Life is the Teacher

‘Life is the teacher.’

What does this statement mean? It means searching for a more refined attention in my busy everyday life. It’s only there, if I’m honest, when I can really see the many different sides to myself. My search is not a separate compartment of my life. It’s not a ‘meditation practice’ left behind after closing the door to a ‘peaceful’ room. My search has to be tested in life. It’s easy to say ‘be here now’ but, if I’m really honest with myself, I can’t BE HERE NOW. Reading all the books in the world will not help me BE HERE NOW. A cold shiver running down my spine – a sense that one day I will die – wakes me up to a big question: who am I? Are other questions there?

  • Do I sense my bodily tension when I’m in a crowded place?
  • Do I sense a different tone in my voice when I’m in this or that situation?
  • Where is my attention NOW?

I often feel I’m right, that I know better. In life, when people ‘push my buttons’, my shallow self-satisfaction disappears instantly. I react, usually negatively, with a lot of ‘inner talking’. This reaction is energy. Everything is energy. My attention is the way I can better ‘see’ this energy in myself, allowing me sometimes to sense a finer energy there. Attention can bring a greater sense of being alive, here and now, more alert, engaged with my life. I can’t do this alone. A Group is needed to share my honest observations and listen to the sincere struggles of other people. I need guidance from someone who has ‘gone before’, someone who has also searched sincerely over a period of time. Sensing a finer attention inside my body, only then, can life be the teacher.

The next Café Gurdjieff event in Central London is at 11am on Saturday 4 March. For details and to register to participate go to our Meetup Group.

In Search of the Miraculous: Finding a Teaching (2)

I have a search.  I know that because I feel a lack and disquiet deep down – a sense that ‘I have missed the point’.  I respond to a gentle call to action.

I am attracted to ideas and groups who seem to be offering to fill the gap.  I am put off because the ideas appear to be ‘off the mark’, lightweight or even downright preposterous.  Perhaps I simply don’t resonate with the type of people following these ideas.  I use my inner instincts to weigh up the inherent value of each one – to ME.

I know I have to carve my own path.  I take responsibility for finding my own way.  I don’t want ritual or someone else’s philosophy.  I am an independent seeker.  I narrow down my options.  I’m looking for help, a guide or teacher who has been down that road before me and can shed some light on the next step(s) to take.  I become more discerning and develop a taste for what is authentic and what influences can help me in my search.

I know it immediately when I find it.  It touches me to the inner core and I am eager to know more.  I have reached the threshold.  I stand poised to take my first step.

Next event: 11am on Saturday 4 February in Central London. See our Meetup Group for details.


In Search of the Miraculous: Finding a Teaching

“Life can have moments of vividness – the miraculous. However, day-to-day I make my life mundane. My search is to find ‘in myself’, moments that are more real, alive and vivid. I’ve found I can’t ‘do’ this on my own, and there’s no workshop solution. I need to be with an active group of people, studying a serious Teaching which has a history and a transmission of ‘something’.”

Where do I find something authentic in my life? I have reached a crossroads where I need to find more meaning, I feel hungry for something true. Where do I search for it?

I’ve looked around trying to find glimpses of truth. I wanted it to be real, beyond doubt. 

I’ve found a lot empty things, without meaning. How do I cope with all this when I feel I need something else to feed my being? 

Is there still something miraculous to be found in this life? Do I have to withdraw from the world to find it, or is it hidden in plain sight in the hurly-burly of London?

We will explore these questions at our next Café Gurdjieff Meetup.

“The ‘miraculous’ is very difficult to define. But for me this word had a quite definite meaning. I had come to the conclusion a long time ago that there was no escape from the labyrinth of contradictions in which we live except by an entirely new road, unlike anything hitherto known or used by us. But where this new or forgotten road began I was unable to say. I already knew then as an undoubted fact that beyond the thin film of false reality there existed another reality from which, for some reason, something separated us.”

In Search of the Miraculous by P D Ouspensky

Next event: 11am on Saturday 4 February in Central London. See our Meetup Group for details.

Crossing the First Threshold

The moment when the man who is looking for the way meets a man who knows the way is called the first threshold or the first step. From this first threshold the stairway begins. Between ‘life’ and the ‘way’ lies the ‘stairway.’ Only by passing along this ‘stairway’ can a man enter the ‘way.’

