Suppose I’ve observed a tendency to postpone. I habitually let my obligations pile up, delaying responding till forced by circumstances. If this were the habit I’d chosen during last month’s labor, I’d have been called to observe the illusions that kept that habit alive. Suppose that the first illusion I uncover is a perpetual notion that I don’t have time right now. The illusion is subtle, presenting itself as an underlying emotion of overwhelmedness. On top of this, I uncover another illusion that persuades me I’ll have more time later. Again, the suggestion is subtle and indirect, an assuredness about the future. Deceived by the these two illusions — overwhelmedness and assuredness — I customarily absolve myself from present responsibilities and hand them over to a future me, in a habit called procrastination.

Having observed these illusions behind my procrastination, I’m naturally brought to challenge them. First, the illusion of overwhelmedness. Can I verify that I never have enough time now? Or rather, does self-observation reveal that I’m always overwhelmed — now or later — regardless of external circumstances, except that later no longer carries the luxury of postponement? And if so, do I really want to be dragged through my daily obligations by compulsion? I verify that the illusion of overwhelmedness is a false gauge of how crowded the moment really is. It’s a negative emotion that seeks to feel overwhelmed always and everywhere. I’d better learn to disregard it and press onward by attending to things at the moment they appear. I coin this new way of thinking in the aphorism: If not now, when?

Moving on to challenge the illusion of assuredness, do I actually have more time later? When later comes, have other obligations not piled up to further weaken my ability to respond? This illusion, too, proves unfounded, another case of wrong thinking. I’d better learn to do now whatever I can because later becomes a new ‘now,’ with new obligations. I coin this new way of thinking in the aphorism: Later never comes.

Having thus uncovered the illusions behind my habit, I’ve fulfilled the July labor and advanced a step toward tackling procrastination. I open my laptop to check email. Twenty unread messages await my attention.

“Let’s do this later,” says procrastination, subtly.

“Later never comes,” I respond, dodging my opponent’s opening lunge. My maneuver is efficient. Procrastination, thus startled, wobbles in surprise and barely retains balance, his right foot of assuredness shaken. He shifts his weight onto the left foot of overwhelmedness and recovers to thrust another blow:

“You don’t have time to answer twenty emails now!”

“If not now, when?”

This skillful side-step fully trips my opponent. As he lays vulnerably at my feet, I thrust a final blow by mercilessly opening the first message in my inbox and closing the debate.

If we don’t harvest in July we can’t thresh in August. If we don’t uncover illusion we can’t Be. In this work — as in any work — one thing opens the door to another, while the neglect of one thing prevents the completion of another. Having discovered our wrong thinking in July, it invariably follows that we proceed to formulating right thinking in its stead. Our August labor will revolve around winnowing the right from the wrong at the moment the habit seeks to assert itself. To fit the moment, our weapon must be brief and potent. Our right thinking must be coined in the form of an aphorism, a succinct command, the smooth stone David used to stun Goliath.

Which aphorism do you choose to counterbalance the illusion behind your habit?

Responses

  1. Asaf Braverman Post author

    The aphorism shouldn’t merely be an instructive or inspiring saying, but a command that helps you Be at a moment of internal challenge, in the manner portrayed above. Throughout August, we will compile these aphorisms into a granary to serve as the community’s cache of practical advice.

  2. Dakhxesh

    Dear Friends !
    I do have a habit to postpone my inner work and outer work for tomorrow, yesterday night our puppy died on front of me because of illness, I just got the glimpse of my death, one day I am like her, that one day come any moment. So I got aphorisms like this. Buddha said. Trouble is that, we think, we have time.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks Dakhxesh. Our brief life and limited time should certainly make it into our list of aphorisms. It is one of the strongest catalysts for making effort now. I’ll wait to see which other related aphorisms are proposed, and then choose the one that best conveys this truth.

      1. Dakhxesh

        Dear Asaf
        Second thing I found in myself through our Indian community discussions on WhatsApp, and the task given by you for one week, that it helped me in many way, except in non expression of negative emotions, I fail to do that. That reminds me of the urgency of my inner work.

  3. John Poitras

    I find the perceptive observation that the feeling of “overwhelmedness” is a negative emotion to be quite liberating.

    “Overwhelmedness”is an illusion and a negative emotion!

    This realization produces a moment of consciousness in me that is of assistance in separating from the deviation (waste of time) that is procrastination!

