Friday, April 30, 2010

Resistance

In my ongoing investigation, my questions, about terms we frequently use to describe our inner state, the term "resistance" is on the landscape today.

We hear this term used all the time, in conjunction, perhaps, with the term "struggle." We speak of our inner struggle and our inner resistance without, perhaps, being quite clear as to what these things actually are-- without examining them, so to speak, in the direct and organic context of the living being. Above all, as with the term "mechanicality," we speak about these things as though they were somehow outside of what we are, as though we were not already deeply mired in the midst of these very features and conditions which we refer to.

One of the expressions Mr. Gurdjieff used was that we are "in galoshes up to our eyebrows." These galoshes are, quite literally, all of these notions we have about ourselves, what we are, where we are coming from, what the obstacles are, and so on. Every single one of these features and characteristics is part of the accretions which have fallen into us -- the countless associative impressions we have formed -- over a lifetime. As I have mentioned before (well, I think I have mentioned it -- after three years in this exercise, who knows what I have actually mentioned and what I just imagine I have mentioned ?) we formed this huge construction in us over the course of a lifetime.

Gurdjieff called it "personality," or, perhaps more commonly, "false personality." Those were his terms. I don't know if I have an exact term of my own for it per se, as my experience of the whole ball of wax, the "everything" that is "me," is formed from a more touchy-feely, deepening, routed, and overall organic impression of this inner planet, which has formed over a lifetime as everything falls onto its "surface."

Accordingly, I would ask readers to just imagine themselves from inside themselves, and sense, so far as able, the entire construction with all of our parts: in my own case, so that I have an impression of myself that includes how I am physically right now, and how all of life has led up to that--how I am emotionally right now, and how everything that went before has set the stage for this-- and how I am mentally right now, and how all of that has been formed by everything that has fallen into me over the course of a lifetime.

Perhaps for just a moment I can get a sense of the surface of my inner planet--a tangled thicket of thorny vines, tangled branches, mud, sticks and stones, all thrown together in a hodgepodge, which I call my "self." Any semblance of order is purely theoretical and largely imposed by my fantasies about myself; in fact, things are quite a mess. And all I generally see about the planet is the surface; there is an enormous mass of "me" lurking underneath all of that, which exerts a gravity that inexorably draws life towards it and into it.

All of this, taken together as the current state, is the galoshes from which I peer out into the world. It consists of my experiences, my beliefs, my assumptions, my attitudes, and everything that has ever happened to me. So it has produced this reacting construction. This "device" which generally can't respond to anything honestly or directly, but always has to get out the crayons and color everything in so that it looks the way I want it to.

That is what I call "me."

From within this form, which insidiously collects and incorporates everything that arrives at its doorstep, I invent stories about how mechanical I am, and I invent stories about my resistance and my struggle. The stories are fascinating, so I don't very often take a close look at exactly where I am, a look that asks the question "where am I?", simply because the construction, the form, this accretive state of planetary experience, assumes that it knows where it is.

From within that assumption, there is certainly something I refer to as "resistance." That is, there is an active polarity in me... there are elements that are opposed to my wish.

Now, there are myriad polarities that exist within levels. That is, the wish to have this or that object or personal relationship which one can or cannot have.

But here, in relationship to this near-magical word "resistance,"we are referring to polarities between levels.

Putting it in even simpler terms (which, by now, many readers are probably silently begging for) it is the difference between sin and righteousness. Sin is the state in which I go against the higher, righteousness is the state in which I align myself with it.

So this question of resistance is a question of alignment. It relates to that tangled mess of my construction. Things are not straightened out; things are not in good order. We might say the energy in life does not appear to follow the path which we think it ought to.

All too often, our concept of alignment, of a new inner order, of what it means and how it ought to be, is formed almost solely by the intellect; it is generated by the construction -- the machine -- the false personality -- that is causing the problem in the first place. Well, of course it's that way. How else could it be?

