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Self-Remembering, by Robert Earl Burton

Making Effort

Life is asleep, and we are going against the stream. Like salmon with a strong homing instinct, we must swim against the current of life's sleep to remember ourselves and develop our souls. What is it to be a man, but to struggle against the current of the masses, and through great labor and desolate trials create one's soul? One begins with self-remembering in the morning and finishes with it at night. One can never afford to lay self-remembering aside; one ceases to exist.

You cannot awaken unless you have verified that you are asleep.

Sleep is so unappealing that it propels one to awaken. People do not make more efforts to awaken because they do not understand that their time is limited. When one deeply and truly understands that one's time is limited, regardless of one's age, one will strive to awaken with the mass of one's being. Higher forces become more serious with one as each year progresses.

It would be nice to say that the material in this book is behind me. But self-remembering is never behind us. It has no momentum of its own and is always an uphill battle. Leonardo da Vinci said, "Thou, O God, dost sell unto us all good things at the price of labor." We are in an extremely difficult situation. Almost no one realizes the enormity of what can be gained or lost during his lifetime. One gains immortality or suffers oblivion, or worse. Every second you remember yourself you pierce eternity.

Remember that you are being present for yourself as well as for your school; everything physical will perish; you, with divided attention, will not.

We labor to make the incomprehensible, comprehensible. Self-remembering is a challenge we have to accept even though at times it seems almost too much, seems beyond our capacity, our level of being. We have to do it every day. The answers required to break through to the present are simple; the efforts, however, are difficult. Even so, we are winning.

The poet Rainer Rilke said, "It is tiresome to be full of retrieving." One keeps trying to retrieve self-remembering from imagination, and it is tiring, yet one could not have a more worthwhile battle on one's hands. There are terrible periods of imagination and then the strain of self-remembering returns. In virtually everything we do, so many of our efforts are toward self-remembering and are related to culture. The opportunities to be present remain the same over the years.

One reason we are attracted to self-remembering is because it is so difficult. It's the only real challenge that one has met in one's life and the only thing that is not mechanical. Courage can have limitations, and awakening requires more perseverance than courage. It does come to that-simply enduring-and it is a good place to be.

After having spent the day working for the school, trying to be present, not expressing negativity and trying to avoid imagination, one becomes weary, and yet it is a day well spent. There can be no gain in abandoning the work. The plain truth is that there is no alternative to making efforts to be present, daily, for the rest of one's life.

Students who enter the way work at a full pace. Never lay self-remembering aside. Consciousness cannot be given, it must be earned through one's own efforts, aided by higher forces.

What does it mean to make extra efforts? - Cicero said, "There is not a moment without some duty." If nothing else, we always have the duty to self-remember. Our work can only be serious in proportion to our understanding of the depth of our sleep. The teacher can only communicate knowledge, the teacher cannot communicate being-it is your own responsibility to be the words.

Sometimes I speak as if I know, but I am speaking for myself. I do not expect anything to be either believed as true, or rejected as false, but taken neutrally as theory and verified. Still, I know what I know. So many concepts that students struggle with are facts for me: body type, center of gravity, chief feature, alchemy. But until they are facts for you, you have to struggle. One must work beyond one's capacities daily to change one's level of being. This is a law. We are capable of much more effort, and Influence C must use their time to squeeze that out of us.

You can't retire from self-remembering. A seventy-year-old student must make the same effort to produce higher centers as one who is twenty.

One must never be content to go at the pace of anyone else. The last words of Peter Ouspensky were, "Aim, aim; more effort, more effort." Then his physical body died and his astral body was released. Aim to remember yourself and place more effort into remembering yourself. It takes more effort to awaken than we realize. Shocks help wring this understanding out of us.

The main principle that guides your life is self-remembering. Efforts based upon identification diminish as you begin to awaken. Self-remembering must be a perpetual struggle and is the dearest of all labors, since nothing of value is attained without effort. You must transform suffering to appreciate the great simplicities of life.

One way to avoid using words for registering impressions is to employ the looking exercise. It is not uncommon to experience a different thought with each heartbeat. If one shifts one's head slightly every three seconds to receive a new impression, one can sever the `I's that wish to respond to the objects one is viewing. While walking one can also concentrate one's attention on an object that is within reasonable distance, and try not to allow thoughts to manifest until one has passed that impression. These exercises can serve to usher you into the present.

Our task is great, greater than anyone knows. It is to remember ourselves daily, in both commonplace and trying situations until our last breath. One must endeavor to remember oneself in the most humble circumstances because self-remembering has no momentum of its own. Mr. Ouspensky said that a man number five can be present when he needs to be, but even that is a lot of work. When I listen to a concert, for example, I feel there is as much responsibility on me to hear every note as there is on the artist to play those notes.

When `I's circulate that wish immediate results for one's efforts, one can be assured that one is not remembering oneself. These `I's can serve, however, as a useful shock to help one remember oneself. Negative states initially appear to be a curse, but later become a blessing as one begins to transform the negativity. Fortunately, self-remembering begets self-remembering, and is its own reward.

How can we act consistently? - If one could act consistently, one would be acting consciously, because one would have unity and not be a different person in different environments. As one studies people, one will see different groups of `I's in them that are subject to changing circumstances. One should expect something reliable from people in a school since they are trying to be unified. Consistency is based upon remembering oneself. To act consistently requires unity; to be unified requires self-remembering. To remember yourself you must have the aim to be present.

One must observe whether one experiences the same personality, and makes the same efforts privately, as one does publicly. And if one does behave differently publicly, efforts are founded on vanity or feminine dominance.

How can we be more in the present when our machine wishes to plan for future needs?

To everything there is a season. There is a place to plan for future needs, which is common sense. Don't prolong the process, and once it is finished, focus on the present. While planning, use inconspicuous voluntary suffering by holding the paper at a slightly odd angle, sitting a little too close to the desk, and so on.

The `I', "This is not a permanent state," is the beginning of the end of negative emotions.

I experienced a little difficulty hearing the music tonight. A work `I' advised me, "You cannot speak if you cannot listen," in a gentle, non-judgmental tone of voice. It was a third force for helping me to listen. Work `I's are precious, and it is a blessing when they appear when we need them; unfortunately for a man number four the right work `I' often comes along when the internal battle is over.

It is important not to cram one's life with events, but to do well whatever one does. One should enjoy reading a book and not just try to get through it. Never allow yourself to be so busy, to be in such a hurry that you forget your precious self.

How can we include the element of surrender in our moment-to-moment effort to self-remember?

We must understand deeply that we have nothing at all to surrender; we give up nothing for something.

Never stop making efforts; remember your aim tenaciously. We change without pressing, and efforts made in one direction can bring gratifying results in another. We do not need external events to urge us to remember ourselves. Self-remembering has a cumulative effect, and the more you remember yourself, the more you will be able to remember yourself.

It is fruitful to work with people who don't have to be convinced of the necessity of remembering themselves. Students get into trouble because they think they can coast. It may surprise one to realize that one must work to awaken. Awakening does not happen to one. Many people never pass beyond allurement, and they leave a teaching when they actually have to begin daily work.

We push ourselves to the limit. Keep returning to self-remembering, keep trying to retrieve it-it is the only thing worth pursuing.

From the realization that man is a machine, the real work starts; the moment one verifies one is a machine, one starts to cease to be mechanical.

In the end, people have what it takes to continue, or they don't, and it is a rough road, but the only one worth traveling.

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robert e. burton: self-remembering

York Beach, Maine: Red Wheel/Weiser, 1995.

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