If I cannot see the thoughts, sensations and emotions of this moment as a small part of me, as something separate from the rest of myself, then they become all of me, I fall into what in this teaching is called, a state of identification. In this tutorial we will examine this state. We will draw from the Genesis story of the fall from Paradise, as a symbolic representation of how, through negligence, the heart and the mind cease reflecting God, and fall into identification. We will use Cranach's depiction of this scene, and focus on an unique interpretation he adds to the Biblical story. And we will set an aim throughout the week, to observe, as best as we can, and resist falling into the state of identification.


  1. Dean Whittingham

    My vessel struggles with boredom. Although I can catch it, it does not last long before the feeling, sense, and thought of boredom is flowing through it again. The sense is ‘what can I put my hands to and create?’, the thoughts are ‘that I am restricted by lack of resources to express my creative drive’, the feelings are of self-pity. Inevitably I will tend to read, listen, or indulge in content such as books and other material of the fourth way, or on a project that I can only dream of being able to put in place…but as someone once told me, “I think you are reading too much and need to do more actual work” (he was referring to the fourth way work).

    When I catch the head of the serpent, the boredom disappears..the feeling of self-pity and expectation change to a sense of service to something beyond me – but alas it does not last long.

    1. Dean Whittingham

      I’ve realized after re-reading my post that it was itself loaded with self-pity.

      In contrast, today after going for a very long drive in the country, and upon returning and being only maybe 15 minutes from home, needing the toilet, there is an accident on the highway causing all traffic to a stand-still in almost all directions.

      In this instance the temptation to get impatient and identified, kept coming, and for nearly 15 minutes of waiting, and being able to move at what was slower than walking pace, it kept trying to tempt me, and yet, I would not bite – I merely had to remind myself that there were people involved in this accident that we’re no doubt in a world of hurt and that any moment of identification on my part would take all sense of this fact away and turn it into useless negative emotion

      1. Asaf Braverman Post author

        Thanks for sharing this specific example, Dean. It sounds like you were able to fend off the temptation by deliberately introducing a bigger scale, that of the suffering of those involved in the accident. This shows that selfish ‘I’s cut us off from a bigger picture. Consequently, connecting to a bigger picture – higher worlds, higher centers – requires fending off selfish ‘I’s.

        Realizing this is a strong motivation to ‘catching the serpent’s head.’

        1. Dean Whittingham

          I also noticed that the temptation or tugging was not constant, but rather came in bursts or periods between being almost imperceptible to being very forceful and demanding. I am unable to verify whether these fluctuations came of their own accord or whether it might have been connected to those moments where the traffic would move a car length or two only to then have to stop again, thereby having some connection with the moving center wanting to ‘get on with it’ so to speak.

  2. Alen

    The manner of my job in Life is such that people arrive at My home in quite random hours. It so happens, as it happened this morning, that they arrive early in the morning. No preparation, the second after waking up I dress up and go meet them at the doors.
    Acting before them as if it were no trouble to meet them then in that circumstance is possible. My body which is still lazy obeys to some extent. The second that the meeting is over, all that tension comes over Me. Identification through emotions and thoughts come all at once, like the dam was opened.
    So many times I hear people, being in a similar situation saying something like “Did I not do this or that, and did My job? I can at least say now how rude it was from them to do this and that. Do I not deserve to say that now after i Did My Job?”
    This is the question of Right Foundation on which we make efforts. If it is done for some result expecting payment to come from Life everything is ruined. If not in that moment, later on for sure. But with paying in advance with My suffering as a “Host of unwelcome guests”, I no longer expect the transaction to be made in Dollars or self pity. If I do not steal the moment from identification, Life will charge Me in it’s own currency.

  3. Maurice Nicoll

    The greatest hindrance to self-evolution is that we are constantly identified with what attracts our attention at a given moment. And for this reason we forget ourselves.
    To remember ourselves we must not identify. To learn how not to identify we must first not be identified with ourselves.

  4. Patricia Morgan

    Two tools I’ve found that help is: Hal and Sidra Stone’s work in what they have called Voice Dialogue; and don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements.” Both have been hugely instrumental in helping me stay awake and be able to watch the “I” — or, more precisely, the many “I”s …

  5. brant smith

    I tend to observe identifying in the form of being distracted in the moment. I forget that my efforts now are in relation to the goal, and when this happens my body, emotions and thoughts are in disharmony going where the wind blows. When I remember the goal and why I pursue it everything works more with ease and the things I do have a purpose. Just an interesting observation that I have been sitting on here. it seems that when we are not observing and completing the actions it takes to reach our goals there becomes this void. So instead of remembering, Identifying takes place, acting as an automatic function working in place of our will.

