Friday, May 2, 2008


The term "wrong work of centers" conveys multiple meanings.

Gurdjieff offered Ouspensky some highly technical definitions of the phrase. In particular, many are interested in what he said about wrong work of sex center, which he said is characterized by a kind of fanaticism. So we may encounter this and that kind of "knowing talk" about people's sex energy -- as though anyone actually understands it, or could do anything about it.

Trying to, er ...get one's hands on sex energy... is like presuming we can wrestle a grizzly bear.

Today, I want to open up the question and examine the idea of wrong work of centers in somewhat more relaxed, general, and perhaps unconventional terms. It's not a bad idea to do that from time to time, because getting hung up on the intensely technical details of Gurdjieff 's system can become a distraction that actually blocks us. Investing too much in the intellectuality of the system gives us just as partial a result as a failure to make efforts to understand that part of the system would.

This, of course, leads us back to the question of form, and how form in and of itself destroys our ability to truly see how we are in a moment. That's a huge issue, and we're not going to be able to get around it in a blog post, so we'll just drop it on the floor right over

...and move forward. Okay?

When we work, as we work, we make an effort to see how we are in life. The emphasis always has to be aimed at experiencing and understanding our position, located between the inner and the outer, the spirit and the flesh.

As we work within our lives, all of us find some conditions that help us, and others that hinder us. That is to say, we all find it easier to work under some sets of circumstances, and more difficult under others. A good deal of this probably has something to do with the tensions between centers, and each individual's unique affinity for some particular parts of their various centers over others.

Inevitably, we develop preferences for the circumstances under which we work. For example, we may find that our work is stimulated, that we are much more interested in it, when things start going badly for us. That's not unusual. On the other hand, some of us may find that we work better when everything is going just beautifully. In the first case, if things are going well, we just fall into a warm, comfortable sleep. In the second case, if things are going badly, we run in the other direction in fear, completely forgetting to work.

Most of us probably have experienced a blend of these two kinds of reactive conditions. The point that I want to get at is that we all come to rely on a particular, habitual set of conditions to work in. In doing so, we commit two obvious errors that we need to look at, and we develop three hang-ups--places where we get stuck.

The two obvious errors

The first obvious error that we commit-- usually a well-hidden error, since it insulates itself in a buffer of very effective denial that feeds on weariness, which is always available-- is that we issue ourselves a "hall pass." By that I mean an excuse to not bother working under other sets of conditions. When the conditions we like to work under (or from experience at any rate believe we can work under) come along, we agree with ourselves that we will try something, and when they go away, we just stop bothering. It's like we can go on a holiday whenever things don't suit us. This particular error might have something to do with Mr. Gurdjieff's adage to "like what it does not like." It may well be that the conditions when we least want to work are the most important ones for us to make an effort in.

The second obvious error is that we begin to lean on specific circumstances for our work. For example, let's say that I have low back pain. (And, at many times in my life, I have.) Or let's say there's this particular individual who I have a really difficult time with--I always have a negative reaction to them. If I see such a situation, understand it as an opportunity for work, and begin to center my struggle around that particular issue, I become myopic. I actually get taken by a specific point of my work, and end up sitting in it, milling around. So you see, it's quite easy to literally get identified with points of one's work.

I think we all do this. The trick is to learn to work within many different sets of circumstances, in many different conditions, with many different people, under many different sets of demands. What is needed is a suppleness: the willingness to remain on ones toes, and remain in touch with an inner quality, a finer vibration of inner energy, at all possible times and in all possible circumstances.

The three hang-ups

We don't want to get hung up on the mental and psychological aspects of our work -- which are mediated by the conceptual mind, and are usually our first and greatest obstacle.

We don't want to get hung up on the physical aspects of our work, where we begin to see energy within us and become identified with it, so that the energy itself takes us. This would be to become too inward, instead of striking a balance between the two parts. A great temptation.

We don't want to get hung up on the emotional aspects of our work, which have enormous force and can perhaps, once they manifest, become more interesting and attractive than any other single aspect of work, since all inner work ultimately centers around the necessity of investing more deeply in them.

All three of these partial approaches to work, each one of which begins with a completely valid and legitimate effort on the part of one of the major centers, can keep someone very busy indeed. The difficulty is that by focusing on one aspect of work, we lose sight of the relationship that is needed.

And absolutely everything in this work is about seeing the relationship.

It might well appear as though I am playing a bit fast and free with the whole idea of wrong work of centers here. But I don't think so. After all, all work within the being is done by the centers. Every time they get attracted to something that is habitual, provokes identification, or relies on a monotonous regularity to achieve a bogus equilibrium, they aren't working properly.

And yes, that leads us to the obvious conclusion that they never work properly.

Not a surprise.

The whole point is to stand in the middle of this mess we live in and see it. Not manipulate it, not judge it, not try to fix it. Just see it.

Even up here on our relatively macroscopic level, we are still actively engaged in the mediation of a quantum activity, resolving the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as it were--in much the same way that the mere presence of an observer changes the outcome of an experiment. The action of the attention itself, as it learns to exist within this set of conditions, changes the conditions by its very presence alone.

And the way that it manages to do that is by being present without any thoughts that emanate from work that is being done incorrectly--for example, all the thoughts that the conceptual mind routinely applies to define and control what it sees.

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

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