Materials for the online teaching group Inner Work for Spiritual Awakening     
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        NEGATIVITY


        by Ted Nottingham

Most daily negativity is based on self-indulgent, small minded, petty behavior that goes uncontrolled and is the result of years of habit and imitation of others. We have all had experiences where we recognized that our negative behavior was unnecessary. Any poisonous contribution to the psychic atmosphere of the world is not going to bring about harmony or good. We must get to that point where we have observed clearly our own negativity and what it generates in the world. We need to see that we are not in control, that we may want to act differently but continue to act in the way we do not want. Then we may begin to see that humanity feeds off this negativity which produces the consequences that we see all around us. Observing negativity can teach us reams about ourselves and show us why the world is in such a mess. It will also reveal to us that negativity is contagious and perpetuates itself.

Maurice Nicoll speaks of "becoming aware of a drop in level or sudden loss of force". The awareness of letting yourself go with a sudden moment of irritation is not a moral issue, but a loss of energy. We are to learn to value this life force that can be used for getting in touch with God or higher meaning. Negative states squander such energy completely. This beginning process of self-observation and separation eventually leads to being able to have a choice over the use of our energies which most people don't have. "If you're not quick enough, I's of this kind will get in and take possession of you and it may take days to get rid of them."(Nicoll, Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky)

Instead of being morose for three days and finally, some way or other, getting on with your life, become aware that on a particular day you didn't have the inner strength to not let this old habit come back in and take over. At this phase of the Work, all you can do is say:"it's taking over." You cannot keep it from doing so. Just being able to know that you have been taken over takes away some of the power of that phenomenon. When it happens unconsciously, there is nothing you can do about it. You will just be it. "We have to learn to walk in ourselves very carefully."(Nicoll) To take for granted our psychological landscape with its peaks and valleys, its dark and light areas, is to miss a universe peopled with all sorts of angels and demons. Our condition is to wander around in this vast and varied country without paying any attention to the dangers that exist there.

Just by the power of observation you will put a flashlight to this unknown world. You will begin to see the bad neighborhoods through which you do not want to travel. The esoteric metaphor of Christ born in a manger has to do with the birth in your manger, full of darkness and smells and animals, of the higher Self. The mystics say that it doesn't matter if Christ was born a thousand times in Bethlehem if he is not born within you, because then his incarnation was pointless. There is something precious within us to create. To do that, we must see our surroundings and make our way through them. Out of all of that which is petty and selfish and cruel within us, we must get to the point where we can say "not I, but Christ lives in me." That is the expression of being in touch with the spiritual self and that birth within is the Work. It is the birth of the unified self in touch with divine influences and cleansed of the madness and darkness which is the usual state of our being.

"It is no use arguing with unpleasant I's." When there are I's in you that seek to make you negative, struggling with them puts us on their level and we become emotionally identified with one side or the other. We either argue or resist them and stay engaged on that level. If instead we say "these are only I's, and I will not give them my strength; I will not identify with them and they will pass," then we can begin to have an effect on our inner state instead of just being subject to whatever turmoil is happening within. Eventually that real I in you will have more power. Behind real I lies God and that is why we struggle to get there, so that we can be in touch with God and know what that Will is for us, and have it come through our real I and guide our personality in the ways in which it is needed in the world.

As we are now we can do virtually nothing against the emotional forces within us. But if we start with the mental I's that are not as charged as the emotional ones, we can potentially control them and deal with them. Their speed is different. The speed of sudden anger is on a different scale than the speed of intellectual thought. Eventually, we can develop a mastery over all of the emotional activity within us. The Work lays down guidelines between what is right and wrong. Ultimately, this differentiation has to do with the aim of the Work, which is higher consciousness. Whatever takes away from that development is wrong, and whatever leads to it is right. What is it that interferes with the aim?-- automatic behavior, negativity, false personality. It isn't a moral judgement, but a practical and common sense approach to what is going to help or hinder our inner development. Life encourages wrong I's, namely the lower side of humanity -- aggressive, negative, greedy behavior. Those characteristics are clearly poisonous to inner development and yet are rewarded in this world.

Life and the Work have completely different agenda. Try to observe your negativity. Notice when you are negative, whenever it happens, in any of its forms. They include much more than anger, it includes frustration, vengeance, any feelings of irritation. The next step after observing your negative I's is to try not to express them. Simply refrain from expressing this negative I. An alchemical phenomenon will happen inside of you when you do not express it. The energy that would have gone into expressing this I is free energy and it will feed your real I and give you a sense of yourself. Try not to express negativity when it occurs to you and don't feel bad when it doesn't work because it takes a long time before you can get to that point. Sometimes we discover an I in ourselves that is "out to get us" because it wants our energy like a carnivorous creature. It will do anything it can to get us into a negative state so that it can nourish itself. This teaching is an alchemical method to take force out of such I's.

The idea is to turn the energy that would have gone into negativity into food for higher consciousness. This is not a process that seeks to uncover the reasons why that negativity was formed within you in the first place. What needs to be seen is not where it came from or how it happened, but to recognize that it is there and that it keeps happening. We then deal with that phenomenon in a transcendent way rather than in an analytical way.

Many people define themselves by their negativity. We are emotionally attached to our negative feelings. We enjoy them. They give us a sense of ourselves and who we think we are. They give us a sense of power because of their strong effect on us.

A first step is to try to separate the emotion from the activity. If you observe negative emotion in relation to your personality, let all of that go; don't listen to those I's; let them pass right through you, stay focused on the mechanics of the activity that you have to get through. If you focus attention on your writing hand, it will relax the muscle. Using that experience to be conscious of it produces a domino effect. You free your muscles to do the activity correctly, you free your psychology from some other connection and create a space of simply being. Intentional use of this ordinary experience of writing can then align you with a higher state. Attention to your hand writing can become a spiritual experience. There is also value in observing how the human machine works. This knowledge can make us more compassionate toward persons who have been formed and imprisoned by habits of fear and emotional attachment. Sometimes you can only observe something in retrospect. You're too caught up in it in the moment. The releasing of tensions can bring cleansing to these toxic emotions.

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