  6. Thomas Neuschatz

    Hello Brant. Your analogy of going internally where the wind blows is a great observation. When the intellect, emotions and instinct all react differently, without awareness, to whatever inner or outer wind blows chaos ensues. Observing this more and more frequently, without judging ourselves, begins to clear a space where will can grow. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, to stand aside watching, both in and out of the game.

  7. Warren

    “I don’t know” is something I say and tell myself often. When I fall into states of identification,
    Saying I don’t know reminds me to step back and observe stopping my heart and mind from identifying.

  8. Thomas Neuschatz

    Warren. Thanks for a good reminder. That spot of not knowing is valuable. There is no identification with being right (or wrong), just wanting to see what is in front of us – in the Present. Because of the limitation of the human machine, there is very little possible to know with certainty. When “it”, our inner mechanical man, unintentionally takes on the act of certainty, the choice to not identify is becomes more urgent.

  9. Jack

    I had an event this morning which involved a vacation plan I just made and invited an in-law & spouse to the condo, who in turn invited their sister without speaking with me.. This set off a number of i’s that started talking. I was not a happy camper. Angry i’s, irritated i’s, control issue i’s, I’m going to tell you i’s. I fairly quickly realized what was going on in my mind with the inner talk and identification. I went into a room where i could be still and quiet. I spoke to each of the i’s as they appeared. This is not me, this is not who I Am. They kept coming, but not with the same force. Then the picture of the Divas & demons appeared in my consciousness and I saw these i’s in the demons. I asked The Work to help me to have the knowledge and understanding to deal with this. I felt a smile as I visioned the divas letting go of the rope and all the demons i’s falling backwards. After about 10 minutes I felt at peace and could go back and talk about this without the i’s having any real power over me. Several tried but I was prepared. This situation will be resolved without their help.. I want to add how grateful I am for all the other personal examples that are shared.

    1. Hicham B.

      Hi Jack!
      I experience the same type of situations regularly with the same type of identifications. To be more precise, I fall under the control of complaining I’s.
      Of course, when I sit in a quiet room I immediately become conscious of everything. However, during the process or the confrontation I forget myself and fall under the control of those I’s.
      The thing that could help in such a situation is to always try to divide attention between you and the outside object (situation), i.e. in daily interaction I concurrently observe how my inner state is changing. Because alone, we are under no external influence and hence the task is hugely simplified.

  10. john robert reilly passmore

    Your advice has a high level of acceptable truth. I am going to visit friends who are a great help to my effort. Thank you for the advice. Instead of asking you to wish me success today, I will wish my many I’s success in keeping attention on my self at every moment. Good luck and good wishes to you. :0)

  11. Thomas Neuschatz

    Hello Hicham. Your observations and thoughts are quite helpful. Complaining can fill much of my time, also, if allowed. Several verifications help dispel this cloud. The strongest is that the events in life cannot be changed, they are what is given to transform. Complaining is actually resisting what can be transformed to a higher state. The ‘I’s that complain often assume unverifiable facts about the subject. Another thought that pulls me through is that complaining, or any negativity, is a poison that blocks Presence directly.

  12. Michael Prochazka

    Hello everyone, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I have an observation to share with you as well. I find that just becoming conscious in the present isn’t enough. One also needs, at that precise point, practise Self-Observation. Otherwise, one is not photographing the Mechanical Man as it tries to live our own lives for us. After all, Self-Observation is the principle Work tool of the Work, not just being present. Present to what? That’s the question. Of course, one has to engage Divided Attention in order to do that. It seems that we tend to forget that our overall aim is to transform our being, not to sanitise it from the reality of our inner world. Thus, my aim is to be aware of what’s going on in my inner world as often as possible. I find that Self-Observation is the most effective Work tool that makes sense in view of the fact that the Work is about personal Psycho-Transformation. If that’s indeed the case, then one needs to know what needs to be changed in the inner world first before one can struggle with the inner “demons”.

  13. Henry Knapp

    Hello Friends.

    Thanks for your very helpful comments.

    For me, the crucial aspect of identification is that when I’m identified I don’t realize it. There’s no one there to realize it. All my attention is concentrated on the subject of the identification.

    I need something to happen that makes me wake up enough to realize that I’ve been identified. Then I can make an effort to separate from the subject of the identification and begin to observe the inner and outer worlds again. I need some kind of shock.

