Julyan Davey
Supporting the emergence of life affirming, transformative cultures.

Self Observation: The Awakening of Conscience

Self Observation: The Awakening of Conscience

Date Read: 28/05/20

My rating: 10/10

(See my list of other books I've read)

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Discover the Terror of our Situation. As human being driven by a multitude of parts when we look we discover we are completely out of control. In one moment we decide to stop drinking in the next we are down the pub swigging away. This book is packed with tips on how observing yourself is the real pathway to transformation.


Chapter 1: Know Thyself

I am a machine. An automaton. A robot.

I am not aware but unconscious, habitual.

Habit is unconscious without volition or intention.

Because I am unconscious I do harm to myself, my relationships, my environment.

I lose the thread of who I am (as attention) and identify myself with as the body.

Habits have a lifetime of momentum and emotional force.

What can change is my relationship to this body of habits.

With steady self observation this identification can shift so we view the habits objectively.

(Like a scientist with a microscope)

Observation will show me what to struggle with and how to struggle.

I can begin to discern its patterns: intellectual, emotional, physical.

Everything must be verified by personal experience.

Faith is a gift of grace. But we can prepare the soil to receive faith.

Chapter 2: Inner Processes

Self-observation reveals exactly what is needed and wanted by each individual soul.

The act of self observation is the only change a human being needs to make in her behaviour.

Everything else arises as a by-product of this practice.

To attempt to change anything is error and leads to trouble.

We are souls in a mammal body.

Body has inner functions: intellectual, emotional, instinctive and moving.

Each uses a special energy unique to its function.

Each function has its own energy centre or 'chakra'.

Each centre operates with a different energy and at a different speed.

Instinctive center = Fast

Intellectual center = Much slower

In each of us one centre dominates.

One of the first tasks of self-observation is to observe these centres in action and sense the quality of energy which is appropriate to the workings of each centre.

Chapter 3: Fundamental Principles

The Four Fundamental Principles of Self-Observation

1) Without Judgement

Judgement keeps me blind to myself.

To observe without judgement = hold the attention steadily on bodily-sensation.

Law of maintenance: what does unfed weakens; what gets fed grows stronger.

Either box feeds on attention and grows stronger. Or attention can feed on the Box.

The aim for the work is to make the soul a free and stable attention.

The soul is attention. It does not pay attention.

2) Without Changing what is Observed

The urge to change is a trap which keeps me enslaved in an unending cycle of guilt and blame.

It is the judge with tries to change what is observed.

The moment I am labeling the behaviour as 'bad' then I cease to observe.

When the attention remains stable and steady, fixed upon bodily sensation and keeping the body relaxed then the judge has nowhere to go except to feed the stable and steady attention.

Thought + Emotion = energy in the body.

Constant identification with the judgement process is known as contamination.

3) With Attention on Bodily Sensation and a Relaxed Body

No observation without sensation while observing myself.

Keep part of attention focused on bodily sensation.

There is always sensation in the body.

Attention must remain grounded = present. i.e. focused on what is right in front of me.

The body is always and only in the present.

I am free to choose my attitude at any point, regardless of circumstances internal or external.

Any time I am in an emotional conflict there is the practice of bodily sensation to help me not identify.

4) Ruthless Self-Honesty

Tell the truth about myself no matter how bad it makes me look.

Voluntary Suffering: beginning to see my contradictions without lies or judgements simply as they are in my. And I will suffer.

The work asks me to stand in this pain. Do nothing. Try to change nothing. Judging nothing.

'The human biological machine is a transformational apparatus'

It knows what to do with the energy if I do not interfere.

Chapter 4: Will of Attention

"Self observation is only possible after acquiring attention"

It is nearly impossible to practice self observation at first. Our attention is simply incapable of it. It is constantly diverted by thought and emotion and external stimuli.

We wander in and out of consciousness, remaining mostly in an unconscious, mechanical, automatic-pilot state.

Because of this condition the Work says that humans cannot 'do'.

It means that I cannot make a conscious choice and hold to that choice over a long period of time without deviation, and arrive at a successful conclusion.

I lack real will.

Instead I am a creature of habit: habit thinks for me, habit speaks for me and habit acts for me, in my name.

I do not choose, habit chooses for me. I have no will of my own.

I am an unconscious being, asleep inside and unable to act on my own. What is more I do not see this.

I cannot see that I lack will because to do so would require the most ruthless self honest, and for a long time I will not be capable of such honesty.

The situation is not hopeless, only nearly so.

However damaged my attention-function is, still it is possible for me to pay at least a minimal kind of attention to my inner processes of though, emotion, bodily sensation and movement.

