remember yourself. If you think that everything you do and feel and think belongs to your body you will not be able to remember yourself. You will then be like religious people who think that heaven is something above and hell something below them, and do not understand that heaven and hell are in them – in themselves."
-Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Observation and Self-Remembering II," Oct. 21, 1944, Vol. 2, p. 534
How the Self-Remembering Practice of Centering Prayer Serves the Work
"Through Self-remembering we come under new influences which otherwise cannot reach us. If you feel the extraordinariness of your own existence, if you feel the miracle of your body, of your consciousness, of the world that surrounds you, if you begin to wonder who you are, then you are in the state necessary for Self-remembering. … Look at your hands, do you know what they are or how they move? Or, look at the trees and ask yourself how it is you see them, and many other things of similar nature. In all this the sense of mystery is in us, the sense of the miraculous. … You can find it here, now at this moment."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Remembering," Jan. 27, 1945, Vol. 2, p. 601
As we consent and open in the silence over and over again, we let go of our own small conception of reality and our place in it. Over time, this expanded understanding of ourselves, our lives and all creation becomes our lived experience.
Simultaneously, the idea that we are the agents of our own transformation begins to dissolve. Without Centering Prayer, the Work usually begins as a self-improvement project, co-opted by fragments of self that are perfectionistic and wish to become smarter, stronger, richer, better-looking – or even more evolved, more humble, more devoted.
Our consent to the love, presence and action of God in the silence opens the door for Divine Wisdom to take the lead in bringing to light the buried wounds of a lifetime. We participate in our own healing and transformation with our efforts of attention and consent to life. We learn we don't have to seek for our Work; it is revealed to us in the events, interactions, identifications and emotional unloading of daily life. Life is our school for transformation.
As our relationship with God deepens through the prayer, our trust in this exquisitely designed healing and purification process grows. Through Centering Prayer, we come to have a deeper and deeper experience of God's extraordinary, personal love for us.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
- Philippians 4:8
How We Can Practice Self-Remembering
We can practice Centering Prayer, deepening our relationship with Divine Light, Life and Love.
During other moments of the day, we can practice directing our attention more and more toward what is at our center, the truth of our being: Higher Centers, Real Conscience, Real I – the very raison d'etre of the Work.
Aware that we can choose, we curate the impressions to which we give our precious attention, focusing on what is true, good, honest, pure and lovely.
We can practice three-centered acts of Self-remembering. In right use of imagination, we reach for thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations of the Mystery within us.
When identified, we can remember that we are in the Work and that we are given the possibility of taking everything in a new way.
When identified, we can practice all three movements of the triadic process, moving our point of attention more toward the center of our being.
When identified, we can remember that we are a beloved child of God, with a basic core of goodness and that God is here now. We can ask for help.
After every seeming failure, we can keep practicing. We are practicing resurrection.
"In one book written some eight centuries ago, by someone belonging to the Sufi schools, the writer compares Self-remembering with coming to the surface of the sea and drawing in air. 'This air,' he says, 'is miraculous, and will last a whole day, even when one is at the bottom of the ocean.'"
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Remembering," July 26, 1943, Vol. 1, p. 318
"We are composed of truth – spiritually and physically. Just as water is made of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, we are composed of divine principles: mercy bliss, goodness, compassion, and humility. Our nature is divinely constituted. These attributes are not extrinsic to us; they are not something outside the self. They make us who we are. When someone asks, 'Who are you?' we might say, 'I'm a teacher,' or 'I'm a banker.' But on a spiritual level the question is a koan, an inscrutable puzzle that breaks up thought patterns. Because you are made of divine attributes, they are part of who you are. Spiritual vehicles, such as prayer, meditation, fasting, and so forth, are designed to activate one's deep nature and to establish in one's consciousness the truth of being."
- Beverly Lanzetta, The Monk Within
- Actively practice strengthening the muscle of attention by Self-remembering in any or all of the ways listed above. Practice inner resurrection.
- All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and how they are landing in you: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only.