Wednesday, November 7, 2007


"Sehnsucht" is a German word that means, roughly, "longing" in English. It carries deeper connotations, however. Within it is contained in the idea of a search for seeing -- a wish to have a more comprehensive inner vision of life, a deeper understanding.

Every search for understanding is conducted in the shadow of mortality; with age, the shadow grows longer.

I have been speaking over the past few days with my teacher and mentor Betty Brown, who has spent the majority of her life engaged in this search for seeing, and brought me into the Gurdjieff Work under her wing at a time when I was young and unformed. It was my deep privilege to work with her for many years. Now she is nearing the end of her own life and struggling with the uncomfortable facts that we all have to face in regard to our existence on this planet.

In the sensation and experience of breathing in and out through my own life, I sympathize and empathize with her struggle, because I see that the question of life and its inevitable end is much closer than I imagine. We carry our mortality right here with us, perched on our left shoulder. The presence of death is so constant and so familiar that we forget about it, unless we have that connection, through breathing, that reminds us.

Not always available.

This morning, on my way to work, I was taking in the rich impressions of the early morning sun on autumn foliage. As I experienced this spring, the color of change provides a new kind of food. This time, however, the color is not green, a color of new life. Instead I am taking in the rich reds and yellows and ambers that represent the end of life.

So right now I see I am receiving a special kind of food from the end of the summer, as the leaves die.
That moment gives me hope that within the end of life lives something that is shared everywhere, and lifts us all up.

I think what concerns us the most about the idea of dying is that there will somehow be a loss of value. I don't think we fully understand that all the value that is ever created between beings is eternally valid and never goes away. Once a value is created, once an effort is made, it will always be true, whether it lies behind us in time, with us now in time, or -- dare we imagine it? -- in the future.

In this search for vision, this search we engage in together for understanding, for compassion, for a real sense of what it means to be, we often look to the far horizon, as though what we are seeking must of necessity be far away and difficult to find.

In doing so, do we fail to take note of the absolute value, the irrevocable truth of meaning that lies directly in front of us, here, in the immediate inflow of impressions-- now?

It's true, of course, it takes a specific kind of chemistry, and a specific kind of inner connection which we do not orchestrate or command, to sense this properly. And it's equally true we have a facility for theorizing about this matter, and a lack when it comes to participation.

Our failure to ingest the food of life deeply enough continually leaves us in a place where we do not gain the emotional support we need to see the immediate value. This malnutrition leaves us emotionally flat, or, even worse, depressed and unhappy. We've all been there.

Hopefully, in this fall season, as so much of nature surrenders the bounty that it has created during the spring and summer, what is released will help to feed us in our effort. By absorbing the impressions of the work that has been done on our behalf, we contribute, and get something for ourselves at the same time.

Not such a bad deal, all in all.

For those of you who are waiting for the last two posts on the Society of Akhldanns, rest assured I have not forgotten. I will confess, however, that I am leaving them for a moment when I cannot think of anything else to post.

That could be tomorrow, or it could be in a week or two. In the meantime, we will just have to see what arises from day to day, both individually and collectively.

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

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