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20. Reporting a Task

I want to read from St. John of the Cross. It is just a small piece of his work. It is in relation to the formatory mind. I think a lot of people are so used to their internal dialogue that they believe it is their thinking or their rationality. When you ask people to give up their internal dialogue they think, "Well if I give that up, how do I know when to get to work or what I'll do Saturday afternoon?" They think that is their thinking power. So if you say, "Give up your internal dialogue, give up your likes and dislikes, give up your opinions and your self-importance," they somehow feel that they are being asked to give up an important part of their intellectual mind or their rationality.

The Writings talk about the rationality being higher than the natural mind. The Work talks about the formatory mind and that it should be there to record information. Instead, it got stuck on play. So it keeps giving back things you have already heard and you get entranced. You think it's pretty intelligent because it sounds like you, but of course it is always saying things you have already heard. But there is a higher level. There is a kind of knowing, a perception, that is higher than our thinking. We get there by getting our formatory mind to stop talking and start doing its proper function of recording. St. John of the Cross refers to this as giving up the part of the mind that talks and talks and seems to know so much. If you read St. John of the Cross you know he spent a lot of his time giving up that part of his mind. He writes:

I entered into unknowing and there I remained unknowing, transcending all knowledge. I entered into unknowing, but when I saw myself there without knowing where I was, I understood great things. I shall not say what I felt for I remained in unknowing, transcending all knowledge. That perfect knowledge was of peace and of holiness held at no remove and profound solitude. It was something so secret that I was left stammering, transcending all knowledge. I was so whelmed, so absorbed and so withdrawn that my senses were left deprived of all their senses. (Juan De La Cruz, The Poems of St. John of the Cross, p.59)

We have good states and bad states, good feelings and bad feelings, good days and bad days. We often may compare this to success and failure. On this subject Meister Eckhart writes:

Keep your eye on the functioning of your inner life and start from there. If you have faults, then pray often to God to remove them from you if that should please Him, because you can't get rid of them by yourself. If He does remove them, then thank Him. But if He does not, then bear them for Him, not thinking of them as faults or sins, but rather as great disciplines, and thus you shall merit reward for the exercise of your patience, for He does give to each according to what is best. Truly, I am so content with all God does, whether he gives or withholds, that there is not a cent worth of difference between my condition and the best condition that I could imagine for myself.

A good man never complains of his misfortune or his diseases. He may only complain of his complaining, that he should even be aware of it. It is for a man to take everything that comes as if he had asked for it, nay, as if he had prayed for it. (Raymond B. Blakney, Meister Eckhart, A Modern Translation, pp.37,38,49)

You can see that St. John and Meister Eckhart are describing states that perhaps we haven't achieved, but they are within us and possible for us.

We talked last class about the context in which you have your experience. You will remember that I was walking along the golf course and my context was that I had worked hard all day, left my car at the wrong place, was going to have to work further at night and I was going to have to miss my supper. Within that context I was miserable. So the question is, how did I remember that that was the context when I was in the middle of the golf course? I wasn't on the train, I wasn't home, the day had ended and I hadn't started with my client. How does one maintain that context?

The spiritual world has no time and no space. It is very fluid and flexible. For instance, if you have affection for someone they are there. If the affection changes they disappear. Everything is a manifestation of your state, so it's fluid, unlike this world. So, I had that context and I noticed that in order to maintain that negative context, I had to work very hard. And if you'll notice, you may lower your head, your eyes stop focusing and you actually have to maintain that memory of having worked all day, and imagining being home and not having had your supper and having to work, and thinking about the fact that you left the car somewhere, and you maintain that context for yourself. It takes effort to do it because what you are maintaining is actually a spiritual thing that has no reality.

If you stop internal dialogue, it all starts to crumble. But you may experience yourself pulling it back together, because there is a certain amount of pleasure in those negative emotions. As it starts to crumble, you start to lose that pleasure. So you pull that back: "Oh yes, I've been abused. Poor me." And you build up all those things that define it. I did want to mention that you have to actually maintain that kind of picture.

Now we'll go around and review how some of you did on your task of changing the context during a negative state:

Woman: Of all the tasks you have given us this is the one that worked the best for me. I had an opportunity that very night to try it. My daughter got home about ten o'clock at night and I had to try a dress on her that I had to finish the next day, and I had to do chemistry homework. So she got her brother to do her homework and refused to even look at the dress until that was done. I was dead tired and going away the next day. "I've got to get this dress tried on," I thought. Almost an hour later she puts the dress on and the slip doesn't fit and has to be totally remade, and I am livid! And I need sleep, right? I got into bed and bed felt real good. I breathed deeply and I removed the context and I was asleep in five minutes and my husband couldn't believe it. It really worked!

