Things in life become “events” in the Work when we combine with them, when we put our feeling of “I” in them and take them personally. In themselves, the events of life are neutral, but when we react to them, they become events to us.
“It is not exactly that external life furnishes the material to work on, although this is true. It is rather that the way you take external life is the material to work on. Life is a changing kaleidoscope of events, always turning. The difficulty is that people take life and their reactions to life as the same thing. They find it difficult to realize that the same incident in outer life, such as a thunderstorm, is not the same as their mechanical reaction to it and does not affect everyone in the same way as it affects them. That is, the storm, which is part of outer life at the moment, and is a neutral, impersonal thing, and their mechanical reactions to it, which are personal, say, alarm, seem identical to them. Can you grasp what is meant? Some people enjoy storms. A storm – that is, an event in life – can produce different reactions in different people. Well, it is upon these mechanical reactions in oneself that one must begin to work by practicing non-identifying and all the Work teaches.”
– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “On Identifying with Your Part in Life,” Vol. 3, p. 1209
“Understand clearly that we cannot change the events but only our way of taking them. But if we have not practiced self-observation, if we have not made a new place in our minds where we can, to a small extent, observe incoming impressions before reacting to them and observe how ordinarily we would react, this will be impossible. That is, we remain machines governed by life, which is a series of changing events that overpower us in a regular rotation. Men and women glued to life cannot distinguish themselves from life. They are life: life as the event is them. Life as a series of changing events comes into us as impressions and causes us to react mechanically. We take this mechanical reaction as I, as oneself. We identify with every event, more, or less. The point of the Work is to create a conscious place or bar or customs-house where we can be conscious of the quality of incoming impressions and so detect a typical event, and what would be our mechanical reaction to it before we react mechanically to it. … For instance, you lose your money. That is an event. Your reaction to this possible event, if it has not happened to you, will not be the same as when you hear that X has lost his money. In such a case X will be under the hypnotic power of the particular event called ‘losing your money.’ You will not feel all that it means until the event in the turn of the wheel of events called life picks on you. Yes, to hear of events happening to others is quite different from the events happening to you. What does it mean ‘an event happening to you?’ It means that you, by a turn of the wheel, suddenly are in the midst of an event – say, a car-crash. That is quite different from reading about such an event. Do you see that here lies something very curious?”
Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Life as Events and our Mechanical Reactions by Identifying with Them,” Vol. 4, pp. 1256-1257