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Inner Task: Locating Selfhood

You can learn more about inner tasks and how they relate to the practice of conscious practical work HERE.

Our gratitude goes to Jeanine Siler Jones for sharing these conscious tasks. You can find out more about Jeanine HERE.


standing in green lightAs Cynthia has often pointed out, our typical egoic operating system is a binary system dividing the field of perception by differentiation. Although this is necessary for our life on this planet, it is not the operating system necessary for spiritual perception, nor where we want to find the seat of our identity.

The following inner task relates to observing ourselves in relation to where we locate our selfhood ─ observing when our sense of identity is rooted or caught up in the grips of the egoic operating system.

In her essay on “Prayer & Identity,” Beatrice Bruteau explores four locations of selfhood that can give us a clue when our lens of identity is resting in an operating system attuned to differentiation. In reference to the first location she says,

We locate our selfhood in the experiences of pleasure and pain. This means in the first instance in our human body of flesh, and then in the emotional nature of our human personality. We believe that “we” are the one who is comfortable or uncomfortable, who is happy or unhappy. This seems obvious and undeniable… [From this location of selfhood] prayer tries to correct and control the experience-environment of this self. It petitions the God who operates the environment to send the self pleasant experiences and to withdraw painful ones.

Experiencing pleasure, beauty, and abundance in sensation is an important inner task ─ but it does not suggest that we are locating our selfhood in these experiences.

The first part for this inner task is to begin to recognize when we are equating ourselves “in the emotional nature of our human personality” and/or when “we believe that “we” are the one who is comfortable or uncomfortable, who is happy or unhappy.” When you notice this happening, let go of identifying here.

Beatrice goes on to say:

All the ascetical practices recommended to us by the various traditions are designed to produce this effect, that we will stop identifying with our descriptions. This is the meaning of “detachment.” Notice that this sense of identity is an internal sense of location or perspective, not a way of standing outside ourselves and looking back on ourselves. It is like knowing where you are by your sense of gravity or sense of posture, or the point of view from which you see.

The second part of the inner task is to explore finding the center or your being…sense into this internal location/sense of gravity or posture. Notice what this is like in sensation.

As you go about your day, and whenever you can remember, come back to the center of your being.


Cynthia Bourgeault’s article on “Beatrice Bruteau’s “Prayer and Identity: An Introduction with Text and Commentary” can be found in Spirituality, Contemplation, and Transformation: Writings on Centering Prayer








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