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      I’m glad you find it helpful, John. Curious how, when we call things by their name (“overwhelmedness is a negative emotion”) we gain better control over them. This shows the power of the intellectual center, the brain responsible for naming.

      In Genesis, God gives Adam power over his creation by commanding Adam to name the animals. A mosaic of this scene is featured below.

      Adam Naming (San Marco, Venice)

  4. Melissa Sweet

    Since my husband’s death last October, I find myself to be preoccupied with the fear that I might lose my home and have to move to a smaller, less expensive place. I have a beautiful home which is filled with the memories of bringing up my family. I have lived here for over 50 years.
    In addition, it is large enough for my 6 children and their families to visit.
    I am in no imminent danger of having to leave so, at this time, losing my home is an illusion. This also points to how attached I become to places and relationships and the ways in which they tend to define me.
    This, I can observe, is a form of identification.
    As my aphorism I will remember the words of Jesus when He said:
    ” Remember the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they spin, and, yet, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Fear has two sides. In what you describe, one side is the fear of losing something dear to you. Another side is the fear of being unable to cope with this loss. You mention the loss of your husband, which must have been a much bigger loss than losing a house. I you’ve managed to cope with that, then if and when you lose your home, can you not trust in your ability to cope with that too?

      In this spirit, I encourage you to coin an aphorism that also incorporates an element of trust in yourself, in your own abilities, in your work.

  5. Kalev K

    Postponing the things – this is very “Kalev”. I have too observed both sides – first, when I have one hundred things to finish for yesterday and it seems even difficult to choose where from start to, this awakes very strong overwhelmedness.
    And then procrastination tells “You see, nothing happen when you did not finished this yesterday. Why worry now?”
    Finished work – kept promises – respect (as well as in front of myself)
    We are at different levels, able to be feed by differed oxygens.
    Asaf’s “If not now, when?” is far too fine for me, I need some much more robust.
    My aphorism is “Do not disrespect the work with postponing” – strong enough for me to stay at the place of third force.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Whatever works, Kalev. I agree that the element of respect, or disrespect, charges the aphorism with emotion. Certainly, when I make an extra effort to attend to things now and not postpone, I gain the benefit self-respect: respect for my own time out of not crowding my day with unfulfilled obligations.

      Keep up the good work!

  6. Hannah K

    AUGUST MUSIC

    The music for this month of August by both Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky is full of energy and vigour. Tchaikovsky’s piece for piano from “The Seasons” entitled “August” has the subtitle “Harvest” and in it he may well be conveying the frenzied busi-ness of the whole village as they try to get the wheat harvested and safely stored before the summer storms ruin it.
    Here is the link for you to listen to:
    Tchaikovsky August “Harvest”
    https://youtu.be/jBNlY9vS59A

    Meanwhile, if you remember from the last two months, Vivaldi’s shepherd lazily slept in the heat of the summer sun in the first movement of “Summer” from “The Four Seasons”, and then woke as lightening flashed and thunder rumbled in the second movement. By the third movement, the heavens have opened and hale stones descend on the ripe wheat, flattening it to the ground.
    Presto
    “Alas, his worst fears were justified, as the heavens roar and great hailstones beat down upon the proudly standing corn”.

    Here’s the YouTube link
    https://youtu.be/YuF4oYRktcA

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks for these links, Hannah. Both Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi portray August as intense. I would have guessed it to be a portrayal of winter had I not known better.

      It’s also useful to note that the harvest is vulnerable at this stage. If it becomes wet by being exposed to a storm, it will rot and ruin. Likewise, we must guard our gains in the work.

  7. Dean Whittingham

    I have coined an aphorism based on verifying its validity. It is:

    “External considering cures all boredom.”

    I have verified that a lot of my internal considering is related to boredom and a need to create some colour in my life.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      This is a practical observation that shifts the pointing finger from others to ourselves; thanks Dean.

      The community aphorism that will coin this will probably be broader, because this falls into the category of “find in yourself what you judge in others.” “External considering cures all boredom” will be your personal variation on this idea.

