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ian wolstenholme is the State of Consciousness guide
Activating the Seer
with Ian Wolstenholme. an interview by Susan Barber
We all know that the great Boddhisatvas teach of our need to master the science of "nonattachment." And this idea of nonattachment perhaps communicates well to the Eastern mind. But in the West, that word often reaches our ears as a synonym for "indifference." In truth, however, indifference and nonattachment are worlds apart.
In order to find a way to communicate the inner meaning of nonattachment as opposed to indifference, we sought to speak with a teacher who approached his or her work with this distinction in mind. Such a one is Ian Wolstenholme. Ian sees it as his mission to help people relocate into that authentic Self where we may experience true Lightness of Being. He realizes the confusion that has been caused by the attempt to translate Eastern concepts for the Western mind. And out of this realization, he has developed a powerful and effective way-of-looking at the process of Being Here Now. Ian speaks eloquently of how we may achieve this state of being. For many of us, his words may well provide a missing link.
Susan: How have you ended up focusing on the task of applying Eastern traditions to the Western mind?
Ian: It's because most of the information that I get is about that. I work with people at the point where they reveal to me what they've made something mean.
Susan: I understand you've developed a way of talking about being in the Now that makes it easier for the Western mind to understand what that really means. Could you share this with us?
Ian: I'll begin by saying that the Western mind is extremely sophisticated. It needs to be given information. So the first piece of information that I communicate to people is that we have all been conditioned to believe that we are one person, but we are actually made up of many parts. For example, you may believe that you're Susan. But on a closer examination, you will find that Susan is many different "conditioned selves" — many behaviors and emotional states, each one with a script that gets played out when the part is triggered. And then there is the part I call the "Seer." This is the part that Buddha talked about to his disciples, the place of the Present or nonduality. The Seer is a space that everybody has experienced. It is only when we go into one of our conditioned selves that we become "dual." And in order to locate ourselves as the Seer of our experience, all we have to do is make the distinction between that and the many other parts of the self.
Susan: And how do you teach people to do that?
Ian: We can start in a very simple way. Having said that Susan has many parts, we can say that when she is not in the Seer function — the function that is the Present — she must be in a part of herself that comes from the past. If Susan believes in this role she is playing from the past, then she is held in that part. And that part of her will do everything it can to get other people to play their parts in her script.
Susan: And if she doesn't believe in it?
Ian: Then she locates as the Seer, and she will now discover the set of attitudes and beliefs of that part. And she will discover the script. We "tag" our scripts, and that helps us relocate into the Seer. That's what it's all about. Location-location-location.
Susan: Can you describe this process of tagging our scripts? Give us an example.
Ian: The most important script is what I call the "resentment script." For example, if we are running a resentment script we may be saying something like, "I've got a right to do this," or, "This isn't fair." These kinds of ideas are good indications that we're in a resentment script. So whenever we feel that we've got a right to something or that the world is being unfair, we can notice that feeling. It's a kind of "tag" we can give to our emotions, to remind us that we've just switched into a part, into a script. We sit there and say, "Oh, I've done all this for them, and I've done this and I've done that, and they've not done this." There's always a huge list of reasons to justify our abusing somebody or dumping our resentment on them. The minute we find ourselves in the middle of one of these lists, we know we're in resentment. It's a wonderful place to "tag." And then we can come back into the present and just allow the present emotion to be whatever it is. It's like moving the cursor on a computer screen. If we put the cursor in one window, then that window is active. We can move the cursor into the Seer and activate the Seer.
Susan: Is the resentment script going to be just one part?
Ian: No. Unfortunately, the parts aren't easily labeled. They're much more complex than that. You can't say the resentful part, because quite a few parts will fit into the domain of resentment. But resentment is, I think, the most powerful source of our scripts, partly because it poses as anger. Some people say, "I'm really angry," but what they really are is resentful.
