Thursday, September 16, 2010

What am I trying?

Years ago, older people in the Gurdjieff work would often ask me, "What are you trying now?"

I would always struggle to immediately come up with a decent answer, instantly constructing a lie that sounded as beguiling as possible, to make it sound like I was actually trying to work on something.

On some rare occasions, I actually was trying something (by sheer luck, most likely,) only I didn't know what I was doing.

Looking back on it now, I see that even though I thought I knew what I was doing, I had no idea whatsoever of what I was doing.

It's probably like that now. I think I know what I am doing. Or, at any event, I think I know what I am not doing. What never dawns on me is that I don't know anything about anything. That is the fundamental state.

I am packed full of facts. I am packed full of memories. I am packed full of imaginary futures. None of these circumstances--these conditions-- actually understand what this act of living is.

The act of living comes in through the organism. It is only understood by itself, through itself, and of itself. It is a beginning and an end. It does not need reference points of the kind that I perpetually manufacture.

The art of Being -- it is an art, the only real art -- arises from a ground of not trying. We all usually think that "the work" -- any spiritual work -- is "trying" to "do" something. We speak about efforts; we speak about work. We speak about both of these things as though they were possible for us, and as though we understood what they meant. In reality, there cannot be any trying in the art of Being.

Being does not try. It just is.

If the work -- if any work -- tries anything real, what it tries is to undo all of this "trying" in us. My old group leader Henry Brown used to refer to this as "the effortless effort."

Of course, we are tempted to get tied into knots. We will try not to try. We will not try not to try. All of us run around in complicated circles, every one of them tightly circumscribing our ego, and keeping us well inside it--mostly by convincing us that ego is a quality that exists apart from us, whereas, in actual fact, it is us.

There has to be a letting go in order to take a step outside of this very appetizing vortex. That letting go only comes from a relationship that stems from an energy within the organism.

We may speak of energy that comes from somewhere else -- from "above" -- let's say, for the sake of argument, above the top of the head, as Jeanne De Salzmann and others have described it. All of that may be well and true. Nonetheless, anything that comes from "somewhere else" ultimately ends up within, and acts from within us. When we speak of energy from somewhere else, we are speaking, in other words, of catalysts, what is referred to as "help" in esoteric circles.

There are a lot of words for that: the Holy Spirit, Prana, Chi. All of them are fine. None of them are different from one another. There is only one source of higher energy, and regardless of its permutations and levels, it all exists within one truth. Ultimately, the aim is for this to express itself from within us: for us to become vehicles that embody that, and dwell within it with as little separation as possible.

That can only happen when the energy is active from within us and arising in us. If we rely on help alone, we are leaning on a crutch.

It is a wonderful crutch. In fact, we need that support from time to time. But in the end, we have to cultivate the inner relationship that is available to us from within us in order to express Being, which is, in and of itself, the source of all energy.

That cultivation does not come from what I would call "trying this or trying that." Trying this or trying that is, invariably--in my own experience, at least-- a form of tension.

There has to be a new kind of inner action that is not expressed in this way in order for Being to manifest.

No matter how succinct and, and, I think, accurate, instructions on cultivating this inner action may be-- up to and including the excellent work presented in "The Reality of Being"-- I discover for myself that instructions may not be helpful. The cultivation of Being involves a spontaneity that does not lend itself to books or lists. Every accurate description bears a relationship to the situation, but every situation in every individual is perpetually new.

As a consequence, I am required by default to invent my own work as I go along. What is said by others is certainly helpful, but it is not gospel.

Seeing this through organic experience, and taking responsibility for it as a mystery and a question, I am called to engage within in a new and different way on each occasion.

May the living Light of Christ discover us.

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