  8. Myrto

    Drawing from the myth of Odysseus against giant Polephemus, I propose this aphorism:
    “I am Nobody’
    It is appropriate in situations when the Lower Self, gets identified with others’ judgments, feels offended and usually reacts with anger, self judgment or gets passionate to prove she or he is right.
    The name “Nobody”, evokes in my emotional center humbleness and relief. It moves my attention away from the worries of the Lower Self, making “space” for the Higher right.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      This is a very interesting connection, Myrto. Odysseus overcoming Polyphemus the cyclops by striking him in the forehead (gouging his single eye) is similar to David slaying Goliath by striking him in the forehead with a pebble. In both cases, the opponents are giants, and in both cases, they are overcome by ingenuity.

      When Polyphemus asks Odysseus his name, Odysseus replies, “I am nobody.” This deflects further denying force from Odysseus, because when the other cyclops’ ask Polyphemus what happened, he says, “Nobody hurt me.” So I am wondering whether the wisdom behind this aphorism has to do with confronting the lower self intelligently, not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing.

      We will discuss this during the Saturday workshop on Transcending Thought.

  9. Hannah K

    Apart from judgement, the other illusion that has come to my attention again recently is the belief that doing certain activities will bring me happiness, a sense of fulfilment or even lead me to a higher state. This erroneous belief then leads to frustration, anger and self-pity when circumstances stop me from doing these activities. So the aphorism that I have been working with when I catch myself entertaining this belief is “It is not what you do but the presence with which you do it”. Reminding myself of this turns all activities into equally fertile opportunities for Being.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks Hannah. There is a curious relation between ‘doing’ and ‘being,’ wherein the one often comes at the expense of the other. I have to think a little more about this and see whether this aphorism stands on its own or falls into a larger category.

  10. Maurice Nicoll

    “The whole teaching is a connected organic system constructed to make a man think and teach him how to think and give him something through which to develop his own thinking. For some of the ideas are easy to grasp and on a small scale, others are more difficult and on a bigger scale, and the connection between them may not be seen for a long time, but the whole intellectual center, with all its parts, small and great, is eventually needed to hold the system together in its right order so that it can work aright and transmit force as an organized and living whole.” – Maurice Nicoll

  11. Jim Vander Noot

    The aphorism “If not now, when?” has been an extremely powerful tool in my efforts. As Asaf mentions above, it effectively short-circuits procrastination when I embrace the thought with my whole being.

    But for me, it is also a potent trigger for self-remembering and a valuable companion to the command, “Be!” It reminds me that the present moment is the only arena in which any work or action is possible. The past and future are inacessible to me, and imaginings of what might or might have been done there are waste. “Now” is the only time available.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Glad to hear it has been helpful for you, Jim. I’ve also observed that, along with the notion that we only have ‘now,’ the notion that we can only attend to one moment at a time, helps reduce imaginary pressure. The ‘I’ that says, “I have so many things to do now…” defeats our will and tricks us into entering the moment with haste. It therefore helps to remember that there is only ‘now’ and that we can only attend to each ‘now’ as it comes. Little by little, we get through our many obligations, which is why the turtle wins the race.

  12. Olga

    A few weeks ago Evgueni suggested an aphorism to counterbalance my habit of becoming drunk with success and thus ending up falling very low, which says “Remember the bookmark”. It feels very right to me.

    I have experienced with the aphorism these days, and found that it helps me stop falling into vanity when I notice I am already doing it or that I am about to start doing it. What is more, the aphorism also works when I have an opposite feeling of being in a very low state, incapable of making any efforts. It reminds me of the fact that I have already experienced this low state for many times, and I know I can work despite what this lower ‘I’ is telling me right now.

    I am going to continue using it. By the way, it’s also helpful to actually (physically) use bookmarks in my everyday life. I started using them for the books I’m currently reading as well as for my personal notebook. The visual reminder serves as an additional wake-up call.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      What you describe seems to fall under the category of ‘Know Thyself.’ The more you experience these risings and fallings, the less prone will you be to become drunk when high or desperate when low. I’m glad to hear that the bookmark serves as an inspiring image for this verification.

  13. Inge Veerkamp

    My number one aforism is this quote by Gurdjieff:

    One of the best means for arousing the wish to work on yourself is to realize that you may die at any moment. But first you must learn how to keep it in mind.

    And the greatest help in life is/was understanding that ‘duality’ puts everything into an illusion. It made me see things in persepctive and it awakens straight away.
    Summarized, my aforism is: “Recognise and try to remember the way duality works”.

