Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Photograph by the author
We sometimes hear the phrase “falling asleep in the work.”
We probably don’t hear this phrase enough; and it’s even more likely we don’t know what it means, because it's too close to home for us to see it.
To fall asleep in the work begins with only doing what feels good, what is familiar. Organizations and foundations, groups and so on, encourage this kind of behavior from the outset. They prefer to operate in accordance with fixed patterns; and because people prefer, actually, to behave like sheep, most instantly fall in line and develop a set of powerful habits. We thrive on complacency and the desire to create an environment where things are smooth and predictable. We prefer to agree with everyone (or try to); to say what others say, in the same way that they say it. All of this is, of course, a function of socializing and the undeniable work of mirror neurons, which are so important to many aspects of our psychology. Yet they undermine our efforts at awareness.
Accepting the status quo and expecting things to remain the same from week to week and month to month is a trap.
Lying to others in order to keep the peace is a trap.
Inner work demands a ruthless kind of honesty, yet even very early on Ouspensky (who can hardly be cited as a paradigm of the kind of “work within feeling” we aim for in inner effort nowadays) himself saw how impossible honesty actually was. Instead of grasping this with our feelings and struggling with it, it’s almost as though everyone has retired from the question because it is just too explosive to deal with.
We thus pour our souls into a false predictability which causes us to presume progress where none is made; we like things, and perhaps this is in itself the problem. If one finds that one is never doing anything new in inner work- or the outer surroundings which support it-well, this is already sleep, already habit.
If work does not make one nervous and uncertain, there isn't much going on. To work is to be troubled. If I am not deeply troubled by my inner and outer manifestations, and seeing that my reactions are negative far more often than I even know or care to admit, then I'm asleep.
To question everything begins at home.
May your soul be filled with light.