Saturday, January 22, 2011

Notebooks on inner work

Writing this blog is an enterprise that has been under way for over four years now. By turns, it has served as a way to present work ideas to the general public; a space in which to examine assumptions, dogma, form, and substance; and a personal notebook exploring my own observations, experiences, and impressions of what it's like to live, viewed from the perspective not just of the Gurdjieff work, but plain old life itself.

Today, it serves on the order of a personal notebook.

Yesterday I walked the famous dog Isabel alone along the Hudson River. I take almost exactly the same walk every day; part of it involves a scramble up a steep hillside to the top of the Palisades (pictured above) along a broken down stone staircase that dates from the 1930s, and is hardly serviceable anymore.

What strikes me in doing this year after year is how the same thing is always different. There is no same thing. It's like snowflakes; they look the same–but they aren't.

The impressions I take in on a walk depend largely on my inner state of receptivity. Over the years, it has become abundantly apparent that there are definite levels to this. When one is in contact with what we euphemistically, in the Gurdjieff work, refer to as "a higher energy"-- it is actually the Holy Spirit–the order and substance of what one encounters is transformed in the deepest sense of the word. Everything is still exactly the same, yet the experience of it is different by orders of magnitude.

How deep does a man have to reach into his own soul to see something differently?

All the way.

We cannot begin to see anything new unless we plumb the depths of our own emptiness, and enough space appears for the Spirit to manifest itself. It's in those moments that snowflakes become angels; that geese fall from the sky into the body like stones; that the cry of a chickadee in an ice covered marsh becomes a sacred hymn, opening the abdomen like a lotus blossom ready for the sun.

Lord, have Mercy.

This walk alone through a simple landscape, rendered stark by cold and powdery snow, reminded me once again in all of my parts of how insufficient I am; how much I owe; how glorious it is to be born in this body; how little I understand.

Moments like this, which are deeply sorrowful, in which the mortality of the entire universe seems to be tangible, in which the oppression of time is apparent–well, those words sound kind of like what happens, but they aren't, they will just have to do–pierce the heart of Being like a sword, causing the flesh to render up a plea to God.

We so desperately need help down here.

Look at where we are. Look at what we have done. There is nothing left but to ask for help; it's clearly impossible for us, as we are, to sort anything out or make anything work. Only when the higher informs us can any real work of any kind be done.

Everything in my ordinary nature stands in opposition to this.

If mankind does not work–if all of us who are capable of even the slightest and smallest amount of work do not render up real feeling, do not offer ourselves naked and unconditionally as best we can to the help that comes from above–if we don't ask for what is needed, it won't come.

And right now, it needs to come more than ever. Our work is so necessary. We are unable to even see how necessary it is.

Moments like this remind me of the famous remarks Jeanne DeSalzmann made in the later years of her life, when she said that if we did not work, “the planet would go down.”

I'm also reminded of what Paramahansa Yogananda said: it is lawful that if we ask for help, it must be given.

May our prayers be heard.

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