Our Inner Dialogue
The Inner Dialogue
by Will Parfitt
If we learn to turn off the inner dialogue we can reach a place of silence in which we contact our real inner power and purpose. We reach the world behind images, thoughts, fantasies, feelings, sensations and so on (the 'naugal'). This article concludes with a powerful heart-energy strengthening exercise.
"man as we know him is not a complete being ... nature develops him only up to a certain point and then leaves him, either to develop further, by his own efforts and devices, or to live and die such as he was born." - Ouspensky, on Gurdjieff's teachings
The Inner Dialogue
If you stop what you are doing for a few moments and simply listen to what is happening inside, you will discover that a lot of the time you are having an inner dialogue with yourself. 'Should I do what he suggests now, or should I do it later ... what's for tea anyway ... look, listen, concentrate on this, it's important ... I wonder if Mike will phone? ...' and so on. We create our own reality by keeping a dialogue going with ourselves about our world and what we perceive or imagine is happening. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it helps keep us grounded and able to relate to other people and the world in general (the 'tonal'). The problem is when we get caught up with this inner dialogue and forget there is anything else. If we learn to turn off the inner dialogue we can reach a place of silence in which we contact our real inner power and purpose. We reach the world behind images, thoughts, fantasies, feelings, sensations and so on (the 'naugal').
There are many ways of doing this, and it appears as the central theme in most practical teachings. For a shaman, there is no more important goal than turning off the inner dialogue. Indeed Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda that this is the most important goal in sorcery, for when it is achieved everything else becomes possible. In the Western Mystery Tradition, the same aim is described as one-pointedness. It is claimed that any thought which is held in this state of silence becomes a definite command since there are no other thoughts to compete with it.
In yoga, there are various practices which lead to the same goal. Firstly there is asana, controlling the body through various postures, then yama and niyama for controlling emotional reactions, then dharana for controlling the mind. These techniques have the single aim of achieving dhyana - which is turning off the inner dialogue, reaching a still, silent place within. Dhyana is the original root of the word zen, and the main aim of zen meditation is the same - to stop the rational mind and reach states beyond the incessant questioning, thinking and reasoning which holds us back from our inner peace and true identity. In Taoism the aim is again the same: in the Tao Teh Ching we are told that the tao resembles the emptiness of space; to employ it we must avoid creating an inner dialogue, which we can do through `making our sharpness blunt'.
Catching A Soul
Many of us have been brought up to believe that we have a soul that somehow, irrespective of what we do, remains constant and unchanged. From this position, it can appear strange to learn, when we delve into the teachings of most systems of self-development, that this may not be the case. We find that the soul has to be 'caught' or at the very least, 'developed' and cannot just be taken for granted. Looked at this way, it can be said the primary aim of the inner quest is to find a soul and then to work at connecting with it. Ouspensky sums this up well when, describing the teachings of Gurdjieff, he says: "man as we know him is not a complete being ... nature develops him only up to a certain point and then leaves him, either to develop further, by his own efforts and devices, or to live and die such as he was born."
Even in methods where not-action is stressed, such as Taoism, nothing can be taken for granted. For instance, in the Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu says: 'He who attains the Tao is everlasting. Though his body may decay he never perishes.' In other words, it is possible not to attain the Tao and, by implication, perish along with the body. With a few exceptions where it is stressed that there is nothing to attain and, more significantly, there is nothing to be done, everywhere else we find a division between the person who has and the person who has not attained.
It appears as if there are two threads running through most teachings about the meaning of life. On an outer level we may be told that all we have to do is have faith in some teacher or teaching and we are doing enough. Once we start questioning, however, and commence our inner quest, we find there is an inner level where we are told we have to achieve something or we are lost. In Hinduism, for instance, on an outer level we are led to believe that the soul is inately and indivisibly one with God or the Absolute. Then we are told that, for this to be realized in an individual, specific practices have to be undertaken. Similarly in Buddhism, it is said that everything in life is an illusion and in a state of suffering because of the desire inherent in duality. The only truth or reality is total emptiness or 'the Void'. To experience this emptiness, however, an individual has to live by certain `right' actions. Unless this is achieved he or she is bound to an endless wheel of meaningless bondage on the wheel of death and rebirth.
