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For the Week of March 10 - 16: Memories, Images and Imagination

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"As long as one's life is governed by Imaginary 'I' it must of necessity be unreal. I can assure you that the gradual loss of imagination, when you accept the controlling influences of the Work, does not lead to any inner impoverishment. On the contrary it turns one into rich and inexhaustible fields of new understanding, where the plague of yourself no longer exists." 
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "One of The Work Ideas About Imagination," December 20, 1947, Vol. 3, pp. 1100-01


You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. … [E]verything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."  
- Ephesians 5:8-9, 14


Last week we looked at how traits, both physical and psychological, have been passed down to us through the generations of our ancestry, and how bringing the spiritual dimension into horizontal time through our Work can lift us along with past and future generations to a higher level of consciousness. This week we will explore the role of memories, images and imagination and their influence on our psycho-physical lives.
 

Memories

Where do memories reside in us, and what do they consist of? If we observe any clear memory that we have, we can see that it has intellectual, emotional and instinctive/moving components. Memories are the result of life impressions received over time. The degree to which we have a three-centered experience of an event – i.e., how completely it is digested – will determine how the energy of it passes through us and how/where it becomes stored in the body. We know that the physical senses are closely linked to memory; for instance, the smell of baking bread or the taste of a sauce can bring back associations and events long forgotten. Likewise, emotions can feel very familiar, signaling recurrence, and triggering specific memories. For more on memory, associations and the body-mind connection, please review the email from February 25, 2021
 

We are created to experience fully the reality of each moment of our lives, yet because of the accumulated material in the unconscious, memories can be skewed to varying degrees by our undealt-with conditioning and associated energies. As children, we don't have the psychological tools or developmental ability to deal with stressful situations, so patterned responses can be created as a form of protection. The intellectual center with the help of the emotional center, creates intricate stories about certain events, which we believe to be true. These served us well when we were young, but because they become buried in the unconscious, they can trigger stress in our adult lives, often in circumstances totally unrelated to the original event. Byron Katie puts it this way: "There's only one thing harder than accepting [reality], and that is not accepting it. Reality rules, whether we're aware of it or not. The story is how you keep yourself from experiencing peace right now" (Loving What Is, Revised Edition, p. 310).
 

Images

Images are often a vivid aspect of a memory, and can range from vague to crystal clear depending how present we were at the time of an event. The moving or mechanical part of the intellectual center plays a role as Jeanne de Salzmann describes: "Thought is made up of accumulated knowledge in the form of images and associations, and it seizes an experience only to make it fit into categories of the known. Although it can entertain the new when it is quiet, the thinking immediately transforms it into something old, with an image that has already been the object of an experience. The image awakens an immediate reaction. This always repeats, so that there is never anything new" (The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff, p. 55). These reactions include both emotions and physical sensations in addition to thoughts. All three centers are involved in memory images, so that often, even if we have done significant time-body work on negative events, they can continue to arise in our consciousness. This, again, is due to the fact that we did not completely experience the emotions and sensations associated with an event when it occurred. This process is completely mechanical and happens for every impression of life unless we awaken and begin to observe ourselves and all that keeps us from experiencing the newness of reality in the now.
 

Imagination

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines imagination, among other ways, as: 1. the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality, and 2. fanciful or empty assumption. These point to what the Work calls right and wrong use of imagination. Right use of imagination involves the emotional and intellectual parts of the intellectual center, where imagination with directed attention is used for the creation of something new, or for intentional visualization, such as in making a future memory." …[O]ur reality is to a significant degree a construction of the mind. And without this capacity of imagination, we could not construct the externally real objects that have transformed the earth" (Christian Wertenbaker, Man In The Cosmos: G. I. Gurdjieff and Modern Science, p. 79). Fanciful or empty assumption, on the other hand, describes wrong use of imagination, and resides primarily in the moving part of the intellectual center. This includes mechanical curiosity and daydreaming about others, as well as imagined future worst-case scenarios.
 