G I Gurdjieff

This quote invites some questions:

  • What is the way?
  • Is ‘the way’ a spiritual search?
  • If so, can this spiritual search be a search in life?

A search in life is one in which my ordinary life continues but I strive to find meaning and a more fine attention during my everyday routine.

Also it seems that we are unable to search alone.

We need others and, in particular, we need someone who has gone before – someone older with more experience to act as a guide – to the first threshold.

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.

Alexander Pope

I’m skilled at lying to myself. To know myself I need a guide. This is certain. Working or seeking alone is just self-deception.

It takes the friction of working with others – a feeling of discomfort in myself – in unaccustomed situations to see those aspects of myself that I would rather remained hidden.

This is my search but am I on the way?

The way will not be easy and it will not have a route because I search from where I am.

But I do need to see my habitual behaviour and give up my comfortable view of myself in order to open.

A guide will demand; a group of honest people – who can open, share and trust their vulnerability in a common aim to wake up – will bring something more.

What is the first threshold for you?

The next Café Gurdjieff event in Central London on the theme of “Crossing the First Threshold” will take place at 11am on Saturday 10 December. For more details email or visit our Meetup Group.

Being Present

How do I sense being present in a moment of my life?

Being present varies considerably. Moments have a different level of intensity when I am more wholly present – more collected. These are usually moments of great drama; being in love, having the feeling of being in danger or ‘being in the zone’ during exercise. In contrast my usual days, when I don’t really feel present, can be quite flat – even to the extent that sometimes I’m not even that interested in my life. My life goes on but I’m not there.

‘I am’ describes a real sense of being present; a lucid head, sensation in my body, being in between my calm inner life, looking out clearly from behind my eyes, and the ever changing outer life. Being present to the inner and outer.

Mr Gurdjieff said:

One of the best means for arousing the wish to work on yourself is to realize that you may die at any moment. *

This thought raises the drama of a seemingly mundane moment to make me appreciate my life and the lives of those around me. I really want to be present.

But I have a sense that I don’t control ‘being present’. I often don’t notice my lack of presence. Being present is not something to switch on; it requires ‘work’ over a period of time.

To develop a taste for the different responses that come in different moments of being present, here are some questions to ponder:

  • Am I really fully here now?
  • What does it feel like or mean to ‘be here now’?
  • Am I deceiving myself by talking to myself –  turning ideas over in my mind?

*One of G I Gurdjieff’s Aphorisms

The next Café Gurdjieff event in Central London on the theme of “Being Present” will take place at 11am on Saturday 26 November. For more details email or visit our Meetup Group.

Why do I need a Group?

Why can’t I develop my spiritual search on my own?

‘A Man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake’

G I Gurdjieff

This aphorism feels full of a deep essential meaning but how are we supposed to interpret it?  Surely we are already ‘awake’?  How else could I function as I go about my daily routine?

Gurdjieff introduces us to the notion of various states of ‘sleep’.   At night in bed we experience both a deep sleep and a lighter sleep during which we may dream.  In the morning as we begin our day, we find ourselves in a ‘waking state of sleep’, capable of performing all our outward responsibilities  – but only in an automated and mechanical way.  In this state we can be anywhere between daydream and a more alert mode.

We can also, from time to time, ‘wake up in a flash’ – a moment of self remembering.  This is a fleeting event connecting us to something higher.  Initially I am mildly amused by this state and simply accept it as part of my life.  However there comes a point when I get a taste for this vivifying moment.  It somehow feels authentic and I gradually acknowledge that I wish to know more.  How can I hang on to and extend this moment?  Where does it come from and why does it go away so quickly?  I become increasingly curious.  I want to know why the hypnotic effect of life pulls me back into my waking state causing me to feel dull, directionless and without purpose once again.  I am no longer content with the status quo of my life. I have the beginnings of a search.

Help is at hand!  I can discover testimonials of those who have gone before, sacred books and spiritual paths.  Beware however since this risks remaining a purely intellectual exercise. Information from books is not the same as Self-Knowledge or deep personal understanding.

