5. Some Tools For The "Work" Room
What we are interested in here is upward mobility. We are not interested in worldly success. To be upwardly mobile means we have to try and see our own inner state. We must always be turning inside with the question, "What is going on in me?" Then, looking up, and from what we know of the Work, from what we know of esoteric teachings, and from what the Lord has taught us from Revelation, we ask for the help to understand what is going on inside us in regard to our responses. That is what we are trying to be aware of and all the Work is trying to help us do that.
In order to separate from the societies that like to act through us, or the different 'I's in us as the Work calls them, there are some tools we can use. One of the most important ones to start using is Self-Observation. Start to observe yourself objectively. Start to see who you are, how you react and what your proprium is like. Start to observe your automatic thinking. Observe your rationalization and justifications. Non-identification when the hells are acting through you is right effort. Say to yourself, "'It' is angry, I don't have to be. 'It' is irritated. This is not me. These are the hells flowing through me and I will not act from them." To not identify with what is going on is right effort.
It is useful to observe yourself during a day noticing how you respond to things, looking not only at yourself and the impressions that come in to you, but turning around and looking at your reactions to them, which is your internal world. (Your thoughts and your feelings in relation to the external impression.) See that the day of your observation is a miniature of your year and see that the year is a miniature of your level of being or of who you are. Observe the Societies you hang out with in the Spiritual World, the company you keep. To do a task like that you must use Self-observation.
We know there is truth and we know there is good. We know there is thinking and there is willing. So there are two sides of the Work, right thinking and right effort. One without the other is no good, just as faith alone will do nothing for you. Working without truth can get you into a lot of trouble. You are limited by what you understand and what you believe to be true. You also must know that what you believe to be true means absolutely nothing unless you try it; unless you do it. The other entirely different story is truth from good, or learning things from trying this Work. That no one can ever tell you. It can't be yours until you try it.
Right Thinking and Right Effort
I want to talk about some important tools that help in the Work. Right thinking is needed; some knowledge of appearances that we must come to know are only appearances. Swedenborg says there is appearance and there is reality. The appearance of the senses, that the sensual corporeal man believes, the appearance that life is the way it appears, is not the way it is. The truth is given to us from Revelation and without it we wouldn't know what's going on.
All of the following are appearances: I am, I have a self, I am the source of my feeling and of my thoughts. All are appearances! You can behave differently once you know these are just appearances because you are available to different, higher influences. You can have a different relationship to states that come in to you. Another appearance is that man has unity. The reality is that man has many 'I's or many states. The importance of knowing this is to realize that states change. You think, "I'm always a nice guy." Then you see yourself when you are not being a nice guy and you can get rid of what the Work refers to as a "buffer," or a blind spot in relation to your contradictory behaviors and attitudes. Often we act a certain way and yet think of our self as a person who would never act that way!
Another appearance is that externals are causes. The natural man thinks, for example, that a coach treating a kid badly can make him angry. That is the appearance. You get a letter that you think made you furious, or irritated. There is the appearance that the external world is the cause. The external world is not the cause of anything. It is a receptacle of everything and the result of everything and the cause of nothing. The real cause comes into you. So the cause of you being angry is not another person. The cause of you being angry is hell coming into you, using that other person's behavior to justify their existence in you. Think about it. How could a piece of paper with some ink on it "make" you get angry? Paper is just paper. Remember that hard teaching from the work: if you get negative it is always your fault!
Another well known appearance: Life has meaning. Everybody knows you go to school, you study hard, you gather money, you get married and you get a nice house and cars, and a successful position, and that is what life's about. And everybody knows that is not true. There are people who have done all that very well and they generally come to a point in their life when it doesn't mean anything. Life has no meaning in itself. Right thinking on this is that all meaning is spiritual meaning. Love and affection and the opportunity to express love and affection has some meaning. A man can be really happy, but nothing external can make him happy. Money can't make him happy. Life cannot make you angry and life cannot make you happy. Real meaning comes from your relationship to the spiritual world. It is only through that world that we find happiness.
It is another appearance that the ability to reason, or logic, equals truth. Through observing your negative states you will find that the hells are not irrational. They are very logical. They will tell you that this man mistreated that child therefore I have a right to tell him my mind and it's good that somebody should do this. The appearance is that it makes sense. Truths, however, contain good. Truth is the form of good. You can never have a truth that will contain hate, anger, irritation or contempt. It cannot be done because those feelings are not forms of good. It doesn't matter how much sense it seems to make. Don't consult logic, consult what kind of feelings are trying to come through to you. Is heaven manifesting itself? Or is hell going to manifest itself? If you hit your child, no matter how logical it is, if done in anger, it wasn't heaven. (I'm not saying you might not spank a child sometimes from a good affection, but look at the affection, not the form and not the logic.) The basic thing is to rise above the appearance.
If you are driving and you start to have fear, the question to ask yourself is, what is going on spiritually? What is going on? Some hells are trying to enter me. What are they doing? How are they entering? What are they telling me? What is the thinking process they are getting me to go through? Then ask, what is the reality? And what is trust in the Lord? How does trust in the Lord feel? What is the "as-of-self"? Who is right here beside me, helping me drive this car?
When you start to ask those questions, then life is a teacher or an exercise you can learn from. Before that you are just mechanical in relation to what happens in life and life pushes you around, like a machine. We merely react to incoming impressions. But the Lord would have us not merely react. He says "Choose life."
