Endless Search  A spiritual discipline for the monastery of everyday life

Northeon Forest - Work Philosophy - Work Exercises - Objective Science

Self Observation

"You will see that in life you get back exactly what you put in. Your life is the mirror of what you are, it is your image. You are passive, blind, demanding. You take all, you accept all, without ever feeling indebted. Your attitude towards the world and toward life is the attitude of one who has the right to demand and take. Of one who doesn't need to pay for gain. You believe that all things are due to you, only because it's you! All your blindness is there. It doesn't catch your attention. It is however what, in you, separates a world from another...You have no measure to measure yourself up. You live only between 'I like it' and 'I don't like it'. Which means that you have appreciation only for yourself. You do not allow for anything above you - theoretically or logically maybe, but not in reality. This is why you are demanding and keep on thinking that everything should be cheap, and you can afford to pay for anything you want. You don't recognize anything above yourself or outside yourself or inside yourself. This is why. I repeat, you have no measure and live only to satisfy your whims...Yes your 'self appreciation' makes you blind! It is the biggest obstacle to a new life. One has to be able to pass this obstacle, this threshold, before one can go further. It is the test that separates the 'chaff' from the 'wheat' in people. No matter how intelligent, how endowed, how brilliant a man is, if he doesn't change his opinion about himself, he will be lost for inner development, for the work based on self knowledge, for a real evolution. He will stay as he is all his life...The first demand, the first condition, the first test for he who wants to work on himself is to change his appreciation of himself. He cannot just imagine, or simply believe or think, but actually *see* things in himself that he did not see before, really see them. Never will his opinion about himself change as long as he will not see inside himself. And in order to see, he has *to learn* to see: it is the first initiation of man into self knowledge...Before anything else, he has to know what to look for. Once he knows it, he has to make efforts, focus his attention, look constantly, with tenacity. By maintaining his attention on it, by not forgetting about looking, one day he may see. If he sees once, he can see a second time, and if this is repeated he cannot ignore seeing. This is the state to look for in our observation; it is from this that the true desire, the desire to evolve, will be born; from cold we're becoming hot, vibrating; we will be deeply touched by our reality...Today we have only the illusion of what we are. We overestimate ourselves. We do not respect ourselves. To respect myself, I have to have recognized in me a part which is higher than the other parts and to which I show respect by the attitude I have towards it. In this way I will respect myself. And my relationships with others will be ruled by the same respect...We have to understand that all other measuring units, talent, erudition, culture, genius, are changing units, units of detail. The only true measure, never changing, objective, the only real one, is the measure of inner vision. "I" see - "I" see myself - and you have measured. With a higher, real part, you have measured a lower one, also real. And this measure, defining by itself the respective roles of each part, will bring you to self respect. But you will see it is not easy. And it is not a bargain. One has to pay a lot...For the bad payers, the lazy, the losers, no chance. One must pay, pay a lot, pay immediately and pay in advance. Pay from oneself. With sincere efforts, whole heartedly, without expectations. The more you will be willing to pay without reticence, without cheating, without falsity, the more you will receive. And in order to avoid paying cash. Because you have to pay with all the gratuitous theories, all the deeply rooted convictions, all the prejudice, all conventions, all "I like it" and "I don't like it". Without bargaining, honestly, not just make believe. Trying to see while using fake money...Try for a moment to accept the idea that you are not what you think you are, that you over estimate yourself, therefore that you lie to yourself. That you lie to yourself always, every moment, all day long, your whole life. That the lie rules you to the extent that you cannot control it anymore. You are its victim. You lie everywhere. Your relationships with others, lies. the education you're giving, your petty conventions, lies. Your learning, lies. Your theories, your art, lies. Your social life, your family life, all lies. And what you think of yourself, lies too. But you don't stop from what you're doing or from what you're saying, because you believe in you. You have to stop inside and observe...Observe without prejudice. While accepting for a time this idea of lies. And if you observe in this manner, paying of yourself, without self-pity, by giving all your false riches for one moment of reality, maybe someday you'll see all of a sudden something you never saw in you before. You will see you are someone else from what you thought you are. You will see that you are two. One that is not, but takes the place and plays the other's role. And the one that is, but so weak, so inconsistent, that just brought forth it disappears immediately. It cannot stand the lies. The smallest lie kills it. It doesn't fight, it does not resist, it is vanquished in advance. Learn to look until you have observed the difference between your two natures, until you have seen the lies, the imposter in you. When you will see your two natures, that day, in you, the truth will be born." (GI Gurdjieff, September 1941, from Question de Gurdjieff by Albin Michel)


In the Eastern traditions this is known as Vipasana or Mindfullness. There are many good books and web sites devoted to this practice and followers of Gurdjieff are well advised to become familiar with those practices.

Here is a classic Buddhist book on Self Observation - 

Maha Satipetthana Sutta - The Greater Discourse on Steadfast Mindfulness

Mindless Mind Exercise - one attends to all thought impressions, taking in everything without identifying or labeling the thoughts as things or actions, good or bad. One also attends to all emotions, especially negative ones, making conscious effort to accept, endure and to meet with objectivity all our them without identifying with them or expressing them. 

Practice not expressing unpleasant emotions,  not 'identifying' with them but merely observing them.

Practice not 'considering inwardly' the real or imagined opinions of others towards yourself, but merely observing them.


The Endless Search 2004 Ian C. MacFarlane