Thursday, September 4, 2008

the good ground, the deep earth

We have a fundamental lack of sensitivity.

This isn't a sensitivity related to psychology or thinking. It is not a lack of compassion or outer considering (although those, too, are serious issues.)

It is a lack of sensitivity to our inner connections.

"Man cannot do," we are told, and indeed, we are unable to manufacture a sensitivity to our inner connections. Many different spiritual disciplines intimate, in one way or another, that one can manufacture such a sensitivity, but it is by no means certain. People may spend lifetimes, for example, practicing yoga and tai chi without truly understanding this question from a certain fundamental point of view. Those practices, like any practice, easily become sensory attachments and objects, rather than processes for participation. The ego and the mind routinely co-opt form to their own ends.

This lack of sensitivity only becomes apparent to us in the moments when sensitivity actually arises. That is to say, we don't even know that we are lacking sensitivity, or what kind of sensitivity we are lacking, until it arrives. At that point -- if such an arrival ever takes place-- we are astonished, because we did not know that sensitivity of this kind was possible.

We see that we know nothing about it. We see that we do not understand how to do it. We see that we do not understand where it comes from, or where it goes.

The only thing that we understand is that it exists, and that raises innumerable questions.

In the midst of the political atmosphere here in the United States, it is nearly impossible to avoid being touched by the influences of the outer, which provoke powerful emotional reactions. No matter which party or philosophy one subscribes to, the distress of the nation is evident; it has become a tangible, palpable presence. The blame-laying is upon us everywhere: leadership in America has failed and continues to fail, and the evidence is all around.

Like everyone else, I discover myself in reaction. It almost doesn't matter what I am reacting to; I could be a Republican, or Democrat; I could be rich, or poor, it wouldn't matter. The point is that this inner reaction takes place, and I see it. I become identified with it, and then I see that identification.

At the same time, there is a counterpoint that plays itself off against this in many moments. That counterpoint is this note of sensitivity--an awareness of both life and breath that is entirely different than my reaction. The reaction insists on trying to acquire all the weight for itself; Being stands in bewildered contrast, measuring the depth of my inability to be independent of such influences. I see the lack.

Is it just politics?

No. It's like this with sex; it's the same way with money, with my job, with everything. Today, the politics merely highlight the situation by intensifying it and making it more uncomfortable. The fact is that this is how it always is, with me.

I lack.

I want to participate in the blame laying: it's the government's fault. It's his fault. It's her fault. I don't want to take responsibility. This is the big question. What is my responsibility? Do I want to blame, or do I want to work? I have to make a choice.

Then a new force arises -- arrives from somewhere -- that renders sensitivity.

There is an opportunity for an intimacy within the organism that needs to be sought, appreciated, cultivated. I discover a wish to get in touch with myself not just from some abstract psychological point of view, but by moving my attention, my inner sense of touch, to a point much closer to what I actually am, as opposed to those things that the world would make me.

As I receive these reminders -- as I lie awake in bed in the middle of the night, seeking my innermost self -- I see how little I know of myself. How completely I am taken by the external, by the outer state. And how, at the same time, a sacred gift is offered: an invitation to the inner state. An opportunity to value this small life differently. To value the people a little differently. To value even the people I disagree with differently.

Of course, that demands something of me. I don't want to give that up. It's much more interesting to disagree with other people as self righteously as possible. That is, after all, what life and politics today are all about, and we parade it shamelessly, as though arrogance was the virtue, and humility the vice.

What is supremely difficult to understand (although the sensitivity helps) is just how very much of myself has to go in order for me to be anything real. As I put my attention in the places where it is truly needed -- as opposed to delivering it directly into the hands of the hypnotist--I see that almost 100% of me is wrong. There is only a tiny part that knows what is real. It is that same mustard seed that we hear about in the parable. (Matthew 13:3-8.)

In order to be sensitive, I need to discover the good ground, the deepness of the Earth within me. I cannot allow my work, rootless, to be scorched by the sun until it withers away.