If you took a big magnet and called it life, and you took a bunch of nails on the ground around it, and called the nails people, you would see how it is. If the nails were close to the magnet they would jump around. You would see some nails jump this way and some that way. And you would see clearly that none of the nails have any life of their own. They don't have any choice about it because they are too close to the magnet. If you are an external corporeal man with the hells continually operating through your proprium, letting life cause everything, there is trouble. If that is the way you are looking at things you are just mechanical, like a nail is to a magnet. A baseball coach comes up and yells, you get angry. He comes, he is an influence, and you react. You are just a machine, that's all. The only way to not react to the causes in life is to start to realize that they are not the causes! Start to have causes from the internal. If you let life be the cause of you being happy or you being miserable or you being sad, then you are a machine and at the influence of the hells. It is just like the big magnet and you are one of the nails. If you observe you will see that.
The first part of right effort is what the Writings are all about - right thinking from Revelation. All right effort takes effort and attention. It takes effort and attention to not behave like a machine. Your behavior is going to take effort and attention to not yell at a kid who you have been coaching all year long and who just missed the ball when it's your big game and he's stupid, always looking down instead of looking where the ball's going, or whatever he is supposed to be doing. Right thinking is not going to come automatically. In relation to what is going on, when you are getting upset, or you're getting scared or you're angry, etc., right thinking is to not think from that emotion, to not think from life or those lower influences that pull you like a magnet. Right thinking is to start to think from doctrine. What is going on here? What would the Lord say about it? What does Swedenborg say about it? What does Revelation tell me about this? You are trying to think from those points of view about what is going on in you right now. That is different than just going over there and kicking the ball, or hitting the kid, or yelling at some driver in traffic. It is different because we are letting thoughts come into us from higher influences.
Inner stop. relax and sense
I'm going to put these three tools together because we can use them in order to separate when negative states come into us. A young man who nearly drowned asked me to teach him to swim. He had fallen into the water and in trying to swim he found he could swim in one direction but could not turn around. He started to drown. So he was afraid of the water. He asked me to teach him to swim and I wanted to teach him to swim. But the first thing you have to teach someone who tries to swim when they are terrified is to teach them how not to swim. Because when people are in a panic and try to swim they try to do what's right and it doesn't work. So the first thing I had to tell him was, "Don't swim! Don't move a muscle!" Well, his mind was racing like crazy and his whole body just wanted to start swimming. You could see it. So he was there, not swimming, and all of a sudden a smile started to show up on his face because he realized he couldn't drown as long as he didn't frantically try to swim. He always thought he would sink like a rock. I had looked at him and knew he would not sink like a rock. He would have to work at it to sink like a rock!
Now these three tools are similar to that young man and his need to do nothing, to know the nature of the water before he could learn to swim. He is a metaphor for these three tools of Inner stop, relax, and sense.
When you are beginning to work on your negative emotions, the first thing to know is don't do anything. You make the slightest effort to fight with these hells and they'll kill you! So what do you do? You do nothing, first. You have this tremendous force of negative emotion and what do you do? You stop thinking, relax, and sense. You are going to be coming into your head like crazy. You are going to hear them. Your body will also want to do something other than relax. Instead, stop thought, stop your body. Don't be thinking, don't be moving, except maybe walking real slow and then put your attention on sensing. Stop your mind, stop your body and sense.
In the Work they give the example of the wild elephant being your negative emotion. When you are in a negative state you have a mad elephant. He's crazy. He wants to destroy the huts. The first thing you do is you take the mind away from him (you steal his thoughts by Inner Stop.) The next thing you do is take away the body from him (you relax the body.) With no mind and his body relaxed he can't destroy too many houses. So, here is a big emotion, but now it doesn't have any body and it doesn't have any mind. It can't do much damage. What they talk about is putting a trained elephant on either side of the mad elephant - that's a trained body (you've trained it to relax), and a trained mind (you have taught it to stop thought), and this mad elephant emotion is in the middle just tramping around and he can't do anything. Eventually you bring in Doctrine, a truth to correct the falsity, but first you use these three tools.
The man in the pool asked, "How long do I stay this way?" Until someone rescues you! You will find if you leave him there long enough he starts to feel the nature of the water. He's not trying to swim and he's no longer afraid of drowning, so now he is starting to feel and understand the water and there will be a time when he can swim. So that is the story of these three tools, Stop thought, Relax and Sense. A few years of doing them and you'll be in good shape!
Sacrifice your suffering and self-importance
People say, "How do you do that?" You just do it! You give it up. I'm at a wrestling match and I go to the hot dog stand. I am clearly the first one there. Someone walks up beside me and is asked what he wants. Another man comes and he is asked what he wants. Irritated, I start thinking, "I must be invisible." The guy serving hot dogs is looking right at me! So, how do you sacrifice your suffering and self-importance? You just give it up. Who do you think you are in the order of things? Big deal! Just drop it, that's all. And you sacrifice suffering. All that pity. You have good reasons to be pitied? Give them up. What do you get in return? You get to relax and enjoy yourself. You get to feel good motives. Just sacrifice.
Life is to be met with Non-identification. When this is possible, life becomes one's teacher. In no other sense can life become a teacher, for life taken by itself is meaningless, but taken as an exercise, it becomes a teacher. Nothing can change your being so much as this practice, mainly, to take the unpleasant things in life as an exercise. Imagine someone got a new pair of skis for Christmas and then it snows. And everybody else is complaining about the fact that it is snowing except the person with new skis. That person is really excited.
So now you have a lot of new tools. When you get negative you should be really excited because now is the opportunity! You can't use these tools unless you get a negative state to work on! So as soon as it happens you can be really pleased because now you can try out some of these tools! There is a part of you that can say, "Now is the chance! Let's try!" But be aware, there is also a big part of you that doesn't want you to remember to work. (Nicoll, Commentaries, Vol. I)
Observe and then sacrifice your suffering and self-importance in a specific instance. Just give it up! And come back ready to report what it was like for you to do that.
Example: You start to feel really sorry for yourself because someone didn't notice you or didn't give you a full greeting.