I can begin to notice my moods and how they shift.

I can begin to notice my postures, how I sit, how I walk, my tone of voice and my facial expressions.

I can notice my negative emotions.

These provide me with a beginning practice in order to repair my attention-function.

Only through sustained and honest struggle to observe will my attention grow and develop. If it is true that "I am attention", then the development of attention is the development of the soul, and that is the task set forth for me upon taking a human body.

At first I can only observe with hindsight. That is I will see that I was caught in a habitual thinking, emotional or physical process and carried along in it without being conscious of it. I was identified with the habit and controlled by it. Judgement will follow.

I must choose consciously to look, to see, and to suffer my own behaviour towards self and others.

Instead, this is conscious suffering.

After a long time, attention will be strengthened and I can have brief moments of clarity in the moment of identification.

Finally, after much longer patient and honest self observation, there will be moment when I can observe with foresight. That is, in the moment of identification with a moment (find myself). This is the embryonic state of real will.

Stage 1: Focusing the attention on bodily sensation.

Stage 2: Coming to bodily sensation while in the midst of identification with a mood, emotion, movement or habitual behaviour.

Eventually, after long practice, observation with foresight blooms into its full maturity: the moment the energy of an incoming impression enters the body there is awareness, an alert attention and before the intellectual-emotional-complex can grab the energy and use it for its own agendas, attention is calmly focused on bodily sensation; I remember myself.

Thus there is no interference with the incoming energy of impressions and the body is able to act in its higher function as an "energy transformation instrument". It transforms the coarser energy of entering impressions into the finer energy needed to Work, to observe and to love.

Though my attention is weak and my will is also, there is the seed form in me, this will of attention which I can use to help myself develop.

Chapter 5: What to Observe

The intellectual-emotional-complex demands with urgency that I identify with it and then express its desire of the moment = whatever ā€œiā€ is arising and crying for attention.

The practice of self observation simply ask me to find myself (self remembering) and then manage the body: be still, stay in place, and notice what is arising moment to moment in the human biological instrument, without interfering in any way with what is observed.

Try to Observe the Following in Yourself

1) Unnecessary tension anywhere in the body.

More muscular tension than is required to perform the task at hand.

With attention focused on the body then the attention is free, it is not captured and devoured by thought and emotion.

I wish to remember who I am, who it is who is observing and what is being observed.

2) Unnecessary thinking

Any thinking which is not solving a technical problem or communication with others, not related to what is happening in the moment: when I walk, there is just walking, no though necessary; when I eat, just eat.

Unnecessary thought can simply become a trigger, an internal "reminding factor" to help me focus the attention on the keeping the body relaxed.

Thought has its place and is a most useful tool. It is a marvellously obedient servant but a cruel, ruthless and inefficient master.

3) Inappropriate emotion

Any emotion which is more than is appropriate to the present situation, extreme, dramatic reaction, not related to the present moment.

Can also be a "reminding factor" to help me refocus the attention on keeping the body relaxed.

4) Habit

Truth is the direct experience of life as love.

This insight is gained by non-judgmental observation of what is, exactly as it is without the mind's commentary (unnecessary thinking) or fear (inappropriate emotion) or tension (unnecessary tension) or reference to the past of future (habit) but simple, silent, relaxed equanimity, acceptance of what is, as it is.

Chapter 6: Intellectual Centre

The intellectual centre is asked to perform a task for which it is biologically and functionally incapable: run the life and be in charge of the human biological instrument.

Though is meant to be a faithful and loyal servant, not the master.

The mind's main terror is that there are things which is does not know how to think about.

The whole aim of intellectual centre is control. It obsesses about control because it sees that my life is out of its control and it cannot do what it is being asked to do.

Thought gains its dominance and control by simply not being observed.

Chapter 7: The Capture and Consume Cycle

Everything eats and is eaten, this is the law.

What gets fed grows stronger, who doesn't get fed dies.

Different traditions have different names for the ego's chief or salient or central core, its foundational neurosis or belief system.

I am addicted to my flaw!

I believe in it and give my life to it.

It is this which control the intellectual-emotional-complex.

It is this which captures and consumes attention.

We can call it you 'petty tyrant'.

We are constructed in such a way that we cannot see our own flaw, but can easily see our neighbours.

Each of us has a flaw which is meant to be food for the developing soul.

The blind spot steals the energy of attention for its own food.

It uses intellectual and emotional centers symbiotically and creates of them an interacting complex called the intellectual-emotional-complex (sometimes called the labyrinth.)

Sometimes it will manifest as a pattern of thought, sometimes as an emotional pattern or habit and often thought will trigger emotion.

