Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gravity and the perception of separation

It seems as though I am only getting to about one post per week these days. It has been a busy week, many meetings with work people. As is often the case, I encounter a great deal of material that it isn't appropriate to share in a blog. One of the disciplines in putting a public face on this work  is the need to separate formal work within groups from what one publishes.

Of course, after the fact -- quite long after the fact, as it happens -- people frequently publish things that went on in groups. This is usually done long after those involved have either left the work, or died. In my own case, I have a growing collection of essays about meetings with significant figures which I just can't publish now. Eventually, they will see the light of day, but it will not be this day.

Instead, let's look at a theoretical question, and then talk about practice.


Earlier this week I had the distinct impression within myself that there is a belief within the conscious mind that it is separated not only from the rest of reality -- the animals, plants, rocks, and even the events that take place -- but from the perception of itself. That is to say, I have two natures in a broad sense when it comes to the immediate experience of consciousness. 

Let's avoid getting this idea tangled up with the "two natures" discussed in the Gurdjieff work, as in the context of a higher and a lower nature, just for the time being.

The immediate experience of consciousness, under ordinary conditions, consists of "identification" and "sleep."  The Buddhists might call this attachment.  Broadly speaking, in terms of the Gurdjieff point of view, this simply means that I am habitual, perceptually rather coarse and insensitive, and don't even know I'm conscious. 

If one practices what we call "self remembering," that is, an awareness that is more than one centered -- in any event, this is how I generally understand self remembering now, at this point in my work -- one immediately perceives the separation between the habitual manifestation within the being,  and the awareness that there is something else. Thoughts, opinions, emotions, and even physical sensations arise -- that is to say, I observe the manifestations of my various relatively unconnected centers -- and I see, to a lesser or greater extent, that none of them are actually "I." 

Here I reach moments in inner work where I see that "I"-- this ordinary consciousness -- is identified, and that there is something more whole and more sensitive that is able to perceive independent of the automatized functioning of the various centers.

Then there comes a moment when there is a sensitivity that suggests that even this perception of separation between the seer and what is seen is, ultimately, inaccurate. 

One must begin to re-inhabit the ordinary manifestation, to allow it its place, and at the same time begin to understand, to understand with the most delicate tendrils of a new kind of intelligence, that both a state in which one is identified, or asleep, and the state where one sees that, are fragments that remain separated from a real sense of conscious Being, what Mr. Gurdjieff might have called real "I."

"I"  am not apart.  My sense of separation  from anything, in every case, is incorrect. I am reminded of Lord Buddha's statement on p. 225 of "Beelzebub's tales to His Grandson:"

"It transpired that in his explanations of cosmic truths Saint Buddha had told them, among other things: ' Each of the three centered beings existing on the various planets of our Great Universe, and of course on the earth also, must in reality be nothing other than a particle of that Most Great Greatness which is the All-Embracing of all that exists; and the foundation of this Most Great Greatness is there Above, the better to embrace the essence of everything existing."  

There is a lot more to this passage,  which contains some most interesting commentary about the exact nature of Buddha's message,  but I will leave it up to readers to go check it out.

These theoretical questions about the nature of separation bring me back  to a point that I make to myself over and over again, in the course of my work: I must inhabit my life in a new way.  Consciousness itself must be worn like clothing.  I am reminded of Dogen's mangificent allegory in "Den-E",  The Transmission of the Robe, from the Shobogenzo, Nishijima and Cross, book 1 (page 125.) The robe is the clothing of liberation;  as Dogen deftly extends the allegory in this essay,  we slowly begin to realize that the robe is not a garment made of fabric,  but the Buddhist experience of life itself. 

The Gurdjieff work has the same aim; to clothe oneself fully in life,  so that one lives - one does not think one is living, analyze living,  or fail to meet life-  one abandons the separation within the context of a full experience that springs from all the centers.

Well, of course all of this is highly idealized, isn't it?  Nonetheless, perhaps we can catch a whiff, just a slight taste, of what it might be like, on the edges of our perception, when we are quite still within.


I have the possibility of discovering gravity within myself.

This is not just an ordinary gravity; not just that force of nature which Gene Kelly seemed to so easily  and delightfully defy, with his perfectly relaxed body, and his effortless ability to move with an inestimable grace.  Yes, that was a perfect kind of magic -- and yet that is not the magic I seek within my work.

 There is a different kind of gravity that grounds a man or a woman.  It is only born of inner work, and can never be acquired in any other way. Even then, it is hard won, and one may spend many years before one gets a taste of it.  Most of you in the work -- most of you reading this -- will give up early, before you ever know what it means. Some few of you will be determined enough, and suffer enough, and stay with it long enough, to come to know exactly what it means.  In any event, the good news--for those who are persistent-- is that this possibility is far more available than it used to be, thanks to the unrelenting effort of those many who have worked over the last hundreds of years in this manner.

The sense of inner gravity is born of a connection with sensation. We study sensation carefully over a long period of time in the Gurdjieff work;  this is no casual study. You will note that this study is not undertaken the same way in other works, because the question is not properly understood elsewhere. If it was, you'd hear about it; and you don't.  

If one does not develop a sufficient connection with sensation,  the foundation for an approach to three centered work is not laid down. 

There are, of course, very powerful works within the three traditional ways that can lead us to enormous understandings, but in the fourth way, the aim is somewhat different,  and the inner cathedral  which the fourth way is attempting to help us build -- the breathing cathedral, as my dear friend and mentor Martha Heynemann puts it -- cannot be built without that foundation.

So I discover sensation;  I discover sensation through breathing, one breath at a time, mindfully, without manipulation. The breath feeds the sensation;  perhaps I begin, slowly, to understand with more than just my mind that every cell in my body is a living creature with an extraordinary potential. 

In any event, I attend quite carefully to this inner sensation, even if it is faint and distant, hoping to feed it so that it will help grow.

Then I slowly begin to see that a gravity can exist which draws my life into me quite differently. I can be still within myself;  I can discover myself within repose as life arrives.  I become a receiver of vibrations of varying qualities,  and rest more objectively within that state of receiving,  because the weight of the gravity within my being and within my body roots me to the place and time of my existence in a different way.

My mind doesn't help much with this. The mind is agile and clever, and has many different facts at its disposal, but it is nearly useless in this work. Later, of course, perhaps it becomes useful in a different way, but at this moment,  at this point of work,  it must surrender its dominance, and it actually needs to become passive for me to receive something more real.

Well, enough of that.  I only write of this today because I write from where I am. Tomorrow, it will be something different. It always is -- work is like that.

 Made our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.

1 comment:

  1. i am not sure, however, self observation and self remembering might be different, and what you relate about 3-centeredness might relate more to self observation. with regard various individual's aims in i believe moscow, g replied that the only reasonable one was to be master of one's self, which was the only practical one and indispensible for any further aim, because what aim could a person have if they are different every moment. thus a first step would be to observe one's self, but not in any way we are accustomed to, but, rather, in light of the centers, etc. i suspect that can be achieved without self-remembering. i think self-remembering is what produces the higher substance, and i believe it is self-remembering which ouspensky depicts as a two-headed arrow. that said, out of fact-check mode, i really appreciate the process, thinking over ideas and eliciting what might prove meaning in your experience, using the internet to sound things out. thanks for sharing. perhaps i find it as helpful as you do!


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