There is a lack of trust. Gurdjieff's "sleep" is generally, in the intellectual way in which we process things, taken to mean some deficiency in the logical thought process, a lack of clarity. Certainly he discusses the idea of man's psychological and psychic deficiencies under the umbrella of terms such as “sane being-mentation." And of course we probably for the most part agree that this term sleep stands in opposition to a quality called awareness, or, as the Buddhists would have it, awakening.
What, however, does this awareness consist of? Can it be fabricated from the "awareness" that we have, just by gluing broken pieces back together? That sounds like a Humpty Dumpty process to me. Is it merely a hyperactive, more acute form of what I already am?
Or is this awareness a process of what we refer to as attention? That sounds good–and certainly, my practice involves having a "good" attention– “mindfulness,” as the Buddhists would call it. Nonetheless, mindfulness is a complex subject–even while the essence of it must actually be simple.
For example, to be mindful means to empty the mind of what it is already full of, so that one can be full of mind itself and not its subjective contents.
Secondly, in my own experience, being mindful often involves avoiding the blather of the ordinary mind–making a left turn, so to speak, around the corner, and refusing to get involved with its revolutions. This action paradoxically appears to lead one further away from attention, rather than towards it.
This situation reminds me much of the maze at Chartres, where one approaches very close to the center over and over, but is again and again inexorably propelled back outwards towards the periphery–perversely looking away from, rather than towards, God, in order to rediscover our relationship. I believe there is perhaps a more subtle message in this process than we consider–it is not a "life" process, not an exoteric process, but an inner, a psychological process that is being illustrated in this physical encounter.
So in a peculiar way, mindfulness involves getting rid of the mind as we know it. Any awakening out of my sleep is an awakening out of the mind I know. Awakening into a quality that is quite different, one that is tangible, and seemingly always near, yet not manifested.
What, you might ask here, does all of this have to do with the question of a cup that runs over? Of an abundance?
We live in the midst of abundant attention. Just as all the world is a form of prayer, an offering of glories to the higher forces of creation, so all that is created is created within abundant–even infinite–attention. Just think of the amount of attention that manifests in the movement of every atomic particle; the construction of every protein molecule, the growth of every leaf, the wings and feathers of birds, the intricacies of insects, and even something as simple as the chirp of a cricket.
Attention is abundant and manifest, even in me–although I may feel a separation from it, it cannot avoid expression. So in a certain sense, when I fear my lack, when I fear how I am not, the fear itself is insubstantial. In fact, I am–and this inseparable and factual manifestation is as whole and complete as is the rest of creation. I fear that I am not because of a lack of trust. (Here we touch on yet another meaning of the first conscious shock, the Abramic prayer, I am, I wish to be–the affirmation of what Gurdjieff called conscious egoism is the abolition of fear of one's self.)
All of this inner work we do is simply by way of an effort to put ourselves in the path of Grace: to try to prepare for the moment when Grace arrives. Grace is forever next to us, forever manifested in the air we breathe, and even in the small amounts of attention we have; Grace is abundant and freely given.
Yet I lack trust.
So in a sense, my sleep is asleep to the senses that know Love and Grace as active forces; and these senses are in a certain way quite unlike the ones that are used to run my daily life. They are more finely tuned; they are designed to receive quality, not quantity; they are designed not to demand for myself, but to offer up worship. I am here, after all, to work on behalf of forces much larger than me, which I have little or no understanding of.
How can I take this life in in a deeper way and offer it up in the midst of my bumbling stupidity? I have excellent company in this question. Brother Lawrence probably asked it of himself, as he stumbled around the kitchen.
I don't know the answer to that–except see that I cannot do it. Here is where my lack lies. I am unable. Whenever I am touched by something real–the first and most palpable sensation is always a sensation of sorrow, even anguish.
As Kierkegaard said,
“It is otherwise in the world of spirit. Here there prevails an eternal divine order, here it does not rain on the just and the unjust alike, here the sun does not shine on both good and evil. Here only one who works gets bread, and only one who knows anguish finds rest, only one who descends to the underworld saves the loved one, only one who draws the knife gets Isaac."
(Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Penguin Classics 1985, as translated by Alistair Hannay, page 56.)
In sleep, I lack anguish. In awakening, it discovers me. It may be paradoxical to suggest that when we seek God, when we seek love, when we seek awakening and grace, that we seek not bliss, but anguish–and yet it is certain that the two are, in the end, indistinguishable from one another.
There is no need to seek grace; but there is a need to let it find me.
May our prayers be heard.
May our prayers be heard.