For any individual The Work must necessarily begin by encountering the ideas of The Work. This most likely will occur by reading a book about The Work or through meeting someone who has encountered The Work and may even be in The Work.
Either way, it is unlikely that this first encounter will do anything other than provoke some interest. There is, in fact, a likely set of steps that will be followed by an individual that encounters The Work.
Attempt to comprehend the ideas they have encountered.
They may simply think of these ideas as not so different to other ideas they have run into and move on. Or they may find them interesting in a theoretical way and may even play with them in their mind. Also they will eventually become bored and move on. Only if they recognize something that is, for them, true in those ideas are they likely to continue.
Apply The Ideas To Themselves.
The Work includes many psychological ideas which are practical and testable. So someone who reads and comprehends some of the ideas will usually try to apply them, to try to test the truth of them in some way. If they achieve some results in doing so, they are likely to go back to step 1 to gather more of the ideas of The Work in order to establish a deeper comprehension of what this body of ideas is. Thus they may repeat steps 1. and 2. several times.
Realization Of Personal Difficulties.
It may occur to many people – indeed it is quite natural that this would be the case – that they¬†could¬†do this work alone. After all it involves a few things that may seem quite possible: remembering yourself, observing yourself, not expressing negative emotions and so on. However, The Work also makes some challenging statements: man cannot do, man has no will, man is asleep. as an individual repeatedly struggles with these ideas and with these practices they start to realize that, in fact, they cannot do this work alone. In time they will realize that if they continue on their own they will still be achieving very little many decades hence. So naturally, they will seek to connect with others who can, possibly help them. They will attempt to find a Work group.
There are some “exercises” – they can be thought of, very roughly, as forms of meditation – which those who are working on themselves often try to carry out on a daily basis. You can read about them in some Work books. In brief, they are:
– The Preparation, also called Sitting:
For a period of time early in the morning, the individual sits in a relaxed manner and senses themselves.
There is a useful (but not full) description of this in The Tales
– Reviewing The Day:
This involves reviewing the day from beginning to end. It is done at the end of the day when all activities of the day have been completed. Specific instructions on how to do these exercises are usually communicated from person to person, rather than being learned by reading from a book.
Exactly how each individual in The Work pursues their personal work may depend on several influences: their own program of working on themselves, their own estimation of their progress, things suggested by others or by a group leader whose influence they are under, things suggested by a direct teacher (if they have one).