    Whatever subject is mentioned, it exists by the grace of the oppsosite and they cancel each other out for that reason. Everything is just what IS.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks Inge. Your first aphorism of Gurdjieff has to do with correcting our relation to time, a central theme in the blog post above. I’ll look for a saying that will serve as an umbrella for all these truths related to time: remembering our time is limited; remembering that there is only ‘now’; remembering that there is no better time to make effort than the present.

  14. Tim

    A good ‘merchant’ seeking profit understands negative emotions cause loss of force. The enneagram tells us, in an ascending octave, we must get from the note mi to the note fa by somehow traveling through the missing semi tone. Maurice Nicoll might say we must study the source of identification, find its roots, in order to prevent the resulting loss of force that comes from expressing negative emotion.

    So my key words are: loss, ascend, study, and roots. My personal aphorism might be something like: Dig down to the roots to ascend to the present.

      1. Tim

        From Dr. Nicoll, paraphrased: We are inferior to ourselves because we live in personality when we should live in essence. Deny yourself [personality] so force can be redirected to your aim [essence].

  15. Jack

    “Seek the Higher Right” the aphorism that Evgueni and I discussed last week is one I continue to use with Jack’s need to be right and strong opinions that tend to be in extremes of yes or no. The higher right for me is The Work and my work knowledge. Using the knowledge to gain understanding. Observing myself and trying to resist identification. I have a long way to go, but I have started down the path. I reread something I had forgotten about still working that night before going to bed or when I arise by cancelling those moments of identification from the last 24 hours by bringing the picture back of the event and cancelling it. I do so by saying, “cancel, cancel, cancel that is not me. That was Jack.” I seek to Work. I have to try and not let this become mechanical by also remembering why I am doing this.
    Another aphorism I have used is “Like what it does not like” or “Like what you dislike or dislike what you like” I prefer the 1st.
    This helps sometime with Jack’s strong opinions, when observed. Sometimes When I have seen one, I just think more of the subject and try to find the opposite points and move more towards the middle or a couple of times find a way to go against it. I am seeing I need to be creative. None of this is easy, but the more I work, the more I want to Work.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      “Seek the higher right” will certainly make it into our compilation of aphorisms. It is a way of bringing scale and relativity to the moment. In a lower state, we lose scale and become identified with unimportant things. In a higher state we recover the relative value of things, and often realize that what troubles us is insignificant.

  16. Jatinder Singh Joshi

    After setting aim not to postpone i have realized that by default my machine starts postponing , and the momentum behind this habit is so strong that I need emotional Element to overcome this habit.so after automatic decision of postponing I remind myself my aim ‘not to postpone’ with the help of an aphorism to struggle with this momentum. Aphorism is ‘undo it’.This helps me to lessen the momentum of habit of postponing.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      the emotional element is crucial, Jatinder. This means that using aphorisms cannot be exclusively intellectual work. Both the intellectual part of the intellectual center, and the intellectual part of the emotional center, must stand behind the effort. So if you find yourself using an aphorism unsuccessfully, examine why it isn’t igniting the right emotion. Which alternate aphorism might be more emotional? If you insist, you will find the right one; “seek and ye shall find…”

  17. Fabrizio Agozzino

    Ciao Asaf, It seems to me that the aphorism ‘Seek the higher right’ can connect our Steward to the right ‘scale’ while the aphorism ‘Trust no ‘I’s’ can offer the Steward ‘relativity’.

    I have created a personal aphorism which is: attraction is the seed of identification.

    Ciao,
    Fabrizio

  18. Fabrizio Agozzino

    I also see a strong relation between the aphorism ‘If not now, when?’, ‘Value small efforts’ and ‘What you gain everyone gains’.

    The feature of tramp is built to shield ‘valuation’. Tramp is one side of the coin and the other is ‘vanity’. Tramp will never ‘enjoy’ small efforts, especially those of others. while vanity might do the ‘right’ effort for the ‘wrong’ reason.

    If I could confine the important things to the moment, I would value small things. If I start to value things, I am connected. Someone says something and I care to listen because that’s the only thing there is in that moment. If I can listen, I do not judge.

    From ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī: “…man is closer to the Truth proportionally to his state of inner extinction”.

