Notes from March 30, part II
...If the efforts and the exercises were the practice; one would already know how to practice, and one would be getting those beautiful and marvelous "results" that everyone wants… or, at least, thinks they want – because when and if a person really got "results", they deeply conflict with established ways of Being, making one distinctly uncomfortable and leading to the discovery that everything one believes is, in one way in or another, subtly contaminated and false...
This, of course, isn't the kind of "result" that people really want; yet a subtle practice actually leads in that direction. Real awareness produces a profound spiritual discomfort, and even anguish. Folk often shy away from this confrontation and discover ways of obliterating it by going into the "silence", by accepting immersion in stillness and nothingness… which is not enough, and actually consists of an avoidance of life-Being-responsibility.
In any event, getting back to this idea that people can "do" something. This is simply impossible. I can't do anything; all of the activities I undertake are just placeholders for real activity. When real activity arrives, it’s the result of the work of the organism, not me; the spiritual body of practice becomes actionable (assumes its own authority) and begins to take precedence over all the manipulations I impose on myself.
When the spiritual action, the inward action, takes precedence, it is because the inflow is taking place. I am what is called "open" in the Gurdjieff work; of course there are various other words for it, but in the Gurdjieff work that specifically means the same thing as what Swedenborg does when he talks about the inflow.
It’s the arrival of the Presence that can transform. Nothing else has that ability.
That Presence is not my presence. When I start talking about “having” a sense of Presence, I am already using the wrong words for it. I never "own" a sense of Presence. My Being hosts a Presence; but that Presence is not me. It comes from a much larger place and has much more power than I have; in fact, unlike me, it can “do.” And this is the difference between what I think about work and what work actually is. The difference between actual practice, and thinking about preparing for practice by doing exercises.
One never knows when the Lord will arrive. This isn’t a date or time marked on any calendar. And when the Lord does arrive, when this presence does manifest, it needs to be most available always within life– not in the context of some ashram or meditation chamber.
Living, inhabiting my life, is not a cloistered activity. Real being is designed to travel every road and meet every person, not be shut up in a closet somewhere where it can light candles and chant. Real being encounters the moment—the unevenness, the otherness, the discomfort of other human beings, and takes that into account lovingly — because presence has loving it, whereas I do not.
I should like to remind everyone that love is truly the aim of inner work. This is so often forgotten; and just as much as one ought to have an organ in one that constantly reminds oneself that one has an irrevocable sensation of Being, one also needs to grow an organ that loves. Or, to put it more exactly, that can receive love; that has an irrevocable feeling of Being. That organ isn’t the awakened mind of sensation, which receives and is a vehicle for Being. It is the awakened mind of feeling which can receive real feeling.
In this sense, our body (sensation) and emotion (feeling) are simply mirrors that can reflect the image of God's Presence, God's love. Presence without Love is worthless; love without presence is unstable. One needs both; but there is tangible hierarchy in which there must first be Presence before there can be Love. There may be unstable possibilities where Love comes before Presence, but they are not durable, because presence is the foundation upon which love is built.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.