    For me, that’s where small aims can be useful. If I get a shock because I notice that I’ve forgotten a small aim, I have a chance to realize that I’ve been identified, and can begin again making efforts to be present.

    Be well friends.

    1. Hicham B.

      Hi Henry!
      You targeted the most important point of all. How to know if I am identified with a something?
      The first technique that can be helpful is divided attention. Which mean I always observe myself (inner state) at the same time with all daily activities and interactions.
      The second one is learning about ourselves through the behavior of others. I remember I was so identified with anger that I can even notice when I’m under its control. One day, I saw a person under anger in the same way I do. His behavior was as if I saw myself in a mirror. It was horrible! Since that time, I watch that very carefully. Now, probably I am under many identifications which I have got no idea at all about them.
      The third one is school work. When one is surrounded with like minded people working on themselves then there is a possibility of helping each other discern the “head of the serpent”.

  14. Tim

    Yes I agree with Jack that because others are posting their experiences it makes it easier for me to do the same but also it makes it easier to learn. Please, everyone, keep doing what you are doing.

    Recently I’ve been exploring the jack of diamonds, that state where your thoughts automatically flow without awareness. I use the word ‘thoughts’ loosely as I’ve realized much of what I had deemed as thought is little more than associations and formatory response. This realization is only possible thanks to the The Work and to the house of cards system.

    At lunch when a colleague speaks I wait now to see what pops in to my head. And something always pops in. And I’ll be damned if at almost every point the knee-jerk formatory response occurs, something opposite or associative. I see better now how mundane I’ve been. I realize now that my whole life I’ve been doing this and that in reality there hasn’t been a lot of long-form thinking taking place. How is it someone with my education could not know what right thinking was all about? The answer lies in my own state of (slumber). What a gift to know about this now, to see the possibility of higher quality thought AND KNOW IT.

    So what would happen in the past is that I would blurt out these contrary opposites to whatever it was they said and these words would stand on their own merit, which wasn’t very much merit at all, and I would see their response. This would send me further down the rabbit hole because now I would have an emotionally defensive feeling about my inferiority compared to their superior intellect. To fortify myself, I would cast a wide net, reading mountains of books, so that this formatory response could be better equipped. My formatory responses to friends and colleagues only grew more obscure, touching on odd facts no one else could have read about. God forbid I consider something external, like the true intention of what the person said.

    Remember the old adage think before you speak? I thought I had been. To look someone in the eye while they speak to you and to see yourself and your thoughts with divided attention is hard but wonderful at the same time. And for me it is especially hard with loved ones as they are afforded a more casual and informal status in my mind.

    I am peeling back the onion further now.

  15. Thomas Neuschatz

    Hello Tim. The sincere observation that the jack of diamonds produces an endless supply of opposite and associative thoughts is certainly true for me. The state of being aware of this flow or tendency can be shocked into existence by setting aims around specific internal subjects or habits of thought. For instance, my aim to not allow the first opposite thought to run away with the intellectual center but rather to pause and look for other types of thoughts drives a wedge in mechanicality and opens a space for Self Awareness to enter.
    “Second thoughts are invariably better.” Euripides Hippolytus

  16. Melissa Sweet

    I had a lovely day, today. I was filled with gratitude. My husband was away for the day. After he arrived home, I became irritated. I’m not sure why except that I wanted more time alone. The head of the serpent had me, big time. The identification grew from there. Not only was I irritated. I was irritated that I was irritated. Two hours later, it still had me. My flute practice didn’t happen. Ouch! I did see the serpent but couldn’t extract myself. Finally, I went for a walk which provided some relief. Maybe this was the result of using my moving center? Enough, already. This is rediculous.
    Time to pick up my flute. Thanks for listening.

    1. Thomas Neuschatz

      Melissa. I think you are right. Activating the moving center (I can use my own advice here) is one way to dispel clouds of negativity as long as the focus is on the impressions flowing around us or the task at hand while we let the ‘I’s go by. Even more powerful is using a work ‘I’, move, meaning move with Presence, during our activity. Now, outside to Move with presence!