For me, "I'm no good" is the way my blind spot manifests in action.

The blind spot feeds and thus grows stronger. It acts in a feeding cycle, that is it has two halves which form a single symbiotic unit.

The cycle has only one aim: to capture and then to consume the attention.

Thus the contamination eats me.

Handled in the right way: the blind spot feeds attention, its energy is transferred to attention.

How the Feeding Cycle Works

1) Capture

First there is the action. Any will do.

The advantage I have over the blind spot is that such actions are totally predictable, and once I have seen them 10,000 times I can recognise them by their first appearance and know exactly where they will lead me every time.

Therefore I can be ready for it before it ever arises by keeping attention focused on the body, and remaining present in a relaxed body no matter what I am doing or what is going on around me: find myself, manage the body.

The attention can't be captured if it is in the right place = focused on bodily sensation and relaxing the body.

2) Consume

The second half of the feeding cycle follows the first half automatically, habitually, thus predictably: it is the judgement of the action (which is identification).

First the action, then the reaction.

When I try to change the action I observe in myself, I have only made one-half an observation.

The reason I wish to change the habit is because I have judged the habit (identified with it)

The judgement of the habit is the habit.

The ego = problem and fixing the problem.

Attention lives and grows stronger by eating ego = feeding cycle.

The first half need not capture the attention, if the attention stays at home = attention does not move from sensing and relaxing the body no matter how attractive the image thrown up before it.

The second half (judgement) need not consume the attention if it remains stable, steady and focused on the body and keeping the body relaxed.

Every unnecessary thought, inappropriate emotion and unnecessary tension is acting in the service of my blind spot and will inevitable and predictably lead to that blind spot and it will devour the attention once it has captured it.

Relax the body = honest body

What would happen if when such a pattern appeared for any reason my response was to immediately place attention on the body, keep it there, breathe into the navel and keep the body relaxed?

The effort to change what is observed is wasted energy - it never changes.

Instead what my be changed is my relationship to what is observed.

Every time I observe, something conscious in me is being fed, thus it grows, homoeopathically, one grain of observation at a time.

Nothing conscious is ever wasted. That is the law.

Chapter 8: The Default Position

The default position, the first responder in the central nervous system of all mammals, is the survival instinct.

Most humans live most of their lives in survival mode.

The survival instinct is located at the navel and it houses the two primordial emotions: rage and terror.

Each of these primal emotions triggers an accompanying action.

Rage ā†’ Fight

Terror ā†’ Flight

Survival is always and only about "me".

The instinctive centre is the first to know and respond always.

Why judge it? The mammal always reacts according to the instinctive centre. It is not wrong. It is the way it is meant to be.

The person of the Work has a choice as to whether I react to the surge of the survival instinct.

I have a choice whether I act according to its urgent command: Fight or flee!

I can choose to find myself, manage my body, observe without reacting, without judgment, without changing anything, and keep the body relaxed when the adrenaline surge is sent down the central nervous system, preparing the body to fight or flee.

The conscious being breathes in the navel (instinctive center) and relaxes the body.

Thus the energetic surge is transformed into a higher and finer energy which we call love or wisdom or simple Work-energy.

The emotional center is many times faster than the intellectual center. It measures one thing only: the amount of danger in any situation or moment or person. The greater the nurturing (less danger) the less tension in the body.

There is only one energy and it is continually flowing in the body. This is Love.

Chapter 9: Multiple I's.

We are not a unified being inside (a single I) but a multitude of "I's" inside.

A self divided, fragmented into dozens even hundreds of fractious competing warring "I's".

I am at the mercy of whichever "I" happens by pure chance to be present at the moment I am faced with choice.

Seeing this is what Mister Gurdieff calls "The terror of the situation".

A disciplined mind is the rarest thing on this Earth. It is one in a million.

The war is within me, the terrorists live in hiding in me and they depend for their lives upon remaining hidden from my attention.

The suffering produced by the practice actually builds and develops something in me which the Work calls conscience.

Dictionary definition of conscience: a moral muscle to help us decide what is right and wrong.

I suffer because I see over and over and over and over just how easily I am taken by the agenda of small "i's".

I see very clearly that I refuse to stop whoring and drinking never mind the cost to myself, my relationships or my life: I refuse.

Now I suffer most intensely, now I suffer in a whole new way and on a whole new level. This suffering feeds conscience.

Conscience is knowing the consequences of what I am doing to myself.

Try to observe in yourself the entire cycle of a single I - not only the acting out of its agenda, but the resulting judgement about that action, and the feelings about self which resulted as well: that is the entire "cycle of the I". Not just one half which is the action but the other half too, which is the reaction and judgement and feeling about myself.