Susan: What's the difference? Ian: Anger is an immediate response. Something happens and you blast. Anger is a flash. Anger is raw. Anger doesn't sit there. It's resentment that sits there. Resentment is a really, really nasty, squirming place to be. We have a list of "hard done bys" as we would say in England — all the bad things we think have been done to us — and we use that list to justify that we're treating the other person any way we care to treat them.
Susan: In my experience, when people are running resentment scripts and we are not playing our correct roles, we may be accused of being cold or unfeeling. For example, I have a friend who has lost his job, and his wife is going ballistic trying to make him upset about that. She keeps accusing him of not caring about his family. How can he remain in the Now without being perceived as cold and unfeeling?
Ian: The answer to this kind of question is not simple. Because it's highly possible that although this man is appearing to be disengaged, he is actually withholding his true feelings. And withholding is also a resentment script! Let's say that the man you spoke of is only appearing not to be upset by his situation. Doesn't he need an income? Doesn't he need a job? What is he doing about it? There's a lot that happens with the emotional energy between people. It's not just the words that they use to communicate with each other. The emotional energy with which words are delivered is what's important. Emotional energy is the thing that really defines what's going on. We could look at this situation and say that although the wife appears to be the one who is upset and angry and out of control, it may be her husband's "calm script" that is driving her. The man may well be saying, "I'm not doing anything to cause this behavior!" when all the time he's withholding his true feelings. And that is part of what I call a resentment script.
Susan: Wow! I know these people, and I think you may be absolutely right about the dynamics that are happening. I never even thought of that. How can we get rid of these scripts?
Ian: The aim is not to get rid of them. We can't get rid of them. The aim is to know that this is what's happening when we are feeling a particular way. For example, if you talk with your mother, it's highly likely that she will get you to locate in "little" Susan — or one of the little Susans. The freedom in all of this is in knowing what it means when we are feeling upset or whatever we don't want to feel, and using our awareness to see where we are in ourselves. Being upset means that we've been triggered into a particular part of the self. It's the script within the part that triggers all the feelings that we're feeling.
Susan: And what about cases where others are really trying to get us to engage in their scripts and we're not buying it. Won't it create distance in the relationship if we refuse to play the game? How can we do that without being perceived as cold and uncaring?
Ian: The first answer is, we can't. In order to stay out of the other person's script, we simply need to know that it's the right thing to do. If we understand the way we work and have verified this in ourselves — in other words, we see that what I'm saying is not just an idea but is an accurate description of what happens — then we know that if we get drawn into the other person's script, we're colluding in keeping them there. But the second answer is to realize that the Seer in the other person doesn't want us to play the role in their script. When your friend rings up and tells you some awful thing has happened, it does seem supportive to say, "Aw, how terrible!" It does seem that your friend wants you to play your part in her script. But in truth, your friend is really saying, "Help me out! Don't buy this!"
Susan: I've been on this path a long time, and I talk to many others who have, as well. And we all understand about these things. And we have, most of us, been in the space of lightness of the heart. But we want to live there all the time, and this is eluding us. How can we make this state more permanent?
Ian: There's a lot we can do to prepare the space for this to happen. And one way is to make use of what I've been talking about. Use our awareness to see as quickly as we can when we are in one of our scripts. And then move into the Present. But how to make it a permanent state? I don't have any advice. We seek this, and then someday it happens by grace. The permanence comes by grace.
Ian Wolstenholme is a teacher, workshop leader, and author of the book Emotional Hostage — Negotiate Your Freedom.
In 1969, while working as a design consultant in London, Ian had a profound experience of "realization." In 1979 and 1981, becoming aware of a need to incorporate this experience into his life, he went to India and spent time in a community there with the enlightened mystic Osho. Later, he met the enlightened teacher Barry Long, and for ten years after that organized and ran the Barry Long Centre, which came to be a successful worldwide organization.
Today, he works with people in both the UK and Europe, facilitating workshops, courses, and retreats, holding satsangs, and giving private consultations. You may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ian lives in Somerset, England with his partner, Anna. (Repoduced from http://www.spiritofmaat.com)