Being Present With Oneself

It is hard to be present with oneself without trying to change oneself into a better version, even a more conscious one. I took a long walk and that felt so good. The ice is finally melting in the gutters and the sky is blue. I feel a bit more hopeful than I have been since Christmas.

I remember someone at Vernon Howard’s place telling me, “Leave yourself alone!” Wow. He was watching me objectively, something that is hard to do, and was offering me deep wisdom couched in sternness. I have yet to deeply practice this.

That is the situation. We know better than we can do. That is what the Work is about. Watching ourselves fail miserably on the outer level. That is because there is a gap between knowing and doing.

Unless you are doing the Work, you will never discover this, for the Work is about self-discovery. As Dogen Zenji wrote: “To study the self is to study the way.”

I am a hard person to get close to, due to my introverted nature. I don’t trust easily, not even myself. I am wary, shy and intense, diffusing attention placed on myself. The writer in me has no idea about this. She thinks I am as easily known as she is. If you wonder what I am talking about, you haven’t studied how many selves we house within. Some we should have kicked out years ago!

Vernon Howard was the epitome of the Work. He toiled ceaselessly to shame us into awakening, not to our good selves, but to our bad ones! This is the negative way and it works best for a handful of people. Never many. The majority want their truth candy-coated.

So I watch myself on a daily basis, fooling myself constantly, thinking I am better than I actually am. It is easy to exist in an imaginary laboratory and harder to go out into the real world and get slammed by it. But as the guy at Vernon’s said, we are good at slamming ourselves, too.

This is not a perfect world. We are not perfect people. The Work is not about that. It is about learning repentance and self-mercy. They sort of go together.

Vicki Woodyard

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