Sunday, May 18, 2008
Work in Life, a bit more specifically
As best I can determine, this very peculiar looking plant is a dwarf variety of saprophytic orchid (I have been unable to identify the exact species--if any reader knows what it is, please let me know) that spends most of its life growing under leaf litter. It doesn't have any leaves, and it doesn't use sunlight to produce chlorophyll. It grows completely hidden until the moment in the spring when it blooms. As such, it is a highly atypical, almost magical flower.
In the context of this post, it represents that which is hidden within us, which emerges to bloom when we least expect it. It doesn't look like we expect it to, it doesn't behave like we expected to, but when it arrives, it flowers.
The phrase "work in life" comes up a lot in the Gurdjieff work these days, although one can't really find it per se in the traditional Gurdjieff literature--for example, Ouspensky may have used the phrase, but if so, I don't recall where.
There are multiple levels of meaning in this phrase.
Before we can say we know what "work in life" means, we have to say that we know what "work" means. And most of us don't really know what "work" means, most of the time, because we are trapped in our psychological understanding of what work means. We actually have to throw that away -- to be daring enough to not know what we're doing -- in order to start knowing what we are doing. The entire form and context that we attempt to frame our "work" in is wrong, because it all springs from an interpretation, rather than arising from the experience.
One might say that our aim is to discover what it means to "work" without quotation marks.
So if work means having the immediate experience and being within it, in the absence of fundamental interpretation -- which is an extremely high practice indeed -- then "work in life" means being right here, right now, not knowing what the hell is going on, and being comfortable with it.
Actually, being uncomfortable with it, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Being within this moment involves seeing that there are two forces at play for which we stand between. One of them, which is overwhelmingly powerful, is the set of actual events and circumstances of this life, which keeps seizing us by the scruff of our neck, picking us up, and shaking us like some kind of prey. And in a very real sense, life is a predator, and we are the prey. It eats us at every step we take, sucking our energy and our being out of us and consuming it for its own purposes. If you were wondering what all those bizarre images of Tibetan and Hindu demons with a billion arms and mouths and sharp teeth, belts hung about with skulls, are trying to say to us, what they are saying is, "life devours us."
The other force that we stand next to is within us, and for almost all of us, it is usually much more delicate. Actually, it has a tremendous power, but not in the way that it is currently expressed. It is a finer energy that arises from what the Chinese would call the Tao. Christians, Sufis, Hindus all have different names for it -- the Holy Spirit, love, prana -- no matter what you want to call it, it is ultimately nameless.
The point is that we need to have a more conscious relationship to that energy as we stand here in life.
We forget to do that all the time. Even though we know that there is something that can feed us from another level, we rarely stop to sip that particular glass of nectar. Our outwardness takes us in almost every circumstance.
I am in the midst of that experience on a constant basis right now, because despite most of a lifetime of inner effort, I am confronted right now with health issues and many personal demands of a professional and responsible nature that are pressing me very hard. They are generating a good deal of friction and fear in me. Not only that, because my body isn't getting the right kind of nutrition, and I speak here of just plain old food, the chemical substances needed for support are in scarce supply.
In the midst of this, I repeatedly see that there is another part of me that is not attached to this particular set of circumstances, and is working on completely different questions in a completely different way. All of these questions are inward, and all of the work being conducted by "the other half" is also inward. Because of the separation between inward and the outward -- I am not bringing them into relationship sufficiently -- the inward work, which has an undeniable power, is unable to provide much support to the outward question.
So once again, I see that I am standing in front of my lack -- in front of my inability to bring two worlds together and stand in the middle of them.
It is not a bad thing to be ruthlessly confronted with my own weakness and inability. It is terribly trying from an emotional point of view, but I consistently see the value, and I know that it is slowly breaking down the ego-assumptions which I have carried with me for a lifetime.
So this idea of work in life is a call to see how I stand between my two natures, and to be willing to stand there. Above all, in the midst of this maelstrom called life, I need to understand that there is a hidden nature within me which is growing, and to value it properly.
I need to touch that more often, in the day--to nurture it, and to never forget that its blossoms will become available,
in their time.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.