Monday, April 4, 2011


Announcement: The open center in New York will host a significant Gurdjieff workshop event May-20-21.

Coming back from China always involves a period of disruption, in which I have to readjust to a diametrically opposed time zone and accommodate myself to the renewed flow of my usual impressions–that is to say, impressions of the place where I live, as opposed to hotel rooms and factories.

This particular weekend, my wife was away, so I spent four days largely by myself, doing little or nothing of any significance. It was a moment to simply stop, to live, to attend to small day-to-day things. Jet lag imposes a bit of a monastic regimen; one wakes up at extremely early hours, drinks coffee and meditates before the sun is up.

There is a lot of quiet. It is a great deal like doing the “stop” exercise not in the midst of a movement of the body, but in the middle of a movement of life itself.

And perhaps that is worth considering: is the exercise actually an allegory for what is necessary in life? Can it become more than an exercise--can it become a practice? A moment when we stop and study ourselves not just in the pose of the body, but in the pose of the mind, the pose of the emotions–maybe even the poses of our instincts and our sexuality–until, in a snapshot moment, we "stop" within the context of our entire life, take a deep breath, and see that we live.

There can be a good deal of satisfaction in attending to the small things in life just as they are. I fear we are losing this art.

We have become accustomed to so much overstimulation that it almost seems like a requirement. Even in the midst of a reduced demand like the one that I experienced over the past four days, the itch of stimulation seems to be ever present and wants to be scratched, even if by something so insignificant as e-mail, or surfing the web.

In contrast, I filled much more of my day with tasks like doing the laundry and hanging it out to dry; making sure the kitchen was clean; walking the dog. There is an odd wish in me to make sure that the small things in life are properly ordered. This is so far removed from the scale in which any of us usually think–the scale of jobs, money, world crisis, and so on–that it seems like a completely different world. Do you know what I mean? We forget to attend to the small things that are actually around us in life, the real things, and we are lost in dreams about things that are far from immediate, or that we have absolutely no control over.

We have lost our sense of inner gravity. We are floating, instead of grounded on our own planet.

This question of control has come up for me repeatedly. I like to control things. This is hardly special; I notice that everyone around me seems to like to control things as well. We all like it a lot. This is the case despite the fact that no one really has much control over anything. Things go wrong, and we throw ourselves up against them like Don Quixote charging a windmill with his lance. Of course, we should not be passive; nonetheless, we need to acknowledge to ourselves that beyond a certain point, we must see what our limitations are and accept them.

This particular question applies to inner work as well as outer work. The attachments that convince me that I have some kind of control over my inner life don't serve well; dwelling within a form of acceptance of my condition turns out to be more useful over time. If I just seek the specific gravity of my own being, stop, and plant myself there, many other things seem to take care of themselves.

There are times when I wonder whether or not my overall approach to life is actually a massive form of interference. Reducing my attention to what is immediately around me and trying to be more present to that turns out to be far more useful than my grandiose plans.

There is a great deal to discover in the dailiness of life. I forget this constantly. Then, suddenly, I am reminded: reminded by softened sky behind trees waiting to bud out; reminded by the color and texture of my dog, and the chair she is lying on; reminded by what can only be called an emotional understanding, which intervenes to join my thinking (when it is still for a moment) and the organic sensation of this body.

It is in those moments that life seems to acquire an unusual depth, which is always there, but which I am not there for. Peculiar, really; there are absolutely glorious qualities to tiny things.

Why don't I see that more often?

May our prayers be heard.

1 comment:

  1. Wanted to thank you very much for announcing the May 20/21 program at the NY Open Center, i.e. "Gurdjieff and the Crisis of Our World" in this posting. Had not seen or heard about it any other place so far. Will be signing up for at least a portion of this program.

    Someone would have to show me how something could be more important in the short, medium and long term than this particular subject matter for a normal thinking/feeling human being.


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