I can only go so far on my own.  I have a need to share my curiosity with others but I find that my immediate circle of acquaintances is not entirely receptive to my apparent self-centred musings.  I need to find others who resonate with my own experiences – not just one or two but a group.

A Group has a history, a structure and an aim.  A Group has a leader(s) who has travelled further than me on a particular path.  The leader gives the Group direction.  I bring questions related to my search.   I get a response which is tailored to my immediate needs and hints of a future direction for me.  I hear and watch others in the Group, which helps to confirm and identify a shared path of discoveries, dilemmas and difficulties.  Group activities serve as a constant reminder of my ‘sleep’ and invite me to ‘wake up’.  I cannot be my own constant reminder to remember myself.  Only by beginning to remember myself can I awaken. The ‘wake up’ call must come from outside myself.    This is the purpose of a Group.

To return to the aphorism above: to Awake, to Die, to be Born.  To awake from my ‘waking state’.  To die to the misleading reactions we normally mistake for life.  To be born again to the higher potentialities of life – the real purpose of our presence here on Earth.

The next Café Gurdjieff event in Central London on the theme of “Why do I need a Group?2 will take place at 11am on SAturday 12 November. See our Meetup Group for more details.

Café Gurdjieff – London

London, GB
44 Members

A community of people with enquiring minds who seek inspiration and a more real understanding about practical aspects of our lives. There are some Café members who are activel…

Next Meetup

“Why do I need a Group?”

Saturday, Nov 12, 2016, 11:00 AM
2 Attending

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Working in Life

I have a search.  I also have responsibilities in life such as making a living, supporting family and those closest to me.  Do I have space in my life for both?  A few experience an urgent need to remove themselves from the distractions of life in order to pursue a spiritual path.  Others choose to take Life itself as their teacher.

The former enters a carefully constructed domain where basic physical needs are taken care of collectively, life is communal in nature and structured to enable them to follow a rigorous regime of self-contemplation and enquiry.  Very often the main effort is focussed on one centre, such as the emotional or intellectual centre.  A monastery or ashrams are examples of this.

The latter are followers of the Fourth Way – the way in life.  Daily life itself presents the opportunities for work on oneself.  I observe myself as I interact with others, as I perform my routine duties, as I come up against challenging, stressful situations.  I have limitless material with which to engage.  I can focus my efforts in all 3 centres – the body, the emotions and the intellect.

I am part of a Group who are working in the same way.   The Group members, the Group activities and my Teacher (s) act as reminders – to remember myself – always and everywhere – to the best of my ability.   In theory I can work anywhere and at any time – if only I can remember to do so.

I am a creature of habits.  My life is typically a routine of tasks and activities at work and at home. Each one of these task and activities is an opportunity to help me ‘come back to myself’ or self-remember.  Since I know they are going to happen with regularity, I can prepare myself and pledge to ‘wake up’ at certain predetermined moments in the day.  I struggle and fail.  However, the opportunity to begin again is ever present.  I use my intelligence to create these moments.

For example, I know I will meet a particular person during the day. I decide that when this event happens I will watch carefully how I typically respond and behave towards this person – my feelings, sensations and reactions in this person’s presence – and I will make a conscious effort to ‘be different’ and then observe what happens. Likewise, I know that I will pass through a particular door.  Again I pledge to remember myself at that precise moment in an effort to wake up – if only momentarily.

My day alternates between long periods of sleep and occasional moments like this which are felt more vividly.  I need to constantly adapt and refresh my efforts – so that I do not live totally in sleep.  I try to view my daily life from the standpoint of an impartial and objective observer in an attempt to gain self-knowledge.  Rather than withdrawing from life, I embrace it for a higher purpose.

The next Café Gurdjieff event on “Working on Oneself in Life” will take place at 11am on Saturday 1 October in Central London.For details email or join our Meetup Group at

Reflections on Working with Attention

‘Every human being, at birth, receives a certain quantity of this vital force, and, in the course of his or her existence, it will be the integrator of all things within and of everything manifested’.

Henriette Lannes. This Fundamental Quest. P 58.

Attention is a type of ‘inner focussing’. Concentration is when one of my centres, usually my head, is focused on one single task at hand– often to the exclusion of my other senses. The result is that when I am concentrating, often I don’t hear sounds, feel sensations or notice things going on around me. I am active in one centre only.

