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Outer and Inner Stop

In the exercises connected with the Work is one called the Stop-exercise. At the moment that the command Stop is shouted one has to remain motionless in the position one is in. Not only must the body and the limbs become as it were frozen, but the expression of the face and the direction of the eyes must not change. The whole attention must centre on maintaining the same motionless position, until a second command releases you. It was said to us that in some Eastern schools, if you were stopped, say, in a stream rapidly rising in flood, the position had to be kept even when the waters threatened to submerge you. Not until the order to release was given were you allowed to move. This indicated that the body had to be under full control and the teacher fully to be trusted.
For some reason this story has become connected with two others in my mind. One is the story of the teacher who plunged the head of a newcomer seeking instruction into a bucket of water. When the astonished man, almost suffocated, was released, he was asked what he had wanted most. He replied that he had wanted above all things to breathe. He was told that when he wanted the teacher′s instruction as much as he had wanted air, he would be given it. I imagine he was offended and took himself off.
The other story is of a political prisoner who was exercised daily by marching round a courtyard. The barred windows of a room high up opened on this courtyard and the prisoner knew that another prisoner, to whom he urgently desired to send a message, lived in it. He wrapped the message round a stone and every day, while exercising, visualized the movement necessary to throw it up aright, just as a cat does before leaping up a high wall. He also had concealed about him a razor blade for he determined increasingly to cut his throat if he failed. When the opportunity came the stone went straight through the window. These stories seem to me to be connected because they come into my mind together, but I do not quite see the reason. Perhaps you may see.
Now, apart from the exercise where the body is made motionless, which can be called Outer Stop, there is another exercise similar but different, where the mind is made motionless. This is called Inner Stop. Both have to do with bringing about a state of motionlessness. But the two exercises are not performed in the same sphere.
In the case of the first, the body in space is stopped. People may pass you, speak to you, tell you how silly you look, and so on. But your body and your eyes remain motionless in space.
In the case of the second, the practice of Inner Stop, you stand motionless in your mind. Thoughts pass you, speak to you, ask you what you are up to and so on, but you pay no attention to them. You will see at once that Inner Stop is connected with a form of Self-Remembering. Now you must note that the Inner Stop exercise is not the same as trying to stop your thoughts. Try to stop your thoughts; and if you are sincere about your experiences of yourself - and you cannot work unless you are - you will admit it cannot be done. But to stand motionless in your mind is another matter. You can stand internally motionless in the mind, just as your body can externally stand motionless in the world.
Now what does motionlessness do ? What virtue does it possess ? In Nature motionlessness is widely made use of for a definite purpose. Movement is the first thing noticed. The eye perceives movement before it sees colour or shape. The stopping of all movement is a common device in the animal world to escape notice. The object is not to feign death, but to become invisible. Slowing down of movement also makes detection more difficult, as when a cat is stalking a bird. To practise Inner Stop in the mind is like making oneself motionless in space. You are not noticed. Yes, but not noticed by whom?
In your mind you are surrounded by different ′I′s. Each wants you to believe that you are it. Each wants to speak in your name. Suddenly they cannot find where you are. They look everywhere for you. I assure you that you can experience their searching for you and not finding you. Then you remember that you have not rung up the doctor. The effect is similar to a sudden movement in the jungle. All the animals and birds and reptiles instantly see where you are. The customary worries, irritations, unpleasant thoughts, conceits and anxieties seize upon you once more. The animals and birds roar and scream and the ′I′s shout: "We′ve got him." And that is the end of what is really you for the time being. You are dismembered again.
Another person watching you from outside will be aware of a sudden look of anxiety, a quick movement, hurried steps and an urgent voice at the telephone. He may perhaps guess that you will be "out" for the rest of the day. You will be out of yourself. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is like throwing oneself to the lions or casting oneself under the Juggernaut or drowning in the sea. I mean that it is suicide and that we all commit suicide over and over again and no one in the life of the world points this out. Only the Work which comes from sources outside the life of the world points this out. It not only points out that we are daily and continually committing suicide, but it shews us with great patience how not to.
Does it not sound strange when put in that way ? The trouble is that we prefer to commit spiritual suicide at every moment rather than give ourselves the First Conscious Shock. We find it easier than to remember ourselves. And in connection with this we are told that we are like people who prefer to live in the basements of their houses, although all the rooms belong to them and they can live on what floor they like. Can you conceive anything more weird than a city of fine houses whose inhabitants insist on living only in their basements ? The psychological interpretation of basement is the lowest parts of centres where the most mechanical ′I′s live.
No man can remember himself at that level. To remember himself he must distinguish himself from the inhabitants of the basement in him. To do so he must feel concerning these inhabitants that they are not him. He must say with a conviction that grows over the years: "This is not I", to these inhabitants, one by one, especially to some.
An ′I′ approaches you by means of thoughts. You can practise Inner Stop towards those thoughts, once you have observed them enough to know for certain that they herald the approach of an evil ′I′. This is practising Inner Stop specifically towards one thing. But Inner Stop in its full sense is to make yourself motionless in your mind, so that you take no notice of any thoughts and thereby become unnoticed. You are then remembering yourself.

(Maurice Nicoll - Pyschological Commentaries, vol.5 page 1517)