"I" have spent a great deal of time and energy
trying to avoid disasters and avert calamities. Added to this
was an undercurrent of fear that inevitably I would overlook a hazard
that would lead to tragedy.
Recently at a meeting, I stated matter-of-factly that
I spend a great amount of energy preventing disasters. My
teacher’s response was, "Oh, that tricky machine."
At that moment I felt the humor in my position.
I was able to laugh at the part of me that believed it could control
life by attempting to control the small hazards of daily living.
I laughed until tears were streaming down my face. I understood
that this way of living denied faith and trust in Life and God.
This experience renewed my interest in a basic building
block in the Work: Separation. One of the great Work
teachers P. D. Ouspensky says: "You must learn to divide
the real from the invented. And to begin self-observation and
self-study it is necessary to divide oneself. A man must realize
that he indeed consists of two men.
"One is the man he calls ‘I’
and whom others call ‘Ouspensky,’ ‘Zakharov,‘
or ‘Petrov’. The other is the real he, the real I, which
appears in his life only for very short moments and which can become
firm and permanent only after a very lengthy period of work.
"So long as a man takes himself as one
person he will never move from where he is. His work on himself
starts from the moment when he begins to feel two men in himself.
One is passive and the most it can do is to register or observe what
is happening to it. The other, which calls itself ‘I,’
is active, and speaks of itself in the first person, is in reality
only ‘Ouspensky’ ‘Petrov,’ or ‘Zakharov’.
"This is the first realization that a man
can have. Having begun to think correctly he very soon sees
that he is completely in the power of his ‘Ouspensky,’
‘Petrov,’ or ‘Zakharov’. No matter what
he plans or what he intends to do or say, it is not ‘he,’
not ‘I,’ that will carry it out, do or say it, but his
‘Ouspensky,’ ‘Petrov,’ or ‘Zakharov,’
and or course they will do or say it, not in the way ‘I’
would have done or said it, but in their own way with their own shade
of meaning, and often this shade of meaning completely changes what
‘I’ wanted to do.
". . . when a man understands his helplessness
in the face of ‘Ouspensky,’ his attitude towards himself
and towards ‘Ouspensky’ in him ceases to be either
indifferent or unconcerned.
"Self observation becomes observation of
‘Ouspensky.’ A man understands that he is not ‘Ouspensky,’
that ‘Ouspensky’ is nothing but the mask he wears, the
part that he unconsciously plays and which unfortunately he cannot
stop playing, a part which rules him and makes him do and say thousands
of stupid things, thousands of things which he would never do or say
". . . If a man is lucky he may at
this time have someone near him who can tell him where he is and where
‘Ouspensky’ is. But he must moreover trust this
person, because he will undoubtedly think that he understands everything
himself and that he knows where he is and where ‘Ouspensky'
is. . . ." *
Each of us believes feelings and thoughts about ourselves
which are actually off-center. We waste exorbitant
amounts of energy, frequently unconsciously, due to these mistaken identities.
At times we may have an inkling that there is something askew in our
way of being. This understanding may lead us to
search for a way out. It may lead to a Work school.
In this school the first instruction is to observe ourselves uncritically.
Gradually through the discipline of self-observation, through being
willing to speak the truth, through being in contact with others who
are also working in this way, through the guidance provided by the teacher;
we begin to recognize some of the "I’s" in ourselves
that are Ouspensky (or in our case "Mary" or "John")
and not I. Oh the freedom in those moments! This
"I" is not I! This is not something I need to claim as
myself any longer. When this "I" reappears
it does not have the power it did before. I can choose to not
grasp it to my chest but instead to remember, "This
is not I." This is not necessary or helpful
to my well being. This is not in line with real I; it is not reality.
The work says this process of separating the false "I’s"
from real I is like peeling an onion uncovering layer after layer and
eventually we come to recognize our "chief feature".
Chief feature is the main hub around which the other "I’s"
revolve. When we recognizes "chief feature"
it is a point of real choice where we can begin to become free of our
false sense of "I" forever.
This is what we work toward. There are moments of
struggle, moments of freedom, moments of being right on, moments of
missing the mark completely, moments of joy and moments of frustration. Through
them all we move ever closer to separating from those "I’s"
that are not I, this process of separation allows our real I
* In Search of the Miraculous, P.D.