Friday, March 25, 2011

impressions from the field




As is so often the case, on a business trip, I discover myself re-examining all of the premises of my life, and the current state of my inner work.

Typically, I find that I can only write poetry when on trips. For some reason, the change in tempo, and the different surroundings–which, although they are different, are quite familiar to me in a certain way–opens up a part that can allow this process to take place. Windows onto such activity open sporadically at best, and they do not stay open long. So I write as much as possible when the material is flowing, and intentionally abstain in conditions when I see that it is not.

On this particular trip, I have also been reading “Notes on the Next Attention,” which is, in my experience, the best possible book currently available to describe–albeit in terms perhaps inaccessible to the general public–the current state of the Gurdjieff work today, as it has been directly transmitted. I want to stress this statement, “as it has been directly transmitted,” because there are so many third-party versions of the Fourth Way out in the world now that we might say we now have a fifth way, composed of all the bogus Fourth Ways.

Even though “Notes on the Next Attention” may seem to be simple, beautiful, flowing, and oddly disconnected from the majority of other work on the Gurdjieff practice, it is anything but. The material describes what is actually a rigorous and demanding practice, a practice of what one might call absolute attention, but an absolute attention that has no tense or punitive characteristics. This rigor and demand are entirely in keeping with, and flow directly from, the work that Mr. Gurdjieff brought.

And it is hardly a work for beginners, even though it describes a work that is, invariably, an eternal beginning.

The effort to be within life is an effort that I perpetually fall short in. Even my best attempts are fraught with deflection. There comes a time in one's work when one must see this and make one's peace with it: our souls cannot be driven into heaven at the point of a whip. There is a perpetual return to the moment in which one sees that a rigorous and demanding practice must also be gentle and loving.

Above all, I keep seeing that there is a need to inhabit life in a new way. It doesn't involve anything more than being in life. The direct experience of being in life, while maintaining a relationship with a new kind of attention, creates a great deal of energy for further work. Michel de Salzmann emphasizes this over and over again in his words, and, for anyone who understands at least the "first word" in the process, it is a verifiable proposition.

One of the strengths of this particular book is that it doesn't propose to sell any cosmologies, moralities, or give any instructions for how to conduct oneself or live. It begins and ends with the proposition that we must attend. Everything else follows this.

Stripping the practice down to this specific essential is a service. For the most part, we are too complicated to approach anything in this way. One feels nothing but gratitude for material that comes right down to the ground floor, and remind us that we are standing on it.

If we don't come into relationship with a finer energy, nothing else is possible. The only way to call this is with a better attention. Formulas are not going to do it; forms are not going to do it. There is a specific and directed inner effort that must be engaged in. It doesn't belong to a form or a formula. It doesn't belong to a method or cosmology. It belongs to itself, it arises from itself, and it feeds itself. Discovering the relationship and living within the experience are the form and the methodology.

If this sounds cryptic, I have to apologize. Real work is, after all, cryptic. It is encoded in languages that we do not speak fluently except with the body and the emotions, and it belongs to a level that is different than our own, rendering it as untouchable as the Tao.

It is impossible to come to these points of work by reading books and discussing things online. The only possibility is provided by going out into one's life and living it. Something new may happen; it will not be what I expect.

But it will represent a possibility.

May our prayers be heard.

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