Peter: Great. So, by not maintaining the context, by realizing the context itself was allowing that emotion to be there, when you gave it up, it disappeared!

Woman: Yes. It's not so easy, though, when I try to remove the context that I'm worried about my husband who's away now. It's harder to get the worry out of me.

Peter: So how do you maintain your worry about your husband?

Woman: The little voices are back there.

Peter: So there's a certain internal dialogue that you keep up that reminds you to be worried about him. If you changed the content of your dialogue, you might forget to be worried about him?

Woman: Yes, every once in a while I get a glimmer of that.

Peter: We talked about imagining I was in a hot sauna when I was really in a hot car. That would be on the same level, as to context. If I reminded myself that the Lord is overlooking, that He's in charge, that would be a level shift in context. We are so often concerned about a loved one, and that level shift is something that has to be done. A trust in the Lord taking care of someone that you love is an experience that is sometimes hard to allow in. We need to let that in.

Woman #2: In general, I've noticed that negative thoughts come in and they don't have the power that they used to on my state. Like in an overview from when I started the class till now, I really notice the difference in the negative power. There has been a real progression in being able to apply the tools. A time when it came to my attention that I was having

negative thoughts was in church. I was watching people coming in and I would just have these thoughts about the people. I was really startled and alarmed at the things I just took for granted: "Oh, I don't like her because..." Really a lot of people got it. I don't remember exactly what I did, but in changing the context I saw them without the judgment and it was such a freeing thing!

Peter: Then they became real? When you gave up the burden of judging them?

Woman: Yes! The judging really takes something away.

Then I had an experience today in which I haven't achieved that freedom yet. I still think I am right on a negative thing. So I haven't been able to alter it. I still think I am right on it.

Peter: Do you see that thinking you are right about being negative to a person, attaches you to the negativity?

Woman: Yes. I have felt that, "anybody would feel this way..." and that it is true!

Peter: Like, "I'm right about this! It's true! It's not my fault. That person..."

Woman: Yes.

Peter: There is a part of us that wants to be attached and prevents us from finding the falsity. 'It' is just as happy to sit there and have that attachment. To really work to get rid of something that is pleasing, is hard. It is impossible for those 'I's, the non-work 'I's, to do that. They are very gratified in feeling, say, contempt of someone, or superior to someone. So it is not those 'I's that will work, and for a long period of time the Work 'I's may not be able to work - all they can do is to observe the truth that if you are still believing it you are attached to it and that you can't separate. But then there comes a time when you can start to work and with long thinking if you wish to be free, you can be free. Even if it is something simple to work on, it is worth doing because the process of working until you find the falsity involved in that reaction, and then having the experience of being freed, is the exact same process that you would use in working on something that is very difficult. So that's why they say practice swimming in calm water or practice the Work with minor negative states because the steps are the same although the content may differ. The process is the same, so that is why it is so important to work on the little things. Usually the proprium feels the little things are too little to bother with and the big ones are too hard to work on!

Woman #3: I got really upset. Really upset! I couldn't believe it. I didn't know why. I was really hot, the house was stuffy, all the porch furniture was still sitting with a big cover over it, and I didn't have the energy to clean it. And I just noticed how I was and I really worked at trying to stop those terrible feelings and they wouldn't go away.

Peter: How did you work to stop those feelings? What steps did you take?

Woman: I was trying to stop thinking - to Stop Thought. I couldn't do it. Then I decided well, I will just let go of how I feel. What I wanted to do was sit on my porch where it was cool and I also realized that I was very disappointed about something else that I wanted to do. I wasn't getting what I wanted. I saw all those things, but I couldn't get out of the bad state. The only thing I could do was to take one piece of furniture and I sat there and washed it and concentrated on that job I was doing. I didn't think of anything but scrubbing that furniture and about 3 hours later I wasn't acting cross any more, but I couldn't stop the horrible feelings and I couldn't get myself into another place.

Peter: In a large negative state, let's say what we'd call an overwhelming negative state, Ouspensky talks about the rabbit in the jungle. He says there are times when a rabbit is in a jungle and the rabbit's only defense is his camouflage and not moving. If he makes any movement he will be devoured by the predatory beasts. He compares that to very big negative states. At that point, often the only thing you can do is to do nothing. So focus your attention on one thing at hand and wait for the daylight to come in the jungle when the predatory beasts go back in their holes. But if you try to do anything more than doing nothing, you will just fail. There's an awareness of that - if I move I am dead meat - but if I stay still and wait for the light, wait for the change of state, which will come, then I don't get killed. So I don't bring about great changes, but on the other hand I don't expend a lot of force on those negative emotions. I put my energy on one task and then stop wallowing in the negative. The negative sphere is still around me, but I stop wallowing in it. So that is very good work and in a lot of states that is the best work you can do.

