Sunday, September 23, 2007

life is the teacher

Lotus flower, West Lake, Hangzhou

Trungpa, it turns out, spends a good deal of time in his "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" discussing the way we solidify life, and thereby remove the life from it.

How to remain fluid?

In today's Gurdjieff work, we discover the corresponding practice of "being in the moment." Admittedly, this practice is an evolutionary aspect of the Gurdjieff work- you won't find the phrase in any books by Gurdjieff or Ouspensky (at least that I know of.) The roots of this practice, which certainly has more of a Zen flavor about it, may well stem from William Segal's interest in Zen, Madame De Salzmann's corresponding support, and the subsequent influx of Zen practices such as sitting, which is now considered an orthodox part of the work even by people who stubbornly resist the influx of other "new" influences. The irony of which should, perhaps, not be lost on us. Put bluntly, the Gurdjieff work must become an evolving organism, or it will die out. And it already is, since it evolves within the practice of every person who engages in it.

Today I attended one of several celebrations of Peggy Flinsch's 100th birthday. For those of you "outside" the formal work, let me just "fill in the blanks" by mentioning that she is one of the few people still alive who not only knew Gurdjieff personally but worked with him directly. He personally chose her, we're told, to read the English translation of "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" because... well, because.

Anyway, one of Peggy's entourage reminded us this afternoon of her adage that life is the teacher.

To be in the moment is to work in life- to be in life fluidly, dynamically, presently. This effort involves an acceptance of conditions, a willingness to inhabit the situation, a warmth and an openness. This means we make an effort to meet our community--both our inner and our outer community--within the same moment, at the same time, and offer an unstinting unity that devolves and evolves from the moment that exists in front of us.

It implies--and demands--a flexibility and a sense of humor that directly opposes the rigidity and grim determination that many daily enterprises get conducted through and with. Trungpa mentions this too; his point, that laughter can often be the sword that cuts through the cement we have in us, and lets the water flow again.

In order to find this place, and work within it from within a personal center of gravity, we need to drop the baggage, drop our assumptions, drop the cement statues we've been constructing and lining our inner garden with. Yes, it's true- gardens need static elements such as walls, borders, statuary and walkways-- but without plants, without flowers, they're not gardens.

So now, perhaps after many years of rather technical study, self observation, and so on, it's the dynamic element we need to take into account and work with. Meeting each other on our own mutual ground, within our humanity, acknowledging our weaknesses, yet warmly supporting each other in exchanges, we find a place where flowers can grow. A place where practice arises within each moment, within life.

Yes, it's true. When it comes to spirituality, I guess I'm a gardener, not a warrior. And maybe that flies in the face of the heroic idea that we should follow the warrior's path and storm the gates of heaven.

My own take on it is this:

You can feed more people honestly with vegetables than you can with a sword.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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