"Sometimes I eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats me."

Chapter 10: The Denying Force

No inner or outer movement can take place in this world without resistance.

As the being attempts tog row and mature, to advance, it will meet with lawful resistance within. It cannot be otherwise.

The greater the effort, the greater the inner resistance.

The very nature of mind is seperation, negation, denial, resistance, refusal.

I cannot simply meet resistance head on with an opposing force. The result is a stand-off. No movement is possible.

Self observation and the accompanying self remembering provide such a reconciling force in me.

Resistance becomes a very useful guide to signal me when I am on a right path.

"If I see it, I don't have to be it" - Jan Cox

Resistance is lawful. Use it, don't fight it. Simply observe with equanimity and a relaxed body.

Chapter 11: Buffers

The buffer system is an elaborate system of distractions which captures the attention and prevents me from seeing how the labyrinth captures and consumes attention.

The "buffer-system" is composed of many things but there are five general classes.

1) Blame ("not-me")

2) Justification ("me-but") this is how I make myself right no matter what my behaviour is.

3) Self Importance ("only-me")

4) Self Pity ("poor-me")

5) Guilt ("bad-me")

These five things hold great interest, one might even call it fascination or obsession to the attention, which is easily diverted and distracted from observation of the labyrinth.

Observe unnecessary tension.

The great law of the Work is: Pay attention; go slow; be still.

Buffers exist as protection for a fragile psyche. If I saw the fragmented and divided self directly, as it is, the shock and horror of it would destroy me.

Chapter 12: Seeing and Feeling

Seeing comes from the intellectual centre and is one of its true and basic functions.

Feeling comes from the emotional centre. When attention is placed on seeing my own contradictions, the shock of this will cause me to suffer. Feeling this suffering is one of the true functions of the emotional centre and allows it to learn its proper, lawful place.

From seeing, intention arises in the intellectual centre. By itself intention cannot do, but it serves to focus the intellect and awaken its organic intelligence.

From feeling, wish arises in the emotional centre. By itself wish cannot do, but it serves to focus the emotions and awaken 'feeling-attention'.

Intention and Wish become the seed form of real will and the ability to do.

When these two centres are combined with bodily sensation, which comes from the instinctive centre, now I have three centres working harmoniously.

Chapter 13: Becoming a Hypocrite

Every time I violate conscience, I am a hypocrite. And I must stand in that feeling. I must feel it without running away via distractions. I must suffer voluntarily.

The miracle of conscience is just this: all I have to do is "see" and "feel". It will do the inner Work of transformation.

If conscience is God and I do not have any evidence to the contrary, nor any reason to doubt this teaching, then when I violate conscience with me, it is the suffering of the Creator which I am allowed to geel.

Chapter 14: Voluntary Suffering

The suffering which arises from self observation without judgement is known in the Work as "voluntary suffering".

Voluntary Suffering arises from the horror of seeing the divided self without the protection of so many buffers. I see myself as I am, not as I have always pretended to be.

Nothing needs to be "fixed" here. It is only given to us to be a witness to the Work of our Creator.

Voluntary suffering is called in the Christian tradition, the "Way of the Cross".

Chapter 15: Thinking Outside the Box.

The awakening of intelligence occurs when I come to realise that by myself I cannot chant.

I am trapped in a loop, a recurring cycle, a box.

The mind is a binary computer. It can only think in one way: by association, comparison-contrast, this and not this, black-white, good-evil.

What I call "thinking" is merely the mind's memory function examining its contents, which is the past stored as memory.

It seeks to convince me that thinking is the most important thing I can do and that if I don't think about everything all the time, I will die. Once it convinces me of the centrality of thought, now I am identified and it is in control.

When I think about God, or infinity, these are concepts and they are inside the Box.

Everything you know is inside the box. If you know it and can name it, it is inside the box.

What is outside the box is the category of things unknown, which is reality.

This includes love which cannot be known, spoken about or understood.

To move outside the box I must begin to comprehend the universe in a new way, not through the intellectual centre's activity. The intellectual centre must become passive, alert, receptive; it must remain in the mode of "I don't know", organically ignorant.

Faithful self observation over a long period of time will bring me to the state of "I don't know".

Real intelligence comes from outside the body, from higher centres, and it comes in form on intuition and inspiration, higher intellectual and emotional functions.

The mode of apprehension of reality outside the box is direct experience; the mode of comprehension outside the box is intuition, and the mode of expression outside the box is inspiration.

These are the modes of real intelligence.

Real intelligence is the awakening of the clear channel between heart/mind and higher centres so that I can receive wisdom.

