Thursday, December 15, 2016

Free range inner work, part two

 So the question is, what does it mean to work in life?

 This is, after all, what Gurdjieff asked his followers to learn how to do; and unless one plunges directly into the craziness and intensity of life as it is and as it stands, with the absolute and irrevocable intention of being present – not leaning on the "energy crutches" provided by other people, not relying on trance states produced by meditation, but relying on an inward energy with a connection to the inflow — one isn't working in life.

The reason I bring this up is that, for various reasons, I have been unable to attend the usual meetings and events that I participate in in the Gurdjieff work. I haven't even had time to get to church. Instead, my life has thrust me into a situation where I am constantly traveling and under great pressure. The last time I was away from the regular, "safe" spaces of my spiritual practice for such an extended period of time was from 1995 through 2001, when I lived in Georgia.

That turned out to be a terrific experience. I learned how to work on my own. I had to become responsible for a discipline and an attitude that belongs to me, not one that I picked up from others or acquired by osmosis from the habits (yes, habits!) of an organization. It's true, then, as now, I had the good fortune to return periodically with that organization as a touchstone; but then, as now, it struck me forcefully how cloistered and artificial that environment is compared to the real world, where God expects us to come into relationship. 

 There aren't any safe spiritual places.  Not real ones, anyway. Anything that looks safe is a form of hypnosis. We can only do real spiritual work when we are suffering and encounter trials; when we are shocked and galvanized and our worldview is shaken up. This is why Christ said the Son of Man has no place to rest his head: anything that is real that is born in us must rub up against the difficulties of the real world—go outside every comfort zone we have.

For myself, I see how strongly I resist that; and yet I also see, after 10 months of being constantly on the road and turning around my time zones every 2 to 3 weeks, with the concurrent stress, negativity, and the crazy challenges that result, how much benefit there is in having my tree shaken hard, day after day, week after week, and month after month. 

It's not like sitting in a room with my eyes closed and my hands folded, no; instead, friction is constantly applied, and I have to constantly question my attitudes, my desires, my ups, my downs, and my sidewayses.  

That is to say, the only safe place left is my inner relationship.

 I am forced to turn my face towards that again and again because I have to see how to bring myself to contact that which is real, inside me, instead of being taken by all of the craziness outside.

Perhaps I'm wrong about this. Perhaps everyone should sit in quiet rooms with their eyes closed patiently waiting for God to arrive. I don't know. I can only say that it seems to me that any real work in life must be "out there": in the marketplaces, the cafés.  

In the airports, the offices, the showrooms, and the fabric markets. Even the toilets.

Somehow, we were meant to be plunged into these relationships and live them; God, after all, is all about relationship, and the relationship cannot be assumed to be rosy, friendly, warm, comfortable. 

The relationship is simply what it is; it may be good, it may be bad, but it is the inward presence that I need to bring into this relationship that matters; and even after thirty plus years, I'm not quite sure how I ever do that sitting on a mat in a room with my hands folded and my eyes closed.

 I hereby officially apologize to everyone who profoundly disagrees with me and thinks I don't understand anything. I sympathize with you. You are correct. 

The difficulty, of course, is that you don't understand anything either.

And here we are, together. 

Now that is real life.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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