Monday, April 7, 2008

Surrendering the Heart

The heart, or, the center of the spine, plays a special role in work. You will notice that it occupies the position of five in the enneagram.

Most of us understand the heart as being the organ that pumps our blood. It's located in the breast--in the same vicinity, that is, as where the "third brain" of man used to be located.

In "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson," on page 713 (new edition) Gurdjieff mentions the following: "As regards the place of concentration of this localization, which serves the common presence of terrestrial three brained beings as a 'regulating' or 'reconciling principle', it should be noted that in the beginning, in them as in us, this third concentration existed in your favorites in the form of an independent brain, localized in the region of what is called the breast."

The chief functioning apparatus of man's 'reconciling brain' has, as Gurdjieff goes on to point out, redistributed itself, with a nexus of nerves in the solar plexus. In my own experience, however, this does not change the very important role that the heart--this location in the center of the spine-- ought to play in our work.

Well then. We could get very technical about this. For those who are so inclined, I recommend that you go and read the chapter "The Holy Planet Purgatory." It has enough of such technical matters in it to satisfy just about anyone. Instead, from here on, I want to talk about life in a bit less analytical terms, because the experience of something penetrating the heart (center of the spine) is different than knowing about the structure, or some kind of technique that supposedly may help us achieve that.

So how is it, exactly?

We all develop a hardness in us as we encounter this life. I see it constantly in myself. Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of my intellect, which judges and condemns, and my organism, which experiences and receives, I need something to help sort out the difference between the two. This reconciling factor--my heart--which ought to be active, isn't. In my current personal work, I constantly encounter this problem, and I repeatedly have to suffer moments where I am caught between these two forces, seeing how wrong my resultant negativity is, and having little or nothing that I can do about it.

So I find that I do have a hardness, and it lies in this central area of the spine, like a knot that prevents my parts from being in a more productive relationship.

Reading Hebrews the other day, I came across the following passages:

"Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said, today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:12-15.)

If ever a passage called us to live within the moment -- today -- with a softness of heart and a willingness to receive, this is the one. We "harden our hearts in rebellion" by refusing to accept our conditions.

Acceptance later is worthless. Acceptance has to be practiced within the current moment, and when we begin to try to do that, we discover how supremely difficult acceptance actually is. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I know very little about this, and I stand in front of that lack in most of my relationships. I ought to be grateful for every single moment that I am alive, and humble before my fellow man, but this is impossible for me.

My heart needs to be pierced by something new -- something that comes into the center of my being, in the middle of the spine, and melts the hardness there.

"Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from Spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the One to whom we must render an account." (Hebrews 4:12-13.)

Here again, we see that what is needed has to enter us physically, to affect the very construction of our body itself, and help us to see how we are. We cannot do that by ourselves. Only the doubly sharp sword of a real conscience, the piercing anguish of seeing our actual condition, can humble us to the point where we are willing to admit how we actually are, as opposed to the optimistic assessments our ego bolsters us with.

Today, there is more than the usual available in this area for me. I actually had moments where I spent enough time to be in relationship with strangers I usually don't give the time of day to -- for example, a man my own age who pumps my gas. His name is Washington. He's probably used to being ignored by everyone, because he is a small man with a small job, but Washington has something subtle awake in him.

I saw today that this man has a big heart -- and I was grateful for knowing him. I think maybe he is a better man than I am, because he knows something about staying positive even when he is pumping gas, and in the midst of my own wealth and good fortune, I tend to complain.

Today I see that.

Today, I am grateful for the spring flowers, which is easy and hardly worthy of note. What is remarkable is that I am also grateful today for the people at the post office, who I usually detest for their slowness and clerical mindsets.

All of this gratitude comes from the center of my body and the center of my being, and it isn't my property.

As I take the time to be in relationship with these people that I usually ignore, or actively dislike, and think are inferior to me,

My, oh my,

how everything changes.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.


  1. Beautiful post, I needed to hear that-Thank You.

  2. you're welcome.

    that "smear of orange" is a terrific little painting. keep at it!


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