Now and always may Christ be magnified in my body,
whether by life or death.
- Philippians 1:20
By their fruits you will know them.
- Matthew 7:16
By the very fact of our existence and possibilities, every human being has duties. In Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Mr. Gurdjieff defines five which he called the "being-obligolnian-strivings":
"The first striving: to have in their ordinary being-existence everything satisfying and really necessary for their planetary body."
This week, we again continue to turn our attention to Work on the side of our embodied psychology, by focusing on the central Work idea of the centers. In particular, we are focusing our attention on the methods of harmonizing our centers/brains. This week it is the moving-instinctive center – our body-brains – and all their wondrous and complex functions.
Unlike some spiritual traditions, the Fourth Way does not advocate the subduing of our bodies in extreme ascetisms, nor elevating ourselves above our bodies to some imagined higher state in a future life. Rather, J. G. Bennett explains: "Transformation in man is a change in nature in this body, in this life]. Some people, however, take the transformation of man to mean liberation altogether from this visible world in order to be able to live in a totally different world. This literally escapist view … is simply substituting for a life of mechanism to a life of dreaming. The real man lives in the three worlds here and now, not in one world now and another in future time. The first world of function is what we can see and know through our senses ... the 'world of bodies.' … If we study things entirely in terms of the world of bodies we cannot understand very much of their possibilities. This is especially true of man. We can observe men doing this or that, behaving in all sorts of ways, but none of this will lead us to see what it is that man should be undertaking, what it is that man should be responsible for. … What] can the life of man be when he wakes up to the reality of other worlds? What part can man play in the life of the earth when he consciously lives his life? … Can it work in any other way? … By learning about the control of energies we can do things that are very difficult to do just by wanting to do them or 'trying' to do them, or by feeling that we 'ought' to do them" (Deeper Man, pp. 23-25). Again, what we are aiming for as "Balanced Man" is consciously-directed thinking within a context of purpose and scale, and effective action through the mediation of appropriate emotional processes (will). Otherwise, confusion, unpredictability, botched efforts, misunderstandings, avoidable errors, and depleted energy arise from centers misappropriated by one another.
We all have had the experience of the moving center co-opting the intellectual center in reading or listening when we have absolutely no conscious memory of what was read or listened to or any sense of its meaning. Or, perhaps we start on one task and quickly get distracted and move to another. Or, as P. D. Ouspensky notes: "There is the quite unnecessary constant tension of the muscles of our organism. The muscles are tense even when we are doing nothing. … When we walk the muscles of our shoulders and arms are tensed unnecessarily; when we sit the muscles of our legs, neck, back, and stomach are tensed in an unnecessary way. We even sleep with the muscles of our arms, of our legs, of our face, of the whole of our body tensed, and we do not realize that we spend much more energy on this continual readiness for work we shall never do than on all the real, useful work we do during our life" (In Search of The Miraculous, p. 196).
The instinctive center, which controls the inner physiological functioning of the body, is a marvel of adaptive intelligence. Its natural innate functioning is only disturbed by illness or injury. The moving center too is a marvel though it has a tendency to interfere with the functioning of the other centers and when it does it brings its mechanicality, its laziness, its inertia and its propensity for what is habitual and automatic. For more detail on the instinctive center and the moving center and its properties, see the "pie charts" in Maurice Nicoll's Commentaries, "Wrong Work of Centers," November 9, 1941, Vol. 1, pp. 78-79.
The sex center is most often grouped with the instinctive-moving center, yet it has its own very fine energy and as a consequence its interaction with the other centers is complex. We will explore the sex center separately later this year.
The importance of inner work in developing a stable connection with the higher energies of the cosmos is highlighted in a conversation with Jeanne de Salzmann shortly before her death, recorded in Ravi Ravindra's Heart Without Measure: "There are three forces – of the body, mind and feeling. Unless these are together, equally developed and harmonized, a steady connection cannot be made with a higher force. Everything in the Work is a preparation for that connection. This is the aim of the Work. The higher energy wishes to but cannot come down to the level of the body unless one works. Only by conscious] working can you fulfill your purpose and participate in the life of the cosmos. This is what can give meaning and significance to your life. Otherwise, you exist only for yourself, egotistically, and there is no meaning in your life (p. 177).