The difficulty we have is that we don't see that we need to shake the tree in order to get anything to reveal itself -- we have, in fact, to shake the tree very hard indeed. And we are exceedingly comfortable in our tree. Everyone, for example, in this tree called "the Gurdjieff Work" takes great pains to make sure that the tree is treated with enormous respect, that no one kicks the trunk and scuffs the bark. It is a sacred tree. Even though that tree is constantly breathing, growing, changing, putting out new leaves and shedding old ones, it looks like a static entity to me.

And frankly, I prefer it that way. People come up to me and suggest new things, new ideas, different ways of practice, and I find myself... secretly, inside myself... grumbling,

"don't touch my goddamn tree."

Where I'm going with this is to infer that we don't study exactly what resistance is in ourselves. Mostly, we just talk about it. It's much easier to do than to engage in any actual observation of this nasty little problem.

A study of resistance involves seeing the organism within life and constantly questioning its reactions. I am, for the most part, completely unaware that there is resistance in all of my parts. Resistance-- and I will propose a label for that word now, "the refusal to open myself to higher influences" -- is a state that exists in every center. I resist higher influences intellectually; I resist them emotionally; I resist them physically.

Many years ago, when I first began to see this about myself, I realized that we have all formed a powerful part in ourselves which one could call "the rejecting part." The function of this part is to habitually and reflexively say no to everything. It is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the sole aim of defending the construction against all comers.

Let's look at it a little more technically. Some people will like that.

We don't have just one "resistance." There are actually three principal resistances within us. Each of the three main lower centers has its own strongly formed resistance. It seems quite likely that these are excessive manifestations of the negative parts of those centers, as though the center was improperly balanced and discharging far too much energy through that pole.

They are not that difficult to identify from an ordinary point of view. Pain -- especially pain without any clear physiological basis -- is the negative manifestation of moving center; anger and other negative emotions are the negative manifestation of emotional center; and rejection and argument are the negative manifestation of intellectual center. All three of these negative polarities have an affinity for one another and are more than willing to cooperate.

So, in a certain sense, man's negativity does not, as Gurdjieff pointed out, have a center of its own. It is, rather, constructed from partial manifestations of the three lower centers. The reason that these partial manifestations find such ready ground for operation is that negative manifestation, that is, the negative polarity of each center, does have a legitimate and right place in work. The problem lies in the fact that it isn't balanced by right work in the positive parts of centers, and that the reconciling part of each center isn't functioning very well as a mediator. Even worse, what it forms is a kind of "negative mirror," a type of three centered work which, although it is strictly based on partiality, has a perverse kind of strength because it is able to work in all three centers.

The association of this question of resistance within the three centers suggests that it is directly related to the three "granthis," or knots, in yoga, located at the base, center, and top of the spine, which block the proper ascent of the "kundalini" energy in man. (Readers take note: in its contemporary usage, the term "kundalini" is demonstrably incorrect, as T. K. V. Desikachar explains on page 138 of his excellent book "The Heart of Yoga." In strictly classical yoga terms, the word kundalini definitively refers to what blocks the flow of energy; the energy is prana.)

I should warn readers, having said all this, that these are suggestions and theoretical frameworks from within which to look at this question of resistance. While they are based on many years of my own work, and supported by various technical concepts presented in the Fourth Way and in classical yoga, they aren't necessarily "true." They simply serve as a jumping off point from which interested persons can conduct their own investigations.

Furthermore, having this technical kind of knowledge is not very useful to us. What is useful is to carefully study the question of resistance and to see where it is located physically, mentally, and emotionally.

What in me is saying no?
Why is it saying no?
How is it saying no?
Where does it say no?
Is it necessary to say no?

A state of attention-- of inner vigilance -- calls on a gatekeeper to ask these questions in the midst of life. And constantly asking the questions keeps us on our inner toes.

In conducting these investigations, one of the many questions I have is why there is resistance at all.

If there are parts of me that irrevocably understand that being more open will feed me deeply, why is so much of my construction mustered to prevent it?

It reminds me of the answer I got when I once asked a dermatologist why we get moles.

"If we knew that," he said, "we'd know everything."

May the living Light of Christ discover us.

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