It does not come from me, but is received by me.

Three definitions of insanity:

1) Repeating the same behaviour over and over and expecting different results.

2) A self divided.

3) Not trusting reality

Only patient and steady self observation will reveal what is trustworthy in me.

Does the mind have any pratical use at all? Absolutely.

1) To observe

2) To solve technical problems in the present

3) To communicate with others

4) To serve attention and intelligence

5) To align with the heart.

Chapter 16: Being Shock

Only a great shock will penetrate to the level of being.

I see that I am a total, helpless slave to my psychology and that it will never change.

To see this truthfully is horror. It is this horror which awakens the being from its unconscious paralysis.

The only thing that can ever change is my relationship to what is observed: without identification.

Without my identification, the labyrinth cannot maintain its continuous tape-loop. It cannot enact its programs.

As long as the being is not conscious of itself, it cannot see what is consuming it.

Chapter 17: Not Doing

We must make a conscious choice to choose Work mind over neurotic mind.

We must see neurotic mind in its totality, in its death.

The dominance of the Labyrinth depends on continuity of thought. Break that continuity and its dominance ceases because judgement ceases.

I no longer operate from an agreed-upon definition of reality, but from reality itself. This entails an acceptance of reality without desire to change anything. It entails non-interference with what is.

I live in the unknown, in organic ignorance, which is intelligent because it is in direct contact with the source of wisdom, without the interference of memory.

Being emerges as the active principle only when it ceases its identification with the intellectual-emotional-complex.

Conscience is the emotional centre transformed into the feeling centre. Inspiration is from this higher feeling centre.

Conscience receives direct information from these centres in the form of intuition and inspiration.

Intuition and inspiration operate in and are functions of the unknown.

Once there is a shift in context within, the function of this complex is to translate what is received from intuition and inspiration into language and images which can then be shared with others: communication.

Only when I have reached the point of exhaustion, breakdown and hopeless despair, only then will I consider a shift in the context from which I view my life and the world.

Chapter 18: The Deer in the Tall Grass

My struggle and practice is to be present in the body, moment to moment, and to return to presence within the body the moment I remember.

To be radically present to the presence within, the essential being, requires that the attention be focused on bodily sensation.

Every contamination, no matter its kind or content, produces tension in the body and at whatever point this tension exists, the inflow of energy impressions is stopped at that very point.

The result is that the flow of energy in the instrument is severely compromised, the contamination is being fed its own kind and type of food and the being is starved of its real food. The being starves and the contamination grows stronger.

In the practice of radical presence, it is the contamination which becomes the food for the being.

Just as a chick inside the eggshell feeds upon the yolk, the being feeds upon the ego.

The attention at this point may be compared to a deer in the tall grass when the hunter is present.

The attention does not identify with them and they are left powerless, because they have no energy of their own.

The body is allowed to assume its higher function as an energy-transformation apparatus; it transforms the energy of the incoming energy-impressions into a finer quality of energy.

Thus, the energy feeds the Creator instead of the ego.

Contamination becomes my ally: a reminding factor that takes me immediately to my inner aims: conscious attention, kindness, generosity, forgiveness and hard work.

Cease identification with what you are not and the hunter has no more ammunition, your suffering is at an end.

Chapter 19: Carrying My Own Cross

Once conscience awakens in me, it suffers every time it is violated. This suffering is of an order of magnitude that I am not used to.

Our practice is to do two things with this suffering: see it and feel it.

Masters have said that conscience is the direct line of communication with the mind and heart of the creator.

Awakened conscience is the thing in me which can be trusted. It is the True Friend within.

Capturing the power of the blind spot and aligning it with my work is a feat of power, a "magical pass".

Conscience will change everything, and in its own proper and appropriate time and way. I can change nothing and if I try I will make an awful mess of things, just as always.

Chapter 20: Higher Centers

We are here to learn how to love, without limitations, expectations or conditions.

Unconditional love is the Creator entering fully, lawfully and by invitation only, into the human biological instrument.

Conscience is the receiving mechanism for the action of higher centres in me.

Earth is the school, a kindergarten for souls, where undeveloped souls are sent to learn.

I must collect and store the vibratory energy of incoming impressions, rather than allowing the Labyrinth to steal it and use it up.

I must begin to "eat" the vibratory energy of incoming impressions.

A carrot enters the body as a very coarse energy which the body cannot use. It must be transformed into a finer, subtler energy in order to be of use.

The incoming vibratory energy of impressions is coarse while the creator exists on a very fine energy, call it love for example.

Everything in the universe must eat, this is objective law. The Creator is not exempt.