Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A more active stance

First a brief prelude, in which we place the author in the context of his environment.

I'm in Georgia. Working for a few days at my corporate headquarters before I head for China. It is astonishingly hot here; the heat is a living substance that pounds itself into the pores. For reasons I cannot explain, I find it natural to relax into its demand. It's almost pleasurable.

Working in the midst of this recently new, but now familiar, environment, all day long, I find a bit of time to work. In fact, for many years, life and work have become inseparable. Life itself, the sensation of life, becomes a reminding factor in a way that no set of rules or plans could possibly substitute for.

So. I live. I work.

What do I mean by that, I "work?"

Well, I mean something that my former group leader (God rest his soul) Henry Brown once said to me "Sometimes, working just means taking in impressions."

In my ongoing examination of this question, "What is the point at which impressions enter the body?", I see how passive I am.

This, of course, is something that Jeanne De Salzmann brought up many times when speaking. We are not active. In my own case, what interests me is just how much is available in terms of attention to incoming impressions, and just how little interest there is from some of my parts.

In the mass of stunning contradictions that one begins to see as one inhabits oneself in a more organic manner, the one thing that seems certain is that the attention to the impressions of life create what Mr. Gurdjieff would have called more "vivifying vibrations." In fact, when he was asked what the work did to people, he once said, "everything more vivid." And that can, at times, certainly be the case.

At the same time, there is a depth to the experience of awareness that cannot be summarized with such a simple phrase. The activity of the emotional center, if it becomes more connected, begins to cause a man to ask many questions about his life -- his emotional life, his physical life, his intellectual life, his entire life -- that are not asked without a better connection between the centers. "The terror of the situation" is just the beginning of an examination of the effects that that produces on a man.

And perhaps the most compelling formulation that arrives in the pondering of one's own helplessness is the irrevocable fact of that helplessness itself.

I don't ask enough questions about where I am, and what I am doing. Above all, I don't question myself actively enough to see that I am always, if I wish to be -- there's that famous phrase, "I wish to be"-- at the point where impressions enter. Bringing awareness to that point changes the transaction between Being and causality. That is a very big and very metaphysical way of putting it, but I'll just say it that way anyway.

Cause and effect do lie at the heart of this question. Intelligence -- in the sense of true awareness, of what Gurdjieff would have called three centered Being--exists as the intermediary between cause and effect. (This statement is a tempting philosophical digression which I will intentionally ignore.)

This question of impressions and our presence -- our awareness in relationship to them -- can be applied anywhere, at any time, to any experience. So we are all granted a lifetime of unending opportunities to bring the attention to the place where impressions enter. It can mean so many things, under so many different circumstances. And the act of being present to this particular question, if it is applied correctly -- first, and foremost, in relationship to sensation, with a sense of pondering and precise examination within the moment-- creates a situation in which life, so to speak, has suddenly been put under a magnifying glass, where many things that were tiny or obscure and unclear suddenly spring into high relief, and create a sense of astonishment that they were not noticed before.

At the same time, the intellect, the ordinary thinking part of mind, must absolutely be less active in order for this to be possible. It's a paradox -- we think we need to think, and by thinking that, we fail to think in a real way. We fail to think, that is, in a way that includes more than one center.

When this happens, the place that thinking center usually occupies -- that is, 100% of what is going on within the field of awareness, more or less -- is changed so that perhaps only one third of what is being perceived arrives and is filtered through that particularly distorted lens. With the other lenses of awareness -- our emotions and our sensation --participating, the world looks quite different, and has a very different weight. The center of gravity of Being has changed.

One of the traditional methods of the Gurdjieff work is to have tasks and exercises. These are formulations and constructions that help us to begin to try and find a way to work on our own. There comes a time, however, when one must step across a line so that the examination of a question -- for example, this question of where impressions arrive -- is no longer a job to be done, or an exercise to be conducted and dispensed with after it is complete, but an active and living presence in the midst of life, where I take an active stance towards this question over, and over, and over again in the course of the day. Simply because the connection between the parts of the body is interesting, compelling, and vital. Simply because I see that I don't know much about this, but that it feeds me organically.

I will share a rather private, but distinct, impression that I took in of this kind today. It involves a subject we do not speak about much in the work, which is sex. Of course, we speak about sex energy, but mostly in a supremely intellectual manner, as though we had control over it, and it wasn't able to make us, so to speak, do any damn thing it wanted to.

In any event, I saw today as I was taking in impressions and within sensation -- inhabiting life in that way I often write and speak about--that I saw that this particular experience is often just as satisfying as sex, that is, as an orgasm ...although of course quite different ...and please don't ask me to explain why, because I won't.

Now, this is not a new perception, or even a new subject for me. I have noticed this before. What interests me is that overall, sex seems more attractive to me. I'm not sure why; perhaps it's because sex is hardwired, biological, inevitable, and habitual. But as the impression of taking in the impressions deepens, and the sensation of this quite extraordinary food arrives, I ask myself more and more why this is not more interesting to me, and why I am not more active towards it, when it has such a compelling effect--in point of fact, one that is both longer-lasting and in some ways far more interesting than orgasm.

It touches on the question of why we so perversely turn away from what is good for us.

That is a question that is repeatedly driven home in both the old and new Testaments of the Bible, as well as Hinduism and Buddhism. But it touches on a deeper part of that question, because this is not a turning away from something that is morally good, or socially desirable: it is a turning away from the food that the organism, the Being itself, not only definitely needs, but thrives when it receives.

Well then. How is it for every one else?

Go. Look. See.

May our hearts be opened, and our prayers be heard.


  1. Off-topic, but I thought that you might be interested in this book, when it is released.

  2. Lee,
    This is as far as I've read today, and I'm new to this blogging business so won't choose an identity as yet. I'm with a G group in Salt Lake City, discovered Luke Storms recently, and now you. I will read your other postings in future. Thank you for putting your questions, musings on the internet. You help us all immensely.


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