Making the Right Effort

For students of spirituality, any moment not spent working to rise in consciousness is a moment lost. We fall back into the sleep of identification drifting into the sleep of life.

We are often so immersed in the hypnotism of life that we forget our spiritual journey. Mr. Tavaria calls this state drifting. Gurdjieff called it identification.

Even as we read this article, are we making a conscious effort or are we drifting?

There are two kinds of effort — mechanical and conscious. Everything we do in life is mechanical effort. We may be very successful or well-known. We may have risen from poverty to riches. But whatever our story, all this is mechanical effort.

Conscious effort is the effort we put in to come to the present moment and divide our attention in two. It is the effort we put in towards achieving the state of self-remembering.

When we put in effort, we must see the motive behind it. The beginning of conscious effort is the attempt not to express negative emotions, to pause our reactions.

For example, we may be full of resentment and anger but do not express it because we are with our boss, or we are in public and concerned with how people would perceive it. We may want to protect the image we’ve created of being calm and silent, which we enjoy. However, if there are no outside deterrents, we express our negative emotions very easily. All this is mechanical effort.

In other words, anything done with an expectation of reward or punishment of any kind is mechanical effort.

It is imperative that we cultivate an aim that stands apart from the aims of mechanical life—things like a good education, money, a good family life, or fame. The aim of rising in consciousness is not a mechanical aim like all of those, it is a spiritual aim. This aim must be cultivated in our emotional center, that is, we must value this aim. This value should become our motivation to make conscious effort, which starts with a pause in the expression of negative emotions.

Conscious effort consists of effort in two directions: the path of knowledge and the path of being.

We must first intellectually understand this entire journey. That is to say, by applying our minds, we must understand what is meant by self-observation and self-remembering.

This discipline of ideas that provides the intellectual concepts to make conscious efforts upon ourselves is called the Work. And the spiritual journey begins by trying to understand the ideas of the Work.

The second step is to put the ideas into practice. The Work says not to express negative emotions. So, we start working on our reactions by pausing them. This is the beginning of our work on being.

The path of knowledge and the path of being go hand-in-hand and work simultaneously. This is to say that as we apply the work on ourselves, we gain new knowledge. This knowledge has not come from the outside–we have not read it somewhere. We gain this new knowledge by the application of the side of knowledge upon the side of being. This is the beginning of self-knowledge.

The work says to observe our inner thoughts, feelings, sensations, and muscular tensions. Through this observation, we gain an entirely new knowledge of their workings that has not come from any outer source.

As we rise to higher levels of consciousness, we also rise to higher levels of being. By applying the knowledge and practicing the work, the results we see lead to an inner state where we understand the work and understand how the pausing of negative emotions, self-observation, and self-remembering have led to a higher state of consciousness. This is the state of understanding.

In that moment of understanding, it is as if a light of intelligence has sparked in us and in that spark of light we have darshan, the seeing of reality. This is the awakening of intelligence. Without this understanding, there is no consciousness–for that light is the light of consciousness.

As we collect more moments of understanding, the light remains for longer periods of time. The application of the knowledge of the work upon our being leads to a flash of intelligence in which we rise in our being. The whole spiritual journey is the gathering of these flashes of understanding.

Every moment, life comes to us in the form of events, both pleasant and unpleasant. Earlier, we lived under a deep hypnosis of the events of life. Now we try to understand why we are always running away from the unpleasant and running after the pleasant. Once we have understood that these are our basic reactions–asking for more of the pleasant and disliking the unpleasant–we begin to pause them. This is the practice of non-identifying, the practice of pause.

To be able to work upon ourselves requires a certain amount of energy. To be able to pause, practice self-observation, and learn self-remembering, we need a certain threshold of energy. If we do not have that, we cannot hold those states. Therefore, to bring about the change we want through the practices of the work, we need to gather more energy. Without this, we cannot move an inch–we will only be able to memorize the work intellectually.

Just imagine – we’re attempting to replace our deeply ingrained, mechanical habits with conscious ones. The push of energy we will need is immense.

In our last article, we looked at energy from one angle. In the next, we will look at it from still another angle.