Woman: I did realize that I would get out of it, and I even told the people around me, "Just back off. I will be fine, sometime."

Peter: There is a saying in the Work: "This is a state and this state will pass."

Woman #4: 'It' wants to pass, instead of taking my turn! Once, through no doing on my part, I did the task. I mean I noticed that I did it. It happened. It was a very repetitive reaction I was having. I mean by that it was mechanical. I've had it often! The task was very effective in removing the negative state. Changing the context took the negative feelings away, it took the negative thoughts away, but without much work. It just happened once or twice. I hadn't been aware enough to really put much concentration on it or work into it, even though I love this class and I love your description of doing this task. I had thought, 'Oh that's going to be so great. That's really going to work!" Well, it will.

Peter: But it did work for you once, right?

Woman: Right, it did once.

Peter: That shows something. If you're perceiving something from an evil society or an evil associate spirit, the nature of what you are receiving appears to be one way and it appears to be real. If you shift and see that, (you can't see it differently from that state) but in your case you noticed a shift and saw it from a different point of view. So if you see it from a good society, or a less evil society, it will immediately have a different emotional feeling to it because of where it comes from. What that shows you is that the place from which you perceive, determines the nature of your thoughts, so it isn't caused out here, it's caused from where you are perceiving it. You noticed the shift and the shift did produce an emotional change - an affectional change, in you - which confirms the reality of where your world really is. So it doesn't matter that it is not a big thing. It matters that it happened and that for you it's real. You had a real experience and it is not theoretical anymore.

Woman #5: I began thinking I didn't have a very good imagination for getting into another place or context. I would be going into a situation that I knew would be putting me into a bad mood, and just by knowing that it would put me in a bad mood, it helped the bad mood go away, but I couldn't really change it. I could say, "I don't want to be doing this," and realize what I was doing to myself, but I couldn't see it and make changes.

Peter: So you still have a passive relationship to it and haven't been able to be active and really change it, but the first thing to do is to check it out, from what you are observing. They say before you make any changes, check it out really well. It's like if you are breaking out of prison, you don't just run to the gate and jump over, or you might get shot. You might spend a year studying the guards' behaviors, when they smoke, which ones walk fast, which ones don't pay attention, when they get a drink, when they daydream, when the shadows are here, when the moon's there, etc. I just read a quote that someone sent me of Lincoln who said, "If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first six sharpening my axe."

So, that observing stage is extremely important. People who grab and immediately try to change a state often come back and say it is impossible. So observing is a good stage.

Observe that you were allowing it to be a bad state and how you go about that and know that there will be a time when you can work on it.

Woman: Generally, I noticed similar things to what has been said. But I have almost a habit now of shifting the negative thoughts to something more positive before they really get into my feelings. I feel very grateful about that because I use to live in a negative place almost all of the time. And so in a two week time span there aren't many times when I got into a big negative frame of mind. One of them, though, was settling in as I brought in the groceries. I'm not real crazy about grocery shopping and I have this routine that I go through in my mind about, "How many times do I have to touch these stupid groceries after getting them from the store?" I like to play this tape in my head, like I'm really working hard. As I was doing this, I just shifted the context to, "My goodness, look at this incredible abundance that you have here! Look how easy it is to get - you just walk into this building where everything you ever thought of and more besides, is there. You don't have to go outside and hoe or dig, you just get out some of this green stuff that comes from your husband..." So that really finished off the negative state really well.

Peter: That's great.

Man: I found it to be a very effective tool and I want

to thank you for all the tools that we were taught. I used this task frequently. I had three examples of where it worked very good. In the first one we were upstairs saying prayers with the boys and one of them was fooling around and I immediately got furious. I said, "Come on!" and then I suddenly switched the context and thought, "My teenage boys still come to say prayers with us - and want to!" Thinking of that fact just changed the whole thing. I was no longer irritated with him at all. That change was instantaneous. Another time was when I was with the fellow who was going to be my summer task [Make a friend of an enemy, or someone you formerly had a negative response toward]. I was trying to be friendly with him and he said, "Get lost!" All these examples of contexts are actually the truth, and the truth of that one is, or the context that I tried to put it in, was that I'm not trying to get him to like me, I'm trying to like him. And this is going to be much better for me because it will put me more to test. So I got a lot of good out of it without it upsetting me. And then there was last night. And this is one that will be an all summer job. It's called soap box cars. There is nothing I hate worse than putting things together or building. My son wanted to go to this meeting, so we go there, and I find out it's going to cost a lot of money for us to build a soap box car. I said, "Well how long is this going to take?" They said, "Supposedly 50 hours, but you better plan on 100." There were people there who I know are handy with their hands, so I was not very pleased, but my son wanted to do it. Afterwards I said to him, "I don't know if I really want to do this. Do you really want to do this?' And it's a battle since I'm still trying to change the context so I will see this as an opportunity for me to work with my hands. There will be people who know how to do things and I will be able to get advice. I'll also be working with my son and I'll be able to get some good time in with him but it is still going to be hard work for me.

