Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."
- John 1:47-48
"Seeing. We might say that the whole of life lies in that verb – if not ultimately, at least essentially."
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, "Foreword," p. 31
With the intention of fully participating in this precious life, utilizing the fine energies that are available for us, integrating and transforming the coarser ones, we now turn our attention to a series of transforming practices. Over the summer weeks ahead, we will explore the following:
Postures and Gestures
Sleeping and Resting
Unlike the lifetime Work practices of self-observation, non-identification and Self-remembering, these practices will each be given one week for their undertaking. What we get from it, we are to get in one week, after that we have only the distilled results of own efforts. The idea is that they each are to run through all the other activities of our week, giving a dimensionality to our lives that perhaps otherwise would not be there. The surface of life is an insufficient means to know and experience the dimensions of the depths. Just perhaps we will come to realize that our usual stance is to abide in a kind of flatland, no real height and depth, only a surface experience of successive repetition orchestrated as we passively and mechanically react and identify with daily events. Very little remains. For this, we are invited to come to understand that there is richness in simple things, a portal to Presence and aliveness. And for this we have to learn to see, to perceive.
And so, we begin with "Noticing."
Noticing: A Movement to Presence
We begin with a quote from Jeanne de Salzmann who eloquently speaks to our intention:
"I am here. … I wish to be conscious of my existence. … I see that my body needs a conscious state, a state of absolute unity. … I need to make room in order for the movement to proceed … the presence of an energy with its own life. … This Presence has its own thought, not an associative thinking, but seeing. It has vision, a capacity to see… Words are not of its nature … feeling, not emotions but a power of relation, of love. I can experience the Presence in this way so long as the axis of my energies is maintained, so long as there is a center of gravity" (The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff, pp. 232-234).
Noticing is a movement to Presence. Perhaps then it is easy to see that when we notice we have the possibility of choosing; of changing the course of what we are doing and how we do it. An opportunity is an important thing for at this moment something new can take place. If we do not notice, the opportunity passes us by. The more we notice, the more opportunities we can have, the more choices open to us.
We can walk by something we are looking for countless times, and if we are daydreaming about some other thought, the thing that we are looking for might just as well not exist. Then something may happen where that thing and we come into the same world and we can now do something new. J. G. Bennett cites a vivid example from his own life:
"I was in Damascus and I wanted to find a monastery that had belonged to the Mevlevi dervishes there, a Tekke. At that time everything in Syria was going through a very secular phase and the young people wanted nothing to do with old things. It turned out that everyone I asked didn't know there had been such a place in Damascus. Now I used to walk every day down the main road in Damascus past the Hejaz railway station. I don't know how many times I walked down that road, and then one day I looked and saw a tall dervish hat on top of a little cupola and I knew then that this was the Tekke I was looking for. I went in and found a number of important things, some symbols that I copied. But then I said to myself, 'How strange it is. So many times I've walked down here. So many times I must have seen that little dome and that hat on top of it. Only today it was there for me.' Now we can use one word to describe that difference. We call it 'noticing.' … When I did notice, a whole sequence of events became possible. If I had not noticed, I might have left Damascus a few days later and never seen this" (Theme Presentation #2: Noticing, p.5)
We may note that there is a certain noticing that comes from training, the responsibilities of one's job. It comes from training and the general activity that is one's profession. Because of this training, we will notice things that pass other people by entirely. A farmer will not go along a road without noticing the state of the fields and the cattle. With training, we will notice all the things connected with it. And yet, while we may be very sensitive in these areas of training and responsibility, in others, we may be completely unobservant.
Yet, we are called to notice what is being called forth in all the areas of our lives, no matter how unimportant a task may seem. Bennett explains:
"Noticing does enter our lives from another dimension or another world. It is one of the simplest ways that influences from a higher world come into this world. Noticing is connected with 'I,' with Real I. But because we have nothing prepared that is able to give this a place in us, it is just a moment. It is also fair to say that noticing is something that happens to our essence: but because we cannot remain conscious of ourselves in our essence until very considerable changes have happened, we notice and then our personality takes over. After the moment of noticing though, very interesting things may happen, they no longer have that extraordinary quality. From that moment onwards, we think, we see, we argue with ourselves, we run away, we avoid things, all the different ways in which the personality can react to a situation. But the start of it all is not the personality. We can notice more if we really wish to. Wishing is calling upon our 'I' to help us. The Master that is beyond consciousness" (Ibid, p. 7).
