Nathaniel — a practical how-to

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

5:50 a.m. Okay, boss, you’re up. I realize I have no idea where we go from here and can’t remember the theme.

No need. That is our job. We’re making things practical, remember. This is less a matter of presenting new material than of presenting various familiar concepts in a new light by presenting them as they relate to each other. You already have all the material you need; it is all around you, but it is like the scientist’s equipment.

Yes. They say that all the equipment in a laboratory is only designed for one thing, to turn the scientist’s head around until he can see things differently, or see straight, something like that.

It is another way of saying that words are sparks. That’s what we’re doing, and it is all you need, sparks. That is one reason why questions and objections serve as catalysts.

I have received a few, but I don’t have them handy. I haven’t printed them out. I need to be more systematic about it. Meanwhile –?

Meanwhile, we’ll give you a very practical how-to. We’ll try, anyway. Start with anything that is on your mind, particularly if you don’t exactly know what you feel about it, or don’t know why it is on your mind.

That’s easy. I learned last night that my old friend Frank Callaham died two years ago, and I didn’t know.

First, look at what you do know about your reaction.

Well, I was sorry that we had been in so little touch that he could have gone and I not known, nor that I would be fresh enough in his family’s mind for them to remember to notify me. So many years since I’d seen him last. I could have called.

So, that is one: regrets. And?

I see, writing this, that my reaction to Frank’s death generalizes, and reminds me how little touch I am in even with people I like very much. That is, it reminds me that I don’t touch their lives, nor they mine, in any meaningful way on a day-to-day – or even, often enough, a year-to-year – basis. That’s another regret, more general but not less true.

And does it lead to resolutions?

Not really. Somebody told me a few years ago, people don’t really keep resolutions per se. Either they change [behaviors] or they don’t, but if they do it is because of a change that occurs, not because of a determination that they ought to change.

Let’s pause right here. (We didn’t have to go very far at all with this. In fact, it almost spoils the example. But let’s pursue it.) can you see that the right question raises awareness within you? Now, such awareness can be shunted off into guilt, or steely-eyed negation, or indifference, and none of these (or other) automatic reactions will do you a bit of good. Automatic reactions in themselves never lead to greater self-awareness, although observing them can. This is a way to observe them, then create the possibility of actively modifying them. You see the distinction?

Yes, I think so. Making a resolution, by itself, doesn’t really change anything, because it doesn’t touch the underlying dynamic. The same automatic mechanisms, the habits and robots and what-all, will continue to operate in the same old way. But making those mechanisms conscious creates the ability to modify their instructions, so to speak, and get them working for you instead of (inadvertently) against you. I wrote about this years ago, in Imagine Yourself Well.

Yes, but this is an application of that technique that didn’t quite occur to you. In this case, it amounts to your bringing into active awareness whatever is vaguely in your mind, seeing what is involved, and deciding about continuing or changing or discontinuing whatever process – whatever habitual reaction-pattern – you discover. It needn’t involve trauma, or guilt, or any of the negative emotions. It may be as simple as realizing that you enjoy doing X and maybe ought to do more of it. The common denominator here isn’t “fixing things,” but “consciously deciding.”

So, in this initial example you became aware that you wish you had kept in physical contact with someone you cared about, then allowed the specific to generalize to a description of your relations with people (not to say the entire outside world!) in general. Had you left matters there (as you would have been inclined to do, had you not paid attention to it), a vague regret, even a pointed regret, and nothing changed. But as we held your attention there, we tacitly pointed out that you were assuming an inability to change your pattern. Like all assumptions, it was automatic, unconscious, hence not within your control. Like all such uncontrolled mechanisms, once made conscious it became under your control. So once you looked at it, you saw that of course there is no need to assume you can’t change; only, neither grim determination nor blind optimism will do it. You need to know what, you need to know how. It isn’t hard, but you need to use the right tool for the job. Hammers don’t turn nuts, and neither do good resolutions. Wrenches do; possibly you can even turn it by hand; but you don’t get torque by hammering.

I get it.

So next you look at the roots of the unconscious assumptions. What made you think you couldn’t change pattern? Then, how did the old patterns serve you? Then, how have your needs and possibilities changed? Then, how could you reprogram that particular robot or habit-system or Helpful Henry so as to give you what you want right now?

And it is always what you now want. You may change your mind later, but consciousness is now, not then. You may be conscious of other times, but you are still conscious – if you are conscious – only now, whenever now may be.

Ram Dass said it long ago, and I remember struggling to understand what he was talking about. Be Here Now. It seems so obvious.

Times move, and you move with them. Every external age has its unique pattern of what is easier or harder. This is an aspect of “external” that so far we have ignored. But, not today. For today, yes, Be Here Now. That is the key, because no work can be done in sleep, as you know Gurdjieff said.

Suppose I hadn’t given you a place to pause right away, around the issue of choice. What might have come next?

It might have gone in any of several directions. (And it still may, of course. It’s up to you, and certainly doesn’t need to be done in public.) One might be, what did (do) you get out of leading so unnecessarily solitary a life. Another, what led you there? Another, what are the trade-offs involved, and are your first assumptions about tradeoffs accurate. It could go in many directions peculiar to you the individual involved. But the generalized pointer we are providing is simply: Pay attention to the things that seem to be floating around in your semi-conscious moment-to-moment mind; these things will provide you with a menu of things available to be more fully understood and, if desired, changed or eliminated. The rest is merely technique, and a pretty simple one, at that, as described.

And there’s your hour.

Interesting. Shorter than usual, but filled with meat. Our thanks, as always.

 

3 thoughts on “Nathaniel — a practical how-to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *