Thursday, March 1, 2012


This afternoon, my mother-in-law was over at lunchtime, and she saw a copy of Fran Shaw's the next attention on the coffee table. She asked me whether I thought it was possible for someone without a practical familiarity with the Gurdjieff practice to understand anything of what's said in this book, or to come to part of what it attempts to bring to us.

The book itself is quite unusual, because it's a record of a teacher's direct, intimate verbal expressions to those who studied with him;  in this way, it mirrors Dogen's Extensive Record. (Both books are recommended reading.) In any event, it's a contemporary version of the Gurdjieff work, and furthermore, an inside version, refreshingly free of the cosmologies, the memoirs, and even a good deal of the instruction one finds in most of the other literature on the subject. What we encounter here is a man speaking frankly about our efforts to encounter the sacred. Just the effort itself; put in fairly simple terms.

I don't know whether this book is accessible to people without years of experience in work. The fact is that I am one, and I come to it with my own background. It would be impossible for me to say whether someone without any such background could “get it.” Nonetheless, the material it is invaluable. It works for me. And it works for me because it calls us to an intimate attention to something sacred. Something that we usually don't turn towards in life; that is, an actual relationship to God—not an intellectual relationship, but an emotional relationship of the kind that Gurdjieff told Ouspensky was inevitably necessary in order to do any real work.

A new understanding.

It's this emotional relationship, this intimate relationship that I continually refer back to. If there's no intimacy, there is no relationship. The energy must penetrate the body and become a lasting presence, a sustaining presence: not just a fleeting experience. We must drink life into the marrow of our own bones in order to gain any real experience.

 Continuing the discussion, or threads of it, later this evening, my friend Doug asked me, “What's the point?” Coming to the collective intersection of energy, ego, and all the questions that encountering these manifestations of Being brings to us, there is a deep and urgent wish to understand our purpose.

“Something's not finished,” Doug said.

I think we all have that feeling. Something isn't finished.

Why do we think anything finishes? Everything always just is. We seem to think that somehow we should blend and mix up the higher and the lower; it will be a martini, shaken, not stirred, that some suave James Bond of the soul quaffs before going off to slay all the dragons in life—which, coincidently, we have a license to kill... because of our inner work.

Nothing finishes. Nothing needs to be slain, and there aren't any dragons—except the ones we manufacture. The higher does not need to be blended with the lower; it doesn't need to be mixed in. The higher and lower are here to be brought into relationship, which is a different question entirely, and that is the responsibility of a conscious being. Reconciliation does not involve cramming the affirming into the denying, or squeezing the denying into the affirming. The affirming affirms; the denying denies; together,  with the third force of reconciliation present, they can both remain themselves, and become something much more.

Such is the point.

Perhaps this is why we can't be. We never allow ourselves to be what we are; we always want to be something else. Think about it. Isn't that true? What if we wanted to just be what we were? I'm  reminded once again of the advice from Epictetus:

A man who wishes for things to be as they are will always find happiness.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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