My “Gurdjieff Work” circa 1994.
Everyone that knows me, also knows that I prefer to speak and teach in the language of direct experience. Stories, especially about yours truly, don’t surface much. Yet late the other night I was asked for a story.
What follows is the conversation all via texts, but then lovingly transcribed:
“Everything seems so unimportant separately. It has been the whole of experiences that glued all the little instances and moments together. I’ve told you before about the sacred movements, haven’t I?”
“That was on of Gurdjieff’s teachings. Then de Salzmans, then it was Alex’s teaching.”
“Yes, the Sufi’s have something like that too.”
“They would play the music and we would dance, like trained monkeys. Moving an arm in 4/4 time, and the other in another. The legs only reacting every 6th beat. And we would move like this all together as a group. There were people to the left and right and people behind, but I was always in front. I didn’t have a choice about being in the front row. He placed us where he wanted us. I might have been there because I was a good leader, or perhaps it was because it was because my Ego told me I was a good leader. What I thought about it was inconsequential. That’s how Gurdjieff’s work works. It always puts you up against your own idiocy, in whatever way that shows up.
We all knew and understood what a privilege it was to be given this moment, this experience. We wanted it more than our next breath- wanted to get it right. I found it to be a great exercise in letting go of the inner mind. I could feel it and count it with my body, but as soon as I got the least bit distracted by a thought, or began to question what I was doing….it was gone….I would lose it. And because I was in front, I would feel like the front row fuck up.”
“Oh, I recognize that feeling…”
“Yes, but…when I could release the mind and trust the body to move with its own kind of brain- when I could let go and just follow the movements on a molecular level, hardly even aware of myself like entering a kind of altered consciousness- it flowed. That was a huge lesson for me then. And it still is. That experience has come back to me over and over again throughout the course of my life. Especially in my spiritual practice.”
“To remember to let the mind go. To remember to fall away from the normal busy-minded state of being in order to find the middle ground somewhere outside of business. Like Rumi, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field…’ I’ve been there. It is from that place that we act from pure Spirit. Every single arm movement is perfectly in accord with the whole of the cosmos. Every single thought is correct without fear or doubt. It is in this place, in this state of awareness that we become part of the great flow of creation.
It is just below the surface of our constant running dialog. Much like what you said earlier today when we spoke, ‘What we desire lays just beyond our fear.’ Often, our fear is in the letting go.
I have often felt half in that place of knowing and trusting- able to see all possible outcomes of my actions, and too, knowing what I really am- and that has given me the great trust and faith that I have. Sometimes we choose to struggle, even when we know. Sometimes we choose the most harmonious way. The point is that when we get beyond the mind we find our true reality, our true awareness. “
“Did you ever feel scared to let go of identity?”
“Yes and no. It is uncomfortable to let go of our sense of identity. Some people cling to the first idea of self that comes along. I never felt ‘real’ anywhere so I kept searching. I feel that still, no identify fits me- I used to think it was because I was searching for something I didn’t have. Then I realized that it was because I was looking for a singular identity that could encompass all that I am.”
“It is sometimes why I have a hard time speaking about it. In some ways, I feel all aspects of all that we can know. So how do I begin?”
“At the beginning…”
“I don’t think I’ve told you that one of the first exercises I gave to myself was that of always sitting perfectly straight and always thinking before speaking. I did this for a year or so. It was so often that I spoke unconsciously…but to pause first, that single pause brought consciousness and awareness into my words and being. And physically, being conscious of always keeping an erect posture, was a great experience. For one, the posture of the body changes ones emotions and thought patterns. But for me, it was just about remaining conscious. It was like someone poking me with a fork every five minutes:
Except that that someone was me….
Gurdjieff called it the alarm clock. Whatever I could do to maintain absolute and complete consciousness was what my alarm clock was. And for that time, my posture and the way I spoke was my alarm clock. It changed the way I walked down the street, the way I spoke to people, even the way I thought. If ever I was waiting for something during this time in my life, I would use the time allow myself to fall back into meditation. It didn’t matter where I was: park bench, subway…
It can be scary to be faced with yourself ALL THE TIME, but when one is even mildly conscious, one sees everything about himself or herself. But then, accepting what one sees, you begin to see it as if on a movie screen. It isn’t to be taken personally. That’s where we develop the third person, the “watcher” sense of self. We begin to separate our souls from our actions, emotions, habits, even thoughts.
When I learned to say, ‘Oh Elet is feeling frustrated’ I could see it and not be attached to it what Elet’s mind or body was doing. Silly fool. ‘Elet wants chocolate.’ And I would just watch how the body reacts, the excuses given, the lengths gone to to satisfy that want. And I would allow it. Why not? I’m just enjoying the show. It was fascinating.”
“I love that.”
“When you begin to see everything going on within you, time slows down around you. My world was much slower then. In those spaces in between time, I could see even deeper into the tapestry of everyone around me- just the same as my own misled self. It was like moving through one façade after another, like movie sets all in a row, all blended together. It made me walk a little slower. As though I was moving moving all of the universe away from me as I strolled down Broadway; the way waves of water break away from the keel of a sailboat…I was moving through the universe in that same way.
And in those moments, I could see into everyone and into the obvious futures they were moving towards. I didn’t like that, because not everyone has a great future. There is pain to be experienced and there was nothing I could do about that, and nothing I should do about that.
We each choose an ‘alarm clock’, whatever that is, and it is different for each person. But it must be applied- we must be constantly reawakened….
…I feel it again, I’m not there anymore, but part of it lingers….”
“I love that. Thank you for the story.”