Imagination is also central to the important Work teaching on Imaginary I – the assumption that we have internal unity and are consistent in our being. "This imagination of 'I…me' lies at the heart of my usual sense of self, the ego, and all the movements of my inner life go to protect it. And this tendency exists as much in the unconscious as in the conscious layers of myself. It is because we want at all costs to protect this imagination that our experience and our knowledge have such importance for us. The things that we do are not chosen because we like to do them but because we thereby affirm and assure our imagined 'I.' There is no thought or feeling that is not motivated by this. It is, however, so subtle that we do not see it" (Jeanne de Salzmann, Op. Cit., p. 156).
 

It is clear how both imagination and Imaginary I play a role in memories and images. Both distort the objective reality of an event and are at the basis of the stories that we unconsciously weave around the experiences of our lives. Yet, as we know, there is a way out of the mire of imagination through all the practices of the Work. Most importantly, Self-remembering, where we lift ourselves above Imaginary I, allows us to see with a higher level of consciousness and to let go of the false aspects of our memories. "To remember oneself means to die to oneself, to the lie of one's imagination. … In remembering oneself, it is the letting go of the ego that allows a new consciousness to penetrate" (Ibid, p. 264).
 

Work on Memories, Images and Imagination

The following practices are useful in finding the reality in, and releasing stored energy from, our memories, images and useless imagination:

  • Practice the basics: self-observe, non-identify and Self-remember.
     
  • When a stressful memory or imagination occurs, turn the attention from the associated thoughts and deeply sense all that is occurring in the body. Staying solely with the discomfort can allow the stored energy to release partially or fully. If you find the mind re-engaging, return (ever so gently) to the body. Similarly, you may choose to practice the Welcoming Prayer.
     
  • Practice the method of self-inquiry, as taught by Byron Katie. Remember that this is a meditative practice where one explores the truth of a stressful belief by asking oneself the following four questions: 1. Is it true?  2. Can I absolutely know it's true? 3. What happens, how do I react when I believe it? 4. Who would I be without the belief? Sitting in question 3 offers the opportunity to fully experience the stored energy in a memory, and reveals much about the workings of the personality, and the question can reveal a more objective reality when one puts aside the story surrounding an event. Visit Byron Katie's website for more information on the four questions and the final step which she calls "turnarounds."
     

Homework

  • Moving deeper into Lent, reflect: "I sit here. I see myself. But what do I see? I see the image I have of myself, not who I really am, not who I really wish to be. So, what is my aim? It is to reach a higher level of development, to make contact with my higher centers, and through them establish a contact with ‘the inner circle of humanity,’ with cosmic forces which are always surrounding us ready to help us in our inner and outer work. Who can do this? A different I, not the false image I have of myself. … I have to build not on sand but on rock, to become a different person. … It is voluntary suffering and friction which helps us to grow, which helps the inner transformation for which we are in the Work" (John Fuchs, Forty Years After Gurdjieff, p. 97). 
     
  • Choose this week to focus your self-observation around how memories, images or imagination manifest in your daily life. Apply one of the above practices or another of your choosing to your observations.
     

March Practice: Eating Simply and Slowly

In our day-to-day busyness, we often tend to be unconscious around our eating habits, engaging with some form of media, written or otherwise, during our meals. This week, try eliminating distractions during as many meals as possible. Set aside your book, phone, computer or TV, and be present to your meal. Make a three-centered observation of the resistance that arises, especially in the body, then non-identify and Self-remember. Notice how the being-body feels when food is taken in more consciously.
 

Attend The Journey School Thursday Class Tonight: All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and, importantly, to produce a container of beings seeking to be more conscious and whose efforts assist one another:  7:00 pm Central Time via Zoom only.

  1. Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9961019778?pwd=aVFLZVQwNGZSNkQ4TDRTUW9yU1Ywdz09, or
  2. Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778, passcode: CCH
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