    If I judge, I am vain. Who am I to judge? To whom I am really judging and what? If I do not judge myself or others, I am not vain. I can connect with the other people and gain from their experiences. I can be also more connected with ‘my’ inner worlds. Because now I am more connected, I am also more responsible, not just for my inner and personal work. Everything is connected. Patience is an important ingredient in this work.

    Thanks Asaf for inspiring us.
    Fabrizio

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      You are very welcome, Fabrizio.

      We see that there cannot be one right way of formulating ten aphorisms. There will have to be overlaps, and some aphorisms might be more relevant to some people, others to others. Nevertheless, for the sake of working as a community, we must agree on the same ten. Let’s see if the list that will be published later this month will serve that purpose.

  19. Alen

    It has always helped Me, to ask Myself the question in every situation: “With what do I measure Myself with?”
    This questioning brings a sense of scale, especially with the extension “Which “I” measures?”
    Isn’t it always that we really want to “Do”? I have a task,when “I” have done it it brings a false relaxation and satisfaction. I trick Myself with the apparent result of a thing done. It is not the time I have cheated, but Myself. Even if “It” decides that it will do the task at hand, and “Does” it, which one did it?
    When we forget a thing, and try to recall it; firstly we have to have a certain desire to know it. For instance, we need to call an important person, we try to remember the numbers. Then a clumsy effort and fervor search for associations roll. It is Life Memory. It is stuck in the stream of Life.
    On the other hand, Work Memory is timeless. It is in our blood. When Life searches it searches only outside or only inside. There is no middle ground.
    Even in things such as aphorisms, there is a trap. The mind wants a solution “now” so it can rest later. When question is answered in this way, it is only self calming. “With what do I measure Myself with and which I measures?” has the quality of making space, a gap.If I do not fill it with My many “I’s”, I will be helped from the Higher. It is not occupied then, and lawfully the Higher can manifest.

  20. Myrto

    Virgo
    In the Labour of August on Chartres Window, next to the man threshing wheat, we see a woman, standing upright, holding flowers on her hands, symbolizing the zodiac sign of Virgo.
    The zodiac constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), is the area of the sky behind the Sun at September end. In August, Virgo is seen after sunset in the west, next to Leo, the current constellation behind the Sun.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spica#/media/File:Virgo_constellation_map.svg
    This year, Virgo is easy to identify, because it hosts planet Jupiter, the most bright object now appearing in the night, west sky.
    Virgo’s brightest star is Spica. Actually, Spica is a binary system of stars, looking as one. The latin name ‘Spica’, means ‘ear of wheat’. These days, you can spot Spica, as the brightest star, on the left of planet Jupiter.
    There are many identities represented by the constellation of Virgo, all of them related to maidens, purity and fertility. In India Virgo was Kauni, mother of the great god Krishna, whilst the Babylonians linked her with the goddess Ishtar. When she descended into the underworld to reclaim her husband Tammuz, god of the Harvest, the earth went dark and nothing grew. The great gods were forced to intervene, she and Tammuz were saved, and the earth bloomed again.
    In Greek mythology, too, there is a similar theme. Virgo represents Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, who had been abducted and taken to the underworld by Hades. In revenge her mother ruined the harvests, the earth became infertile and the people were starving. Zeus was forced to issue a decree stating that Persephone should spend only a short time each year in the underworld, and when she was released Demeter permitted Nature to resume its natural course.
    Below a depiction of Virgo of the 19th century. Note the ear of the wheat (spica), holding in her hands.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_(constellation)#/media/File:Sidney_Hall_-_Urania%27s_Mirror_-_Virgo.jpg
    Demeter, mother of Persephone, except from the goddess of harvest and agriculture, she curates the Eleusinian mysteries, and holds the laws of the ‘cultivation’ of the soul.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks for this research, Myrto. This is the first time we see a direct relation between the zodiac sign and the labor: wheat. It suggests that we might discover more such relations as we go deeper into this study.

  21. Adriana

    Some thoughts…

    “Leave the book mark on the page you were”, higher states don’t stay for ever, lowers states don’t remain forever, DON’T TRUST ANY “I”S.

    “When do I feel most right? when I believe there has been injustice” LOOK FOR THE HIGHER RIGHT”

    These two aphorisms highly resonate here and have been very helpful these days,thank you.

    I have also been examining the fine line between sincerely acknowledging ones faults and vanity. There is also a fine line between the use of the knowledge to help understanding and the risk of remaining at the intellectual level.

    Adriana