Peter: One way to approach a large negative like that, over time like the hundred hours you spoke of, is not to approach it over a hundred hours. I know that the writing-up of presentences at work, for me is an overwhelming task. So when I have to do presentencing I say to myself, "Let me know when the part comes that you can't stand." And then I only focus on every little new part. So now I'm taking out the paper. Can I stand that? Sure, no problem. Now I'm taking out my pen. Okay, that's not hard. Now I'm calling the U.S. attorney. Is that a problem? No, that's not a problem. Now I'm talking to the defendant, is that a problem? No, that's not a problem. And I find absolutely nothing during the whole process that can't be tolerated. It is thinking of the whole job that I can't stand, and find intolerable, but there is no single thing within that procedure, that I can't stand by itself. If you can break it down into moment by moment work, it becomes possible as an overall task, just as climbing a mountain starts with one step. So that's one way to do it, other than trying to change the context of the whole event. Isolate it down to that one-or-two-second experience of which you may say, "This is it! This bothers me!"

The other thing you found out is that during the other two times you did the task you got a gift. When you asked for a change in the context the spirits immediately flowed in giving you the affection you felt for those thoughts. The Lord said if you knock, I'll come in. And He really means it! The good societies are really there. Nicoll keeps saying there are higher influences. You have to believe that or otherwise there is no point in working. But if you listen and you open yourself to higher influences, they will come in, and you will find that a change actually does take place. That is what it is all about. Observe the context. Listen to it and think "Is this a time to use the exercise?"

One thing to listen to is that part of you that starts to sound like an attorney making a case. You know, when one of you was describing, "My porch was hot, I was tired etc." Realize that you are making a case, self-justifying why you are so angry, or why you deserve pity, or why you have been abused. Listen to 'IT' say, "You know, I go to work and my supervisor...I can't believe it, he gave me another job...." When you start to hear that, you are developing your context to justify your emotional response.

Here is Maurice Nicoll talking about listening to ourselves:

We are told in this work to try to listen to ourselves, and to listen to things coming to ourselves. Of course if there is nothing to listen to outside of ourselves this would be absurd advice ....You have to remember always that there are higher influences playing on us at this very moment, but that if we are glued to our senses, completely identified with all that we are doing, we cannot become aware of these influences. ... You can easily get into the stage in life, and most people remain in this stage of life, of making for yourself a pit of negativity, hopelessness, self-pity, internal consideration and also contributing everything to external circumstances to outside people and finally, of being totally identified with outside things that have really no value. Also one can go down into the pit of making no effort in oneself. When you are talking, you are liable to get your feet in this mire. You must have all noticed that when you have been talking at random, saying all sorts of things about others, you lose force. But if you have not been doing this, you feel stronger in yourself. Silence means that all sorts of mechanical "I"s in you have been checked and deprived of their desire to speak. If you do this, you will understand what strength means.

We reach a certain stage, perhaps of personal work, and then fall again into the mire. At first we may not have noticed it, but after a time we really become aware of our inner state and then if the Work means anything to us we begin to feel that we cannot bear to be in this state or this mire. This means that the inner taste of this Work has begun to work on us. Then we are no longer made unhappy simply by adverse external conditions, but we begin to be unhappy in quite a new way, namely with regard to our inner state and to where we are in ourselves. When this stage is reached we may be sure that the Work has begun to work on us directly.

There are many other ways of getting oneself out of a bad inner state. You must understand that no work is possible unless you get into a bad inner state, because these are tests, (if you like they are temptations) which are absolutely necessary. You will not learn to swim well unless you are often dropped into the water. And it is always surprising that some of you think that if you pass into a bad state it is because you cannot do the Work. It is just in these states that, in fact, you can do the Work.

Now in conclusion, as regards the Work finding a way for yourself when you begin to give it a place in yourself, let me say this: Everyone has problems and troubles. No one is without them. We try to find solutions and we try to find final solutions as if afterward there would be no further trouble. Remember that there are no final solutions to anything. To try and find the final solution to anything is like trying to do away with the waves of a storm. You have to have a good ship, a good rudder, and a good compass. The solution is learning to become a good seaman. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.III)


Let a negative 'I' have its say. Keep the feeling of who you are in your observing part while letting the negative 'I' have its full say, down to the last word. After it has said all it wishes to say on the subject, then present the other side, another (more charitable) way to look at it. You could think of this task as different 'I's in you presenting their case to a judge. Often it is useful to do this task with a partner.

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