Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Great Work

Currently, I am finding my life full of such mystery, such wonder.  When I think I know who I am the Universe pulls the rug out from under my feet (who's feet?) and reveals to me that we only ever, as our "little selves" see part of the picture.  As St Paul (Saul of Tarsus) says: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."  In the Western Mystery Traditions this mirror is known as The Great Work, or Magnum Opus.

There are different aspects to this Work.  Just like the picture we often see and believe things of ourselves that are our own delusions.  I'm not talking about paranoid delusions, nor a "break with reality", in fact what I'm referring to, is that we often have created our own reality and overlayed it upon what really Is.

On one level, the Great Work consists of working within this illusion/delusion, improving, tweaking, changing, developing it, etc...taking it at face value as a given in our day to day life and making the best of it.  One might call this self development.  Another altogether different aspect of the Work is the stripping away of the illusion of our relative existence.  This is not a denial of our little selves, but a recognition that everything we think and believe that we are, rests upon & has its support upon something far more profound, primal to, behind, before, and outside of who and what we think we are.  This has been termed the Beatific Vision, the Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, Jyana (pronounced gyana) in India, and many different names in many different cultures.

In short, ask yourself...if you can remember prior to the inculcation of facts and beliefs, politics, religions, maths and sciences, when you were a very very young child, "Who Am I?"  For example, long before my world started to grow, long before my "disability", long before I understood that there was a "great big world out there" of my minds creation, I can remember, running through the grass and trees and hillsides of Northern New Jersey, feeling the wind on my face, the earth under my feet, and Understanding "I do not know what any of this is."  This wasn't a problem either.  Quite to the contrary, you might say I was drunk with the Mystery of it all.  Not having a lable to overlay upon my experience I was, you were (and we still are, if we just look) open to it, fully,  at all times, in all places.

I'm reminded of the great guru or teacher of the Sikhs, Baba Nanak.  He spoke thus: "there are no Hindus or Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, or anything else, there is the parenthood of God and the brotherhood of mankind."  Well, Nanak traveled by foot all over India, China, and the Middle East...and he visited Mecca, the holy place of Islam.  Nanak fell asleep with his feet facing the Kaba, the holy place Muslims believe to be the house of God, built by Adam.  Some one, seeing this wakes Nanak in anger, telling him how disrespectful he was for doing thus.  Nanak answered, in innocent embarrasment and wisdom "my dear brother, please then, pick up my feet and point them in the direction that God is not."

All religion contains within it the seed of truth, as well as the distortions and the "funhouse mirrors" that we place in front of ourSelves.  If we can drop these self imposed limitations, we realize that God/Truth/Reality is everywhere to be found "inside" us, "outside" us, and all around.  There is not any one thing that can possibly hide this Truth, excepting our own ignorance.

One of the greatest expressions of The Great Work I've experienced in a long time has come, not from a religion, not from a well established Tradition, but in the Self discovery of a once desperate suicidally depressed woman name Byron Katie.  After years of self imposed limitation, as she describes it, she "woke up to reality."  The reason I find The Work by Byron Katie so attractive, is that it/she assumes nothing.  She doesn't start from any observable religion or tradition, yet does not accept or reject anything outright, but she simple describes a process of self inquiry, consisting of four questions and a "turn-around."

She learned that we suffer, when we believe our own (unquestioned) thoughts, the stories we tell of/to ourselves, perhaps even hundreds or thousands of times in a day.  After a while she understood that it was not useful or likely even successful to try to "teach" or overlay her understanding on others.  Rather than do this she suggests the four questions:

  1. Is it True?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when I believe that thought?
  4. Who would I be without that thought?

The turnaround is a way of experiencing the opposite of the thought or story we are telling ourselves.

http://www.TheWork.com
I wouldn't and couldn't do The Work by Byron Katie (Katie, as she is usually called) justice by sitting here and trying to intellectually tell you how to "do it."  Hers is not a process of self-talk, persay, rather one of deep self inquiry and introspection.  One needn't use the questions to come up with profound quippy statements that further inforce our delusions.  The Work happens when we sit with the question, allow it to do its own work in us, in the Silent Place.  From that place, the most sobering, delicious  and liberating insights make themselves known to us, wiping away our delusions.

Hers is just one way to experience the freedom from slavery to our own stories, but it is an exceedingly effective one.  It is an expression of the Great Work that I have found personally to be more useful and revealing, or unvailing of my true nature, than years of psychology, "self-help", meditation and the like.  While all of these things still offer great support and insight into my "condition", none has helped so instantly as The Work as she describes it.  Don't believe my word for it...find out for yourself!

~Peace Out,

~Just Joe

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