And how difficult--how very, very difficult -- it is to discover that good ground, if I let the soil of my life run through my fingers as though it had no value.

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


  1. Amen. We do suffer from a fundamental lack of intrinsic sensitivity. But you write:

    "In the midst of the political atmosphere here in the United States, it is nearly impossible to avoid being touched by the influences of the outer, which provoke powerful emotional reactions."

    I recently spent time in Canada, where they are not at war. People were relaxed and easy going and friendly. On the way back into the United States across a bridge called the Peace Bridge into Detroit, even crossing the bridge I began to feel a change, and going through customs and immigration I really noticed this difference, but it did not stop there.

    I began to get the strong impression that the entire country and everyone in it, every citizen was at war, that the idle of the country had been set higher and higher, like the idle of a car which will move forward even without your foot on the gas.

    Everyone I met back in the United States had an inner tension and turmoil which was palpable. Americans seemed belligerent and pugnacious: ready to fight anything and anybody. Even if they were not at the front in the Middle East, you could still easily tell that they had become a warlike people.

    It was then that I remembered Mr. Gurdjieff's advice that at times of war ordinary people throw away even the small amount of common sense that they are naturally endowed with, and that those who work can work better in such times, and collect the material of common sense which has been thrown away.

    Mr. Gurdjieff taught through two world wars, and these were his most productive periods. Mr. Gurdjieff had two bullet holes in him from even before the first world war, when he sought to understand mankind and its nature by taking himself towards areas of conflict and war. He gained much understanding through these activities.

    Now we are at war. Mr. Gurdjieff called it a cosmic event, not entirely due to man's own making, but planetary in nature, and he said it offered the greatest possibility for work on oneself.

    Both you and I have had or experienced realizations recently, having to do with finding the heart of suffering which is at the center of the cosmos. I do not think this is accidental, but the result of working in these special times.

    At the beginning of World War I Mr. Gurdjieff proclaimed to a fellow passenger on a train that he was in the "Solar Energy Business", and when he was asked how the war might affect his business he declared: "We always turn a profit!"

    Not only is our country at war but we are in the middle of a political election, which is a kind of mini battle or war between two parties. They are war parties.

    I watched some of both conventions, although I am resolutely nonpolitical.

    The Democrats and Barack Obama talked about change and the little man. They emphasized the demagogic policies of the last eight years and the war in Iraq, which was fought entirely at the behest of the special interests of the president and vice president and the president's father, who stand to make immense profit from this warmongering.

    There was no bad intelligence given to the White House, there was bad intelligence IN the White House.

    Last night was the Republicans turn. I noticed that John McCain use the word fight over and over again. "Fight with me against our enemies. Fight for change. Fight against the evil. Fight with me for your rights as Americans. Fight to help the little man". Fight, fight, fight. On and on it went.

    Who do you think is going to win?

    Those of us who work must not care, both because it is beyond our purview except to cast our single vote with or against the mudslide, but more importantly, because we are called to Work; a work which is cosmic in nature, invisible to the ordinary man, unknown by him. We are the servants of the Solar System, the grandchildren of Mr. Gurdjieff.

    We are called to suffer, but intentional suffering is a positive emotion. It does not turn into its opposite but includes its opposite. It does what positive emotions do, it emerges and recedes.

    This is an open secret to those who have been called to the Work.

    War or no war, Democratic or Republican, we must not become involved in the horizontal stupidity and lose ourselves, but recognize that we too have been called to be in the "Solar Energy Business." And as such, we will always turn a profit. As bees collecting the honey of common sense, we will one day be able to provide the honeycomb of sweet spiritual consolation to those who wake up after the nightmare.

    -- rlnyc

  2. When I saw the flower in the photo accompanying your essay, I could not help to think about a cryptic statement Mr. Gurdjieff once made:

    “Roses are the only flowers worth cultivating.”

    Anyone has an idea of what that could mean?


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