Monday, June 11, 2007
The arising of sensation
After selecting the title for this blog, I instantly realized that it might just as well have been titled, "the arising of attention." However, sensation and attention are two different things. So, why would this title be interchangeable?
Sensation and attention have several things in common. First and foremost, we do not have them. That is to say, we do not have them in any significant sense relative to the way that Mr. Gurdjieff and Jeanne DeSalzmann used the terms. Secondly, we are relatively mistaken in our understanding of what they are. In order to understand them in any real sense, we must already have them, and instead, we all find ourselves working towards them.
And third, they arise from the same source.
There are many exercises that are meant to invoke sensation. There are many exercises to strengthen attention. All of them produce results if they are undertaken properly; there is little doubt of this. I think it is fair to say, however, that in most people's experience, the results are relatively temporary.
Example. One sits in meditation and develops a very good, deep relationship in the body. Or one is doing movements, and one develops a new and interesting kind of attention for a moment. But the minute the special conditions are over, it's gone. Not only is the relationship gone, but even the memory of it is gone. We keep climbing this hill over and over again and sliding back down.
In the case of sensation, which is where we will focus our discussion today, one can use the attention to "point" at various parts of the body and develop a deeper sensation of them. The attention can also be used to point at various parts of the body and relax them.
It is not my intention to dismiss such efforts. However, I wish to raise a larger question here, and examine the idea of unity in the process.
The reason that the sensation we achieve in exercises and effort is fugitive is because sensation does not arise from attention. Attention does not create it.
Discovering sensation in this manner is kind of like poking a hibernating animal with a stick. Sure, it stirs and wakes up for a minute. However, the conditions within its environment-- the temperature within its den, the amount of ambient daylight -- are such that it needs to remain lawfully asleep. It won't wake up until conditions are correct, and let's face it, a guy poking it with a stick is hardly the arrival of springtime.
So what is "springtime?"
If one develops a more permanent sensation of the body, it arises from unity. That is to say, once the partiality -- the separation -- of the inner state is sensed and known, and work is undertaken to correct that, parts become more unified. And it is in the integration of the inner parts, which must be carefully sensed and studied, that we discover a new quality which can lead not only to sensation, but to many other extraordinary things.
You may remember that in "Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson," Beelzebub says the following to Hassein:
"So in the meantime, exist as you exist. Only do not forget one thing: at your age, it is indispensable that every day when the sun rises, while watching the reflection of its splendor, you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your common presence." (Chapter 7, Becoming Aware of Genuine Being Duty.)
This serves as a direct instruction to undertake the work of enlisting our separate parts to create the kind of unity which has been discussed throughout this blog.
Working on the specific points of separation, and bringing them into relationship, causes a current to flow. The lawful order in which this current flows is described in Gurdjieff's enneagram and the multiplications that accompany it. It is from the flow of this current that the deeper sensation of the body which we seek arises.
Because of this, I am not certain that the exercises which point attention in the direction of sensation serve the purpose they are intended to. There is no doubt that those exercises took me to a certain point, but I never got past it. A revolution had to take place in order for that to happen. Once the revolution was over, I understood that I had been undertaking the effort backwards.
The whole point of studying the material separation, the physical partiality, of the inner state is to understand the machine and how to correct its relationship. The unfortunate consequence of Ouspensky and Nicoll's books-- which at the time they were written were terrific contributions to the Gurdjieff ouvre-- is that much of the understanding of the work relates to the study of people's psychology -- especially if people glean the majority of their understanding of the work from the books. This is particularly, although not universally, true of people who have never actually studied in groups coming out of Gurdjieff's direct line of work. It is not possible to know how that work is actually conducted by reading the books.
It takes a different kind of animal to penetrate the animal.
This is why I continue to emphasize relationship to breathing, and, to all the other animal activities that we engage in -- eating, sleeping and waking up, eliminating -- as paths to understanding. The key to what we are does not lie outside our animal nature. It is contained within it. The vitality of the entire cosmos is expressed within the arising of organic life. If you want to feel the pulse of God, you need look no further than your own blood. We do not exist apart from our higher nature, or apart from nature itself, or even apart from God. We exist within these things. Our perception of separation is a delusion created by ego.
In the matter of the development of sensation, I believe it would be more practical to concentrate on the inner understanding of feeding the various parts the right food, and fostering their relationship with each other. If these tasks are undertaken in an effective manner, sensation will arise. It will be far less fugitive, because it will arise from a stable relationship that it can feed on and sustain itself from. Not from our erratic attention, which itself ultimately relies on the same relationships in order to manifest in any way other than temporarily.
It will wake up and live.
Now that's springtime.
One of the questions I was asked yesterday by a good friend was why we would do this.
I tried to explain, but probably did a clumsy job. The best I can do today is to say the following:
"We'll know why we want to be in Rome when we get there."
May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.