“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” -Oscar Wilde
I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone
Today I would like to share a little story from the life of one of the most enigmatic men of the last hundred years. This man is the often misunderstood mystic hailing from Russia, George Ivonvitch Gurdjieff. This short story has a significant insight into our daily affairs and our psyche.
When Gurdjieff was a little boy, his father, while lying on his deathbed called Gurjieff to his side to impart some last words of wisdom. Gurdjieff’s father was a poor man, but he said that what he was about to share with him helped to live like the wealthiest man on earth. He asked him to pay very close attention and to please repeat everything back to him, because only then could he die a happy man. He wanted to be sure that the young Gurdjieff would remember the advice that his own father had passed down to him from time immemorial.
Gurdjieff’s father advised him that whenever anyone insulted, annoyed, or irritated him, to just remain cool, to not react, to simply tell the person that he has received his message and please give him 24 hours to think it over. Then he would come back to try and resolve the situation.
What is the significance of this advice? Well, one of the things you will discover is just how insignificant most disputes are, when you just give your self the space to see things more clearly. In twenty-four hours time, you should be able to see the situation more like an impartial observer.
In a heated argument, people become totally identified to their emotions, to their egos, thereby they act in a totally unconscious manner. By taking twenty four hours you create a distance from the situation, you become unidentified from it. Being unidentified you have the clarity to look into the situation. You may see that there wasn’t any problem at all, but it would have easily become a problem if you had identified yourself to it at that moment. And if there really is a problem and you are to blame for it, you now have the opportunity to thank the person for making you aware of it. You where able to see the situation much more objectively. With this objective view in mind, you may now act in a responsible way. Responsible, meaning you respond with conscious actions. When you react, you are only half conscious. Only after the fact do you realize what you have done. Often times with disastrous consequences, that we may have to pay for, for the rest of our lives.
Identification is man’s only sin, as Gurdjieff would say. Once you experience this insight on the practical level of your human affairs, you need to observe it within the subtlety of your inner psychological world. You need to be able to see what it means to be in an identified state of being, and also see how it feels to be unidentified to something, yet remaining aware and alert. You will sense the difference in the quality and state of your consciousness. In one state you act intelligently in the other you simply react like a robot.
You learn to see the importance in dis-identifying your self from your body, thoughts (much of which is just your imagination), and emotions. In learning to distance yourself (meditation, self observation, yoga) you create the necessary space for proper self observation. Through proper self-observation you gain a deep understanding of yourself. You start to understand what it means to be “self” conscious, which in other words means being being aware of your presence from moment to moment.
People wrongly believe that they already possess this state of being. We wrongly believe that we are conscious of our selves.
Seeing The Madness of The Mind
Try this little experiment: For 15 minutes try and remain present to yourself. Just be here now. Feel all the sensations in your body, but as soon as a thought arises in your mind, just jot it down on paper, don’t censor it. Don’t worry you don’t need to show anyone, you can trash the paper when your done.
Okay,…now are you afraid? Does this resemble more the mind of a crazy person? This is just to show that the mind is madness, also to show you how each thought is completely independent of the previous thought, but because we are always looking for associations we give it the illusion of continuity. We give meaning to random thoughts that have no connection.
All these thoughts arise from the various personalities we have, that are shaped by our likes and dislikes, many of them only imagined. If you study your thoughts you can see how they belong to several distinct voices. Yet we believe it is always one personality, this is how you are able to rationalize anything.
This will show you how fragmented we are, and I feel our current fast paced lives are making us increasingly fragmented. The more fragmented we become, the more contradictions we live with, the more contradictions, the more unconscious we become. You will then actually see how much of our day is spend inattentively, how easily we forget our “selves”. If we really possessed consciousness we would have the will power to place our total attention on anything without loosing our sense of self. Your simple feeling of “I am”, your acknowledgment of your existence in the moment.
Going Beyond Emotional Suffering
By constantly observing your self you realize how poorly we really do understand ourselves. Just in the way you are able to see others and judge their actions objectively, you slowly start to see yourself in the same manner. In seeing yourself like you see others, you will expose many of the things which you unconsciously choose to hide. For many of us it is a terribly painful experience to bring our “faults” to the light and no longer run away from them. This is when you learn what it means to voluntary suffer. You see that this is the only way to heal the emotional scars that we carry within us.
We are a slaves to all the various thoughts, moods, and emotions that are constantly changing within us. Our attention is so easily taken wherever the wind blows, all because we become identified with whatever comes within our field of observation. In the act of observation you forget about the observer.
When you learn to be more mindful, more meditative, you will learn to remain aware of the observer and the observed simultaneously, this means you remain unidentified with the objects of your observation. If someone comes and insults you, you remain present to yourself and just passively observe what buttons this person has pushed and the reactions that want you to act on them. Clearly seeing the thoughts of anger rise up within me I choose not to become identified and thus they lose their grip on me and I remain cool.
Developing the right attitude is key, because at first you will see that our emotions are much faster then our thoughts. If someone hits an emotional nerve, the speed is so fast that you will still react in-spite of your new understandings and observations. At this point, it’s important to still observe how you act out your reactions. You will become more intimate with the causes. Later on, through your constant watching, you will be able to stay ahead of your emotional outbursts.
Next time someone comes and insults you, try to remember to stay cool. Take a deep breath. Bring your awareness to your breath. Let the person say what they need to say, give them your full attention, but don’t forget your “self”. Thank them for expressing their opinions, and then tell them you need some time to let everything sink in and you will get back to them tomorrow.
Now, in the meantime just observe anything that arises within you. Don’t judge, just see, like your watching clouds in the sky float by, but don’t give them any importance. Just learn to stay aware of the witness who is aware of the thoughts. Realize that who you really are is just the pure awareness that is aware of your thoughts and not the thoughts themselves. The problem is people have become so strongly identified to their thoughts that they now solely derive their entire sense of self from their endless streams of thoughts.
The mind is just an endless random stream of thoughts. Most people have never experienced the gap between their thoughts. The gap is you. This keeps you trapped in time. The moment is always in the eternal now. Thoughts simply being a response from memory are from the past. Seeing the world solely through the filter of your thoughts forms a slight haze on your vision. You don’t see reality as it is. If you sincerely inquire into this you will realize how insubstantial and empty thoughts really are. Yet your whole life and identity is built on a foundation that is largely only in your imagination. Thoughts only live in the past and project themselves into the future, but your simple awareness always resides in the present moment. Your true identity is beyond words and any mental label.
The more you dis-identify yourself from your thoughts, the more aware and responsible you will become. You will see that how you interact with the world will completely change. You will be able to handle life’s situations much more intelligently.
Next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, just take a deep breath, and remember to give yourself 24 hours. I am confident you will save your self much unnecessary suffering and will gain a deeper insight into yourself. Thank you for reading my post. Please share any personal insights that you may have in the comments below or send me a message.
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