Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Living your life


This weekend, a dear essence-friend--one of the group members who came from my original group--came to stay with us for a couple of days. It caused us to reminisce a good deal about Henry and Betty Brown, who led our group through the end of the 1990's, until Henry died and Betty retired from active duty.

The occasion caused me to remember how often Betty advised me not to let the work become my whole life. That is, not to immerse myself so deeply in the Gurdjieff Foundation and its activities that instead of performing a work in life, I ended up living a life in work.

We are surely meant to live this life, and we are meant to live it wholly. The act of living itself, in both its specifics and its generality, is our work. It is both a science and an art; it is both religious and secular. Unless we immerse ourselves completely within life, in all of its varieties, we simply go on trading one hiding place for another.

I'm inspired to an alternative understanding of Theseus and the Minotaur. The Minotaur lurks at the center of the maze; yet the Minotaur represents ordinary life: an animal, enormously powerful, human and bestial at the same time. In an apparent paradox, the exoteric is found at the center of the maze, where one would expect to encounter the esoteric aspect of life.

And one must travel to the center of this world, this perpetual confusion of darkness and misdirection, to discover one's coarseness and master it. All the while, keeping a thread in hand that connects one to what is real in one's self.

So I need to travel into the center of this life, exactly as it is lived–not as it is rearranged by some formal set of "work principles" that protect me from the ordinary, not as it is cataloged and dissected by lists or definitions, either–and rediscover it, while maintaining this precious connection within myself. I must inhabit my life as it stands–not as I might wish it to be, but as it is. Above all, I must inhabit the heart of the ordinary, which is where everything extraordinary actually dwells.

What I seek is never anywhere else–it is always here. Yet I don't really believe that, do I? Even dwelling in the midst of Grace and Presence, I play host to arguments against them. And then: a moment of real humility, in front of cornstalks set against September skies: clouds mustering a prayer for rain, late in the afternoon.

The soul must go alone to places where the Lord dwells, and there, give thanks.

I see that I am constantly thinking about things, but this isn't really helpful. Today, it is raining very hard–the remains of my namesake, tropical storm Lee, are all around. I take the famous dog Isabel out for a walk, even though I don't really feel like walking a long way in the rain–and then I demand of myself that I do the entire walk, up the hill, looking out over the Palisades towards the Hudson River.

In an extraordinary and unusual event, there is an enormous wash of soil-laden, red floodwater in the Tappan Zee: the river has a bronze tint, as though the water itself were from some golden age.

There is a moment where there is no thought.

The rain just comes down, and I am within it.

Everything can be accepted, and everything is abundant and filled with grace.

I am truly capable of very little.

And yet grace comes, and the Lord is ever present.

May our prayers be heard.

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