Many of you have requested something more specific on the practice of inner work. So, my intention with the last Note, this one, and the next one is to provide a more specific introduction to the process.
In the last Field Note, I addressed what I would consider the core of Inner Work practice and personal growth: awareness. In this field note, I am going to outline a method for addressing the next step; what happens when you run into various events that are reflected in your consciousness and what you creatively might do with these, which may require more explanation than I can reasonably include in this Note. So, more to come as time goes by. I will talk about the micro and macro process, and I will include some of my own history as illustration.
It’s important to note that what I offered in the last field note, what I am offering in this note, and what I will follow-up with in the next note will read like instructions. However these are guidelines for you for inner work, not instructions. Every inner work session is a little different, and every inner worker is different. In the end you will be developing your own way and process of doing inner work.
First, let’s have a little review about awareness. In my view there is no question that awareness is core to any inner work growth process for the simple reason that addressing what’s going on requires knowing what’s going on and, in this case, in your inner world, and by association your relational world; really developing an increasing knowledge of who and how you are as a person. What matters to you and your values and practices of these values will Interactively grow out of your knowledge about yourself and your world. Simply put, growing your awareness is the practice of developing the ability to observe and reflect on the experiences you have in both your inner and outer worlds. Outer world experience always has an inner world correlate, For example, something happens between you and another person, there is an event in the outer world, and then there is whatever happened in reaction/response in your inner world. You have associated thoughts, emotions, body sensation, and you can feel the surge or decline of your life force. The focus of this field note is studying these experiences and developing a way to name them and to eventually work with them. I will be outlining a step that I think you will find most useful in the process and that, I recommend, you work with, as a further step along the Way.
Last time I highlighted awareness. This time I want to look at that which might be considered ‘interference’ with your preferred inner reflections. Suppose, for example, that you are focused inwardly and feeling quite peaceful, and suddenly something arises that takes you away from this peaceful and perhaps open feeling. What I suggest is that you pay attention to that experience; in other words, you use your awareness to ‘study’ what is taking place in your mind, body, emotions, and the felt experience of the effect on your life force energy. Rather than seeing this ‘interference’ as a problem or a distraction, entertain the possibility of ‘seeing’ this, as your attention is being directed elsewhere, and that this is actually a signal to direct your attention toward this something, particularly the experience that is taking place within you. Notice any struggles you have in giving your attention to your experience, which I imagine is probably not the most comfortable. To the best of your ability, stay with this experience for a while: if possible do not fight with it or with yourself, and if you find yourself fighting it and/or yourself, you can do your best to pay attention to that as well. The aim here is to notice what actually happens. You’re not trying to fix it, get rid of it, feel better, feel worse: only to learn about, and eventually, learn from, the experience. This is really part of the whole process of becoming increasingly knowledgeable and intimate with your own actual inner world experience and discovering what occurs automatically. While this may at times not be a very pleasant undertaking, it offers the possibility to actually understand what goes on within you, perhaps to discover your own history that has led to this possibility, and that has an enormous amount of control over you, your relationships, your behaviour, how you feel in the world, how you relate to others, and not surprisingly how they relate to you!
At some point, you will have gone as far as you feel you can go for the time being. You may feel you need to have a break, if that’s possible, and at some point, you can reflect on the experience and how this affects your view of yourself, life, and your relationships with others and the world.
At this moment I am aware that I have a tendency in these Notes to sometimes try and include perhaps too much. So, I’m going to try and keep this Note relatively succinct, simple, and do-able, as a step in a much larger process.
What I suggest you do next is find some name you feel adequately characterize this experience; specifically name the inner identity, the egoic self, that performs the behaviour, has the feelings, has the sensations, and has a certain flow of life energy. For example, I used to have a strong tendency to strive to do more than I was doing. Essentially, I could never reach a goal. As soon as I arrived at my goal point, I would have a new goal, which was the same distance away as the previous goal. This, of course was problematic, as it was also accompanied by self-criticism and dissatisfaction. You could see that the yardstick between where I was where I was planning to go was always in place. Surely a prescription for dissatisfaction ongoing, which it was. There were many components to this and of course much history from my own background. Two things stood out to me: 1) if I happen to reach what I was striving for, then, invariably and with virtually no time in-between, I now had a new place to reach that was just as far away as the point I had just reached. As you can imagine this was a most unsatisfying feeling and an unhappy one. 2) as well, I noted that there was a certain hardness to my discovery that I was never somehow achieving the ultimate goal, which of course, I often had no idea what this even was. Eventually, I named this self the hard driver. From the perspective of my awareness I looked at this identity, this egoic self, and I saw unhappiness, distress, and fatigue, on his face (really, of course, my face).
Here is another example: I am walking on the street. My ‘identity’ is Tourist. I can feel my feet on the pavement. I feel the heat of the sun and the coolness of the breeze. I see that there are people waiting at the intersection to cross the busy street. I think to myself, “the light should change just about as I arrive at the curb.” I notice a young women kneeling down outside the Shoppers. She is petting a small dog. The dog does not appear too interested. My thought is that this dog is only interested in its owner, and not friendly strangers. I arrive at the curb and feel a small surprise that the light has not yet changed.
You can probably tell from this latter example that my tourist self is pretty much in the present moment. My awareness shifts through various sensory experiences. I am the Tourist.
My suggestion for you in the process of developing your inner work and your awareness is that you go through a process of identifying these aspects of your inner identities as they arise, either throughout your day or as you work with your meditation process. I suggest that you then study the experience and particularly name each egoic self that you have found and named; the critic, the victim, the shamed, the guilt maker, the tyrant, the joyful one. Yes, you can identify identities that you like and study them as well as the rager, and so on. I encourage you to let these identities be as inflated as possible. The purpose of such inflation is not to say how bad you are, or how great you are, rather to allow yourself to study it, and also the bigger they are in your imagination/inner world, the easier it is to see what you need to see and that is in the service of your own growth.
I think this is quite a lot to work with and I really hope that some of you will share in the comments for others to see and perhaps respond to. Stay tuned next month for continuation of this inner work process.
Gratitude to Heesoon for your review of, and support with, this Field Note…