Seizing the Moment, Here, Now
Then what? What is evoked in noticing is an actual change in physical state when one notices. Then, we can become aware how little we do notice. This can be disquieting. Or, we may see that where something comes into our perception, especially a job that needs to be done, the moving center may turn away to avoid it, or the mind immediately jumps onto something else, or justifies avoiding doing something. Or, the emotions may not "like" what it sees. It could be a very small thing – let's say we see trash laying on the street during our morning walk. Do we turn from it? After all, it's not our responsibility; it is front of someone's house, it is their responsibility. Rather than all this commentary, what if we simply reach down and pick it up? Something new is created. A very small thing, perhaps – or is it? And, if we do pick it up, what do we do next time? Do we remember and now attend to such as a matter of routine?
We see that there is something to be done. We can either do it or avoid doing it, but if we do not notice, or notice when it is too late, it does not matter how willing we are. We did not notice. Each day there are 20-30-40 or more positive things that we might do during the day. Nothing from outside obliges us to do them and nothing reminds us. And, just perhaps, no one will notice whether we do something about them or not. There is just the possibility of doing something useful or positive and one may be quite willing to do so. But they are missed because the moment is missed. It is noticing that makes all the difference. It is no use in saying we ought to do this or that if we do not even notice that the situation has arisen. Perhaps all this sounds trivial until we add up the perhaps dozens of times daily when the opportunity for doing something positive comes and we get caught up simply by failing to notice that it could done now. It is not a question of being unable or unwilling. Nothing happens, because we miss the moment.
Toward Being a Little More Conscious
Noticing is a small thing and when done in countless circumstances day after day, its cumulative effects are unmistakable, though they may be hardly perceptible. Noticing can be thought of as the first condition of any kind of conscious action. It is probably the simplest example one can have of the possibility of the change of one's state. It is not just a change of mood, or thinking differently, or feeling differently. We ourselves become different. Bennett summarizes the quite miraculous effects of noticing:
"Probably those who started this began by seeing for themselves how noticing not only brings us into a world, but brings the world also into being. There is a world of unnoticing. It is a state of being lost, of being below what is normal. We must see for ourselves that we ordinarily live in a dream world, and even when we wake out of it we cannot keep ourselves there, because the dream world draws us back again. When you begin to understand that, there is a reason for working on yourself that is quite different from that which has brought you to the present point. You just will not want to go on living a dream life. But you remain trapped in dream life; because that wish cannot be strong enough in you till you see that you are constantly in it. The strange thing is not only we do not exist, but other things do not exist. This is because the degree of separation, of isolation, of shut-in-ness that comes when we fall into the dream state is something we do not notice. We become used to this way of living. Then we wake up, and this does arouse a need not to be living like that. That does not change things by itself. … When this kind of experience has been repeated many, many times, then you know for yourself what it means to have the door opened into another world and to be able to enter it" (Ibid, pp. 12, 22).
Little by little, inner sensitivity increases, the perceptive apparatus becomes fine-tuned. The world is more vivid. A new influx of energy arises. We are more alive. Thanks be to God!
- Begin each day with the intention to notice. Picture it to yourself as a desire to see into a world that you are usually not present to, a world beyond your ordinary state. Notice your physical environment – the sunlight playing off the walls of your home, the sound of birds, the smell of the air. Notice any disarray in your environment. Attend to it.
- Notice the people (and pets, if you have them) in front of you; be present to them – the features of their face, the tonality of their voices; listen to them. Do you sense an anxiety, a yearning for something? Such noticing of another's need is closely aligned with external considering. John Fuchs notes that this attunement to another opens us as well: "At this moment … something may open up in you, something new touches you. A light is turned on in the dark room where you are. … Then a deeper understanding begins to arise in you and that understanding becomes your guide. This is my own experience. It is as if I were going behind the scenery in a theater and into the life behind the performance on the stage" (Forty Years After Gurdjieff, pp. 46-47).
- At the end of each day, take note. What did you notice that perhaps you would not see otherwise? Did it prompt anything new? Was the day somehow different, lighter perhaps?
July Practice: Watering Plants
July is a good time to pay attention to the living plants in your life, especially at dawn and dusk. Whether outdoors or indoors, take time to consciously, intentionally and lovingly water a plant or plants. If you don’t already, try speaking to the plants. Share words of love, praise and gratitude as you water them. Notice them, notice how you feel as you are watering them. Bless the water before you water the plant. Speak words of love over the water. Give thanks for the water, and from where it comes.
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
Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778, passcode: CCH