  17. Jack

    Today, we were going to lunch with a friend and his wife. He called and asked what time we were picking them up and wanted to go to a specific ethnic restaurant. I didn’t think I would like that type of food and saw the control i’s and I want it my way i’s start to rise and speak. I also saw the attitude in me that I am becoming more aware of ” things have to be done my way and finding a way to make it happen” I remembered myself and my aim of working on identification. I saw the yes and no of this event. Yes I want to be with my friends and maybe I won’t or will like the food. My friends were the most important. I saw the little i’s early that wanted to say when I picked them up “It will be my turn next time” They received no energy from me. We had a great lunch and I had one of my top 5 lunch meals ever. Amazing what happens when you change your attitude and refuse to identify with i’s that will pull you down. Now these particular i’s are a little more on my radar screen in my consciousness.

  18. Thomas Neuschatz

    Hello Jack. This experience sounds as if you were closer to your real Self and a higher state. Ouspensky said the characteristic of the second state is identification, one way attention. The lunch was enhanced by two way, divided, attention. Aware of the internal motions of the machine as well as the external impressions, your friends. In a way, the action of divided attention is the cure for the illness of the second state.

  19. MarisaM

    I struggled against identification to feelings of sadness with a family member. Although aware of this particular identification and past history, I could not shake it. The awareness was not enough, in my case. Not to be completely absorbed by it, I worked on my posture and tried to keep the spine straight and shoulders relaxed. Some of the i’s that appeared were aware of the control of this identification to my life and perceived how the group of i’s control my actions. By the end of the week there was some space from its intensity. This has been daily work in pulling against this identification. Today I feel something transformed as I decided to send 2 texts without thinking of sadness. I appreciate the aim this week and everyone’s efforts to Be. I also appreciate small aims.

    1. Henry Knapp

      Hello Marisa,

      I think you and several of our other friends have been have been observing ‘I’s connected to strong emotions that are trying to pull you into the kind of identification that I talked about in my last post – completely disappearing and becoming one or more of the ‘I’s, with no observer present.

      I think you all continued to observe those ‘I’s, even as they were trying to pull you into the state of complete identification that I described. I think that’s a very good situation to be in – struggling to separate from an ‘I’.

      There’s a pull between “yes” and “no” that produces friction, and with it energy to Be. Congratulations.

      Be well friends.

  20. Henry Knapp

    Dear Friends,

    Rereading everyone’s comments reminded me of something Mr. Ouspensky said. I think he was quoting Mr. Gurdjieff when he said it. It was, “If negative emotions didn’t exist they would have to be invented.”

    One meaning of that statement could be that negative emotions can wake us up – not completely – but enough for us to be reminded to make efforts to Be.
    I think three or four of us wrote comments that suggest that negative emotions awakened them enough to enable them to make efforts to Be.

    Be well friends.

  21. Thomas Neuschatz

    Marisa. Your experience of transformation shows how consistent efforts over a period of time bring a new level of Being and Consciousness. Patience with ourselves and those around while efforts are made without knowing the results is required in this Work. Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

  22. Anand Verma

    During day to day activities, I come across people, objects, ideas which are hard to ignore and ultimately get identified with them. I realise the futility of worrying about them after a considerable time has passed. These videos help to plant the mechanism of identification in my subconscious and hopefully will help me to not get fully engrossed in the moment. Living fully in the moment is important but not the cost of identification. I have been practicing it for 2-3 months now and it feels great to be in more control of where to put your attention at, instead of swaying away in the moment. Thanks for making these videos Sir, the succinct practical resource for self-help and radical transformation on the Internet I have found so far.

  23. Orazio Sorgonà

    That is the story of ‘the Horse of Troy’,
    which not accidentally is ‘a Horse’.

    The city of Troy had walls and gates which could not be conquered, or broken through by the outside, because they had been built by Apollo and Herakles themselves.
    And the Greeks then used the famous ‘trick’: they let the wooden horse outside, and the Troyans themselves ‘broke the walls’ to let it in. Then the many ‘greeks, the ‘many i’s’ came out from the hors e in the night and destroyed the city.

    This means that we can resist identifications soon as they appear (the wooden horse stands for me as ‘negative emotion’); later it’s realtively too late: they had made their mess, and we shall ‘build again’.

    The ‘crucial’ point may be as depicted in the story of the horse, like Virgil tells it.
    A wise man from Troy, Laocoon, opposed that the horse should be let in, but a serpent (the isinctive center?) came from the sea and suffocated him and his sons which had run in his help.
    These may be work i’s which warn us from getting identified, but we reject (forget)them.
    Eve also tells the serpent “yet the Lord had forbid us to”, but she is not eager /to be/ the words.

    Viceversa,we shall and can be ready to work along with them, trying /to be/ the words and give ‘no hear’ to the many i’s.