In his book 'Lost Christianity', Jacob Needleman talks about the lost doctrine of the soul in Christianity and the appearance and disappearance of the soul. He says: 'the soul is not a fixed entity ... it is an actual energy, but one that is only at some beginning stage of its development and action.' Whilst every day the individual may experience the appearance of this energy in an embryonic form, it is almost always dispersed and comes to nothing. Needleman goes as far as to say that it was a disaster for Christianity when it adopted the belief that the soul exists in some already finished form.
So if we need to 'catch a soul' how can be go about this? As we have already seen, an essential component in the process is to turn off the inner dialogue and find that inner state of total and undiluted silence. But to do this is not easy and involves effort, persistence, sacrifice and even suffering. It is this very effort and suffering that enables us to catch a soul. Similarly, the goal of 'absolute vacuity' recommended in the Tao Te Ching is not achieved without effort (though, of course, the enigmatic approach of Taoism tells us that if we make it an effort we are equally doomed to failure!)
Gurdjieff tells us that an individual 'makes a profound mistake in considering himself always one and the same person'. We have to realise that we consist of many parts and the real 'I', the soul, only appears in life for very short moments. It becomes firm and permanent only after a very lengthy period of work. Gurdjieff called this work 'intentional suffering'. The practices of esoteric Christianity suggest we need to struggle against the attempts of the personality to divert us from our efforts at moving towards soul. In our everyday state we think about life and give ourselves explanations, we react emotionally or physically to cover our inner suffering, and our ego tries everything to avoid the question 'what are we here for?'. Only through persistent effort can we hold to the inner quest and keep our attention focussed on our true inner desire to find meaning and purpose in our lives.
Anyone who visualises a simple image such as a blue circle or a white cross and tries, even for just one minute, to hold this image steady and unchanged in consciousness, finds out just how difficult it is to concentrate one-pointedly. Similarly, when we start to practice meditation, yoga, or any other similar techniques, we find our resistances are triggered. Most people, if they are asked to meditate for just ten minutes each day for just one month, will find that before the month is out they will have found all sorts of reasons to miss a day here, shorten the time there, or even stop altogether. To embark upon the inner quest may not be difficult, but to maintain our work does involve effort and suffering. Perhaps if we keep in mind that without this effort and suffering we are not guaranteed to even have a soul, let alone be able to develop our connection to it, we can be spurred into more persistent action.
Imagine a line of white light comes from your heart and stretches out before you into the far distant reaches of space. Spend some time visualising this light as strongly and as clearly as you can.
Touch the centre of your chest with your right hand and imagine that white line of energy you sent out into space now returns and is concentrated in your heart. Focus your whole being in the centre of your chest.
Next imagine a line of white light comes from your heart and stretches out behind you into the far reaches of space. Visualise this light as strongly and as clearly as you can.
Touch the centre of your chest with your right hand and imagine that white line of energy now returns and is concentrated in your heart. Focus your whole being in the centre of your chest.
Again imagine a line of white light comes from your heart, this time stretching up through your body and out through the top of your head, off into the far reaches of space. Spend some time visualising this light as strongly and as clearly as you can.
Touch the centre of your chest as before, imagine that white line of energy returns and is concentrated in your heart. Focus your whole being in the centre of your chest.
This time, imagine a line of white light comes form your heart, travels down through your body, and right into the very centre of the planet. Visualise this light as strongly and as clearly as you can.
Touch the centre of your chest as before, imagine the energy returns and is concentrated in your heart. Focus your whole being in the centre of your chest. Repeat the above procedure with your left hand, again imagining the light going off in the four directions - in front, behind, above and below you - and then concentrating it back into your heart.
Finally place both your hands flat on your chest and simply be aware of the strength of your heart. Realise how you are able to both radiate energy out from your heart centre, and focus right in on your heart.
This exercise strengthens your heart energy and your connection to your heart centre. To strengthen your heart in this way is a way of tuning out your inner dialogue and opening to the presence of the naugal, the unknowable.
Will Parfitt is a UKCP registered psychotherapist and an experienced and innovative group leader. Trained in Psychosynthesis, he has more than thirty years experience of working with psychospiritual development, and he travels internationally to run courses on a variety of subjects including kabbalah and psychosynthesis. Will is author of several books including 'The Complete Guide to the Kabbalah' and 'The Elements of Psychosynthesis'.
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