Some practical exercises on harmonizing the moving center
This week, as we focus primarily on harmonizing the moving center, we outline just seven of many practical ways to work with its harmonizing:
- Trust and connect with body with gestures of reverence: The moving center carries unique perceptive gifts, importantly is the capacity to understand the language of faith encoded in a sacred gesture. Cynthia Bourgeault tells the story of a young man who came to a Russian Orthodox archbishop for spiritual consultation. "He was angry and distressed because he couldn't make sense out of his Christianity. The dogma and theology seemed like so much bunk, and the creeds frequently made him furious. He yearned for a life of faith, but it all seemed like a huge wall without handholds. … The archbishop listened intently and then made a rather surprising suggestion: that the young man simply go home and make one hundred full prostrations a day for a month. … The young man, puzzled but intrigued, carried out the] program diligently. When he returned a month later, his eyes were glowing with faith, and the creeds no longer made him angry. The reason, as the archbishop knew full well, is that through the deep rhythmic gestures of bowing and emptying himself, the man came to understand something that could not be found by the mind. It lived in his body" (The Wisdom Way of Knowing, p. 29). What might this look like for you?
- Observe and work against laziness: "Laziness is a deep-rooted, common weakness. It appears in all of us. If it is physical it is easy to detect. I don't like to get up from my comfortable chair, sofa or bed. … to go two blocks out of my way to do something that I should do for myself or someone else … to move faster or do a task which may require physical effort. I may not even want to bend down to pick something up. Whatever I may do, I don't do it as well as it could be done. With each thing I attempt, there are many levels of quality possible in how it is accomplished. How carefully do I make my bed? Or, do I even make my bed?] Do I properly set the table? In my work, laziness is when I see what could be done, what is possible at my level or a little beyond, and I do not do it. … I see a task and I see my resistance, but I summon the Work … and then the miracle happens. Any effort I make brings in a new and different energy, 'energizes' my whole being. The mind becomes stimulated, the lethargy of the body begins to evaporate. I accept the task I have set myself. I make a super-effort beyond my ordinary efforts. I am regenerated, my inner state changes, laziness is defeated by conscious efforts. This is Work" (John Fuchs, Forty Years After Gurdjieff, pp. 77, 79).
- Practice conscious relaxing of the muscles: Begin sensing-relaxation periods by consciously breathing in and out, first sensing and then releasing tensions in the small muscles of the face and then working around the body. Even brief periods of such conscious relaxation can be practiced anywhere, anytime – in checkout lines and in on-hold queues.
- Exercise presence prior to eating*:
- Relax all three centers.
- Attend to the sight or presentation of the food on the table and plates.
- Attend to the sounds accompanying the meal situation.
- Attend to the smell of the food.
- Attend to the taste of the food by taking a small sample into the mouth.
- Attend to the touch or physical sensations evoked by the food and setting.
- Exercise presence while eating*: Direct your attention to the…
- Eyes while looking at food as it is lifted towards the mouth.
- Nose while smelling food before putting it in the mouth.
- Mouth while chewing food.
- Throat while swallowing food.
- Chest while food descends.
- Solar plexus while food arrives in stomach.
- Breath into the navel when the meal is finished. Sense the energy radiating to the extremities.
- Be conscious of breathing*: Air is second-being food. Thus, awareness of breathing is more important than any particular breathing exercise, as long as one breathes properly to begin with, that is, deep into the diaphragm. Simply following your breathing during daily activities and after eating will greatly assist in efforts toward being present, especially when combined with sensing and taking in impressions consciously. Normal breathing is diaphragmatic breathing deep into the solar plexus. If you are a shallow breather you can work at normalizing your breathing by consciously initiating diaphragmatic breathing several times a day until it becomes more natural. Don't overdo it and don't force it as it may take some time. You are slowly reprogramming your autonomic nervous system from years of unconscious abuse.
- Practice basic sensing*: To start with the basic sensing exercise, take a comfortable position and become aware of your feet. Imagine that you are being filled with a warm, thick, honey like liquid and that it is slowly filling your body, starting from the feet and moving up to your legs, then pelvis, then torso, then arms, then chest, then head. Be aware of the sense of gravity pulling your body towards the ground. Be aware of the position of your limbs. Strive to maintain an awareness of sensing in the whole body. This requires your whole attention.
I AM ∙ I WISH ∙ I CAN WORK
*Adapted from "Work Exercises," endlesssearch.co.uk
Embody these ideas:
- Choose one of the practical exercises for this next week. At the end of each day write a "journal entry" of what you discovered.
- Watch this video (about 13 mins. in length) in which Thich Nhat Hanh affirms how we are view our bodies: contemplate the meaning of this teaching and your relationship to all the cosmoses of which we are a part.
February Practice: Baking Bread
The invitation this month is to bake bread. Have you done so yet? It is science and art combined – an ancient practice with a long and storied lineage. We follow a recipe and then wait … and then, embodied life arises – literally. The intellectual center directs, the body does, the heart delights in this sensory experience. Embodiment, new life. Try it.
Attend The Journey School Thursday Class Tonight: All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and, importantly, to produce a container of beings seeking to be more conscious and whose efforts assist one another: 7:00 pm Central Time via Zoom only.
- Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9961019778?pwd=aVFLZVQwNGZSNkQ4TDRTUW9yU1Ywdz09, or
- Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778, passcode: CCH