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For the Week of July 23 - 29: Food of Impressions 
image courtesy of Jennifer Van Gilder
Anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child
will not enter it.

- Luke 18:17

To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour
- William Blake

To recap the last few weeks: The evolving preeminence within us of a surrendered will to God engenders the fruits of expanded capacities to participate in conscious labor and intentional suffering. Through our willingness – our prayer and Work – we make payments and sacrifices beyond our own concerns, which in turn yield broadened understanding of ourselves, others and all creation – an increase in conscience and consciousness.  
We now come to how this self-developing organism known as human being is fed. The Work describes three "foods" that are indispensable to humans: food that we eat, air that we breathe and the impressions we consume to feed being. Though we are accustomed to understanding that the food we eat and the air we breathe nourish us, give us energy and keep us alive, we may not understand the great importance of impressions, which also provide energy necessary for life.

Called by Maurice Nicoll the supreme food, impressions encompass what we see, read and hear outwardly and also what we think, feel and sense inwardly, through our feeling of I. And further, we are also always receiving impressions coming from Real I and Higher Centers, though due to the state of our being, we often are not able to "hear" them.

Ordinarily, the impressions we take in are limited and often much the same. The way we take-in these impressions – our perceptions of events, other people and life in general – are also much the same – crystallized from years of repetition; we experience recurring, closed systems of thought, emotion and sensation, devoid of life and vitality.
This food and the way we have always consumed it can be adequate for a mechanical life, however, like the Prodigal Son, we may to realize that we have been eating husks and are starving on some very deep level. As we begin to awaken and turn around (metanoia), our whole relationship to the impressions we ingest is transformed.
"We take our typical reactions to impressions as life. We take our reactions to a person as him or her. … And … it is a great mistake to think that what is called 'life' is a solid fixed thing, the same for everyone. No one has the same impressions of life. Life is our impressions of it and these can be transformed. … The sensory point of view is that this or that person in the outer world, that you see and hear by means of your eyes and ears, is at fault. This person, you will say, because he or she does this or talks like that, is to blame. But actually, if you are made negative, what you have to work on, what you have to observe, is this negative emotion intruding itself into your inner life – that is, into the inner invisible 'place' where you really exist. Your real being is in the inner invisible world of yourself."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Commentary on The Food of Impressions," Mar. 23, 1945, Vol. 2, p. 54

For man has closed himself up,
till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

- William Blake

Along the way, each of us developed habits of mind, feeling and body – an entire short-hand of ways of being that the Work calls associations. The analogy is of a switchboard operator that makes connections between incoming impressions and well-established responses. All impressions are received and processed automatically in the outer or mechanical divisions of centers. In this state, no person, event, or activity is received as new and fresh – all activate the same crystallized responses.

First Conscious Shock
What can we do when we have mistaken our perceptions of reality for reality itself? We have the opportunity to apply what is known in the Work as first conscious shock, which is the conscious effort to receive impressions in a new way. First conscious shock is the practice of Self-remembering that leads to the state of Self-remembering. It is the energetic spark that ignites the alchemical transformation of the way we take life and, hence, of our very state of being.

While we are born with the apparatus to transform food we eat and the air we breathe into energy for our bodies and processes, we must create within us the means to fruitfully digest impressions, so that they might become the energy needed for the transformation into higher levels of being possible for all humankind.
"Just to live a moral, well-ordered life is not enough. We need consciously to fulfill the obligation to produce the special energies that are required of us …"
- J.G. Bennett, The Sevenfold Work
Conscious labor and intentional suffering provide the higher energetic ferment that acts to digest and transform impressions into the special energies of which Bennett speaks. Every effort of attention to think in a new way, every three-centered wish for our highest potential, every jump for the rope to catch hold of a Work idea, every fervent prayer for help, every turning of our attention toward impressions of beauty and truth, every willing surrender to God's will – introduces, in its own way, first conscious shock. Some examples:
  • Instead of seeing life in terms of a story about what's wrong or what needs to be done, try to look around without associations.
  • Neutralize opinions, attitudes and judgments about current events or others by asking Byron Katie's four questions: Is that true? Can I absolutely know that it's true? How do I react when I think that thought? Who would I be without that thought? Leave space for answers to arise in their own time.
  • Work from love of the Work – from delight and affection and hope – brings a transforming ferment up to the place of incoming impressions.
  • In order to live more in the present moment without the story of past and future, bring the attention to the body. Feel the feet on the ground, the breath in the nostrils. Practice relaxation of the small muscles of the face. Notice that right here, right now, all is well. 
  • To neutralize impressions of lack – not enough money, time, health, love – practice gratitude for what has been given.
  • Practice affirmations such as: God works in me to will and to do whatever God wishes me to do, and God cannot fail. 
  • To change our minds, we can become aware of what we mind. What are my requirements? Peeves? What annoys me? What are my programs for happiness?
  • If we have difficulty liking what we dislike, we can practice yes and no. Using a directed act of the will, we can hold together in consciousness what we like alongside what we dislike in a person or situation. This keeps the pendulum of opposites from swinging wildly in either direction.
  • Try to see someone without associations – with new, fresh eyes.
  • Try to see difficulties in life in the light of the Work. This can mean: a three-centered remembering of a Work idea – such as: Life is a school for transformation or If I truly understood, I would not disagree – to intercept an incoming impression.
  • Non-critically self-observe, non-identify and Self-Remember around all manifestations of self that steal force: every form of imagination, mood, critical thought, reactive impulse, hurt feeling, suspicion, feeling of anger, feeling of better than or less than, negative state, objection, dislike, hate, dejection, depression, whim, excitement, doubt, fear, train of inner talking and every worry about others or the state of the world.
  • Practice reverence. Practice will to God. 
"To think from an idea of this Work – such as that man is asleep on this earth and that is the real reason why everything is in the mess it is in – to think from such a powerful idea is to think in a new way. This means that new connections and associations are made in the mind and the psychic energy begins to traverse new paths. This is always a good experience. This making of new connections opens up the mind and gives new force."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Internal Considering and External Considering, XIII – Associations," Jun. 5, 1943, Vol. 1, p. 298
If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is,

- William Blake

"[E]very moment is a blessed event, a God-event, something Saint Paul realized in his own way, after falling off his horse. By saying this, I do not mean that God is watching over us in every event; rather every event has an ultimate horizon, an absolute center of infinite possibilities held open for a particular response in this particular moment. The ultimate horizon of each life-event is God. There is no other God than the God of the eternal now. God is not simply the ultimate horizon of life; God is the ultimacy of life in this moment. How I live in this moment, therefore, makes a difference to my eternal existence, to the final definition of my life, and what my life means for the world, since the final decision of my life – in this moment – is my irreversible contribution to the world."
- Ilia Delio, Omega Center News, July 13, 2020
Utilize one or more of the practices listed above to apply the transformational spark of first conscious shock to incoming impressions (whether inner or outer).
Open forum with The Journey School faculty: bring questions for a time of sharing and conversation. Two opportunities: Tuesday, July 28, 11:00-11:45 AM CDT or Saturday, August 1, 10:00-10:45 AM CDT. 
  1. Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet, or
  2. Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778. When prompted for a Passcode, enter: CCH.
Attend tonight's class: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only. 
  1. Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet, or
  2. Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778. When prompted for a Passcode, enter: CCH.
The glossary of terms may be found here.  The class content archive is organized by class and class date.  And an archive of previous emails may be found here
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