Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Gurdjieff and Life on Planet Earth

What are the core conditions for this life of ours on this planet Earth?
1) We are alive, somehow, in a vast Universe on a world of gravity and air and light and sound and smell.

2) As alive creatures, we move. Part of this movement is to find food. Part to find mates. Part to live a life.

3) As human creatures, we learn. We learn to stand and move upright, we learn language, we learn to “fit in.”

4) “Fitting in” can be as functional as not pooping in our pants to as dysfunctional as disliking people with a different color of skin, or different tastes in music or a different income level or political party.

5) We can be aware of what we are doing in the present.

6) Usually we aren’t, which is to say, we go through our days in a state of being practically robots, acting out our programming over and over.

7) This is displeasing to think of ourselves as robots, so we immediately dismiss this possibility, though as these words entered our field of perception, very few of us were aware of our breathing, or aware of the placement of our two legs and two arms and spine. Very few were aware of the sources and flow of light in our environment.

For great amusement, watch meditators, at the end of a retreat, as they open their mouths and begin to speak. A certain sleep comes over them as they fall into habitual yapping: where to eat, how this retreat compared to the others, how wonderful they are for all their wonderful experiences and insights.

This is the core of the Gurdjieff work: we are asleep to our live as we pas through them. Within that sleep is this moral imperative: wake up. Wake up to our lives in the moment. Wake up to the certainty of our death. Wake up to the certainty that all those around us will die.

And from that, do what? I’d say, treat each other well, treat the Earth well and have some fun. Not the usual forget yourself fun, but the fun this is remembering we are alive as it is happening.

How do we wake up? In the Gurdjieff framework, we “remember ourselves.” Which means to have a divided arrow of attention, one arrow paying attention to the world, one arrow paying attention inside. This is a very full arrow, this inner pointing arrow, which is why “remembering ourselves” is not only difficult, but extremely rewarding.

Here are the jobs of the inner arrow: to notice where are our arms and legs; to notice what are our reactions in the feelings; to notice that we are seeing and hearing; to notice the auditory hallucinations called “thinking;” to be aware of our breathing and of our being at the center of our awareness; to be aware ( after the fact) when we’ve dropped back into the “sleep” state.

The outer arrow, meanwhile, is our life in the world, the people we talk to, listen to, the footsteps we take, walking through the Farmers’ Market say, the trees, sky, people, smells, the whole bundle of behaviors, what is around us and how we are situated in our environment.

This arrow is full, too, leaving little room for the usual sink-hole of attention, the endless inner yakking: this is what to do next, this is how so and so should treat me, this is what I did wrong yesterday, this is what is wrong with now, what does so and so think of me, and so on.

Want to get high for free? Activate the inner and outer arrows of attention, remember yourself, and be light on yourself when you forget. Just gently come back, come back to being awareness in the center of your life in reality.


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