Journaling as Tool of Deeper Self-Observation by Maurice Nicoll

Deeper Self Observation: Journaling (p 448)

When the last paper was read here it was suggested by Mrs. Nicoll that people should observe their inner angry conversations and their own particular forms of self-justifying which repeat themselves continually in these deeply negative states that were spoken of in the paper. I am speaking now to those people who wish to work seriously. Mrs. Nicoll called the attention of the Group to the necessity of often writing things down—things which are the result of self-observation. I remember a long time ago that Mr. Ouspensky told us to write down the things that we observed in ourselves over a short period. He advised us however to lock the door in case anyone should come in and see what we had written. If things are written down they become clearer, for so much of our self-observation is inadequate. Incomplete self-observation is certainly inevitable at first. By writing down what we observe in ourselves we make the observation fuller. We remember more. I have advised you sometimes to keep some kind of private book in which you write down things about yourself, about the Work (Your Inner Work), about your observations. Supposing a person writes down in such a book his or her observations of inner complaints against others as they arise day by day over a period. It is of course necessary to be sincere with oneself when one does it. That is to say, it is necessary to write down everything. If you do this you will be very much surprised when you turn the pages over and see that exactly the same things were taking place in you a year ago or a year before that, while probably all the time you have been thinking that your complaints were quite new and fresh, quite exceptional, that you may have made inner complaints once or twice in your life before but certainly nothing like every day and every year. It is observations of this kind that give us a relationship to our lives lying in living time— in the fourth dimension. Now supposing that you find that you have always complained of the same thing in everyone, however different from each other the other people may have been—i.e. you have the same complaint against quite different people—what conclusion can you draw from this observation of yourself? (I remind you again here that I am speaking only to those who wish seriously to observe themselves and work on themselves.) What conclusion can you come to? The only conclusion that you can reach is that there is something in yourself that is working all the time of which you only notice the effects or results. The fault does not lie in the other people against whom you have these continual complaints but in something in yourself that you have not observed. Now the other people may know what it is, or something of what it is, but you cannot see it yourself. But once you have realized that this reaction of yours is quite typical, and you have always had complaints in exactly the same way, it will give you a shock. It will startle you. You will see that it is this complaining itself that you have to notice in yourself and not what you imagine causes it. Next time that these complaining ‘I’s begin to resume their customary activity the shock that you had may just be able to give you the emotional force to observe them before they start using your mouth in your name. You will have the shock of remembering yourself. You will have a moment of being separated from these ‘I’s—that is, you will no longer identify with them. You will see them as something in yourself to which you have been giving full sanction and full belief all this time and which you have been justifying and so nourishing. The Work teaches that we should struggle against self-justifying. Self-justifying means always putting oneself in the right. If a man always puts himself in the right in all circumstances he will of course never know what real suffering means. He will become negative, he will pity himself, he will seek comfort and pity from others and he will use a great deal of force in justifying all that he does. Such a man has of course no Real Conscience. When Real Conscience awakens in a man who knows what real suffering is. This only begins to happen to a man when he can bear it.

The Work teaches that Real Conscience exists in everyone and is exactly the same in everyone but that it is deeply buried. So we have to find it outside in the form of Esoteric Teaching which, when it is accepted by the understanding and lived by the Will, will begin to connect us with this Inner and Real Conscience by means of which we can know and see what everything is and its quality and use. Now if we continually justify ourselves—and who can stop it—we will always be in the right and the more our blame is pressed home on us the more, so to speak, will our pride and vanity make us, as it were, kick and scream and shut our ears and refuse to listen. I mean that when better and more conscious ‘I’s in us try to speak to us in the midst of our self-justifying, we simply will not listen to them and maybe very violent. They will get their chance at a later stage when our attack of sleep is beginning to pass away. Then we seem to be in quite another atmosphere, another light, which illuminates the mind in a quite different way. The state we were in, the ‘I’s under whose power we were, are at a distance now and can no longer hypnotize us. It is a very good thing in self-observation to try to remember what happened in this state, how things looked, what ‘I’s said what, what voices spoke, what arguments were used and so on, only you must be careful that you do not identify and re-enter the state. This can easily happen especially at first with rather chronic negative states. Indeed, it is sometimes a very interesting experiment to make with oneself to deliberately revive some sore place in the memory and observe what power it still has. As long as you are in conscious attention you are in no danger, but if for a moment your attention is distracted, as by someone coming into the room, a little later you will find all those ‘I’s that you revived actually in charge of you once again. That is, you have identified with the ‘I’s. But when you observe yourself in a state of attention—and all real conscious self-observation demands inner attention—you will be in no danger of becoming identified by calling up older scenes. It is like being surrounded by a magic circle when a magician calls up spirits, but once the attention breaks you may fall into the old state once more. Different states have immense power over us when we are in them. Everyone should notice this with regard to every side of life. When we are out of them they lose their power.

Usually we go round a circle of recurring states which exert power over us one by one in turn. Negative states attract other negative states to themselves and you will all have observed by now that when you are in a negative state your memory is different—the unpleasant things move up into the foreground and the pleasant things become faint and indistinct. Or again, say, the argument for a thing becomes emphasized and the argument against it becomes weak. You cannot be identified with unpleasant things and with pleasant things at the same time. In the case of ‘I’s, you are identified with one ‘I’ although you may see and hear another ‘I’. Sometimes by completely relaxing, knowing that one is in a wrong state, and trying to stop all thought and movement and tension both in the muscles and in the brain, the situation is quite suddenly reversed and a better state takes its place. You suddenly feel a change of sign in yourself. Everything becomes lighter. Or it is as if you had been wearing a lot of oppressive garments and they suddenly fall away from you and you feel free again. This stopping of thoughts and relaxing, which it is so important to practice every day, is a form of Self-Remembering. Self-observation without Self-Remembering is simply not good practice. The two things are quite distinct by inner taste and I would be glad if none of you asks questions now as to what is the difference. You can think of Self- Remembering from one standpoint as a kind of lifting oneself up from the uproar of things in oneself, or of opening a door and going into another room and shutting the door and sitting down quite quietly. Remember that when we are identified with all our thoughts and feelings, our emotions and sensations, our grievances, our inner monologues, our self-justifying, our account-making, etc. we cannot possibly remember ourselves. We are right in the thick of things, right in the noise of the traffic, right in the crowd—which is not oneself. It is a very marvelous thing to experience a moment of not being identified with oneself, with all this uproar, with all this ever-returning and useless turmoil. It is then possible to realize how we always identify ordinarily and how nothing can ever be real, nothing can ever be right when we are in this state. And we realize how true it is that help cannot reach us while we are in this ordinary state called the 2nd state of consciousness in this teaching. It is only when this quietness begins that help can reach us from the higher parts of our own centers, from higher centers themselves, which are fully developed and always working in us, but which can only reach us when we are in the 3rd state of consciousness —i.e. in some degree of Self-Remembering.

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