Attention can be consciously divided, between oneself and the outside world (which we call self-remembering), or between two or more centres. For example, I may feel a habitual emotion and, at the same time, consciously bring some attention to bear on a certain part of my body or on my breathing. The emotion loosens its grip on me and I gain a certain sensation of being grounded, being ‘lighter’ and more open to my inner world and to what life is offering me in that moment. I become aware of a finer energy at my disposal. I sense a vivifying force at play. . I am now active in two centres.

These moments are fleeting – even though the possibilities are always there. However, it leaves a taste and a wish for more. If I am awake, I can intentionally find that sensation again. Even when I am asleep or daydreaming, a moment of real attention can be gifted to me and jolt me out of my slumber. Before I know it though, life’s chloroform effect has put me back into a state of waking sleep. It becomes a question for me and I develop a curiosity about this extraordinary phenomenon.

How can I extend these moments of gathered attention? Do I really have to wait for them to come to me or can I be more proactive in seeking them?

Attention is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more it is used.

A state of Attention has a special quality which can be perceived by others. It can call the other person’ to action’ – if only briefly – and leave a lasting impression. In a Group meeting James Moore once said: ‘The most valuable thing you can ever give someone is your Attention’ – but most of the time I am asleep to that possibility. My task is to wake up!

The next Café Gurdjieff event on The Power of Attention will take place on Saturday 18 June at 11am in Central London. Details here:

Essence and Personality (2)


Continuing with the theme of “Know thyself!”, in our next event we would like to explore a crucial aspect of Gurdjieff’s teaching, which is that in us our essence and our personality are two different – though related – entities . This fact, if true, changes everything we think we know about ourselves, everything  we think we know about psychology and everything we think we know about our possibility for a spiritual evolution.

“Essence in man is what is his own. Personality in man is what is ‘not his own’. ‘Not his own’ means what has come from outside, what he has learned, or reflects, all traces of exterior impressions left in the memory and in the sensations, all words and movements that have been learned, all feelings created by imitation—all this is ‘not his own,’ all this is personality.”

G I Gurdjieff

In most people living in civilised society, essence remains undeveloped. In one fascinating experiment with two members of his St Petersburg Group in 1916. Gurdjieff temporarily “put to sleep” their personalities so that their essence could interact with the other people. One of the two, known for playing the fool and for failing to see the wood for the trees, became quite serious and direct. The second of the experimentees, a man quite opinionated with much to say on all sorts of topics, became suddenly taciturn. When asked to say what he would like, he could only respond, “I think I should like some raspberry jam.”

If one can have a good, successful life with one’s centre of gravity in personality, what does it matter about essence?

“A man’s real I, his individuality, can grow only from his essence. It can be said that a man’s individuality is his essence, grown up, mature. But in order to enable essence to grow up, it is first of all necessary to weaken the constant pressure of personality upon it, because the obstacles to the growth of essence are contained in personality.”

G I Gurdjieff

Once this distinction is appreciated, even though not yet understood from one’s own experience, much else begins to make sense.

Then legitimate questions arise.

“How to connect with essence?”

“How is essence fed?”

Join our next Café Gurdjieff meeting at 11am on 28 May in Central London.

Details from

Essence and Personality (1)

At my father’s funeral, amid my grief, I felt a quiet but persistent fundamental question arise in me: what or who am I? What have I inherited from my father, from my mother, my grandparents?

‘Know thyself!’ is the call from many traditions throughout the ages. I do have an inner question; a search. I do want to know myself. And I’ve had this question since I was a teenager. Other people have this or other serious inner questions, but perhaps struggle to put them into words. Words can be tricky.

In the Gurdjieff Work, there is a unique distinction made between essence and personality.

Essence, it is said, is what was mine when I was born – the essential me. Sitting in silence, at a funeral, I feel the question inside me: what is life all about? Stripped away from the usual hubbub of life – vulnerable with grief – what is the real me? What is the ‘I am’? I feel this question – it is not just a half-thought in my head – it is in me.

Personality, it is said, consists of traits overlaying essence, from my background, culture, education or experience and other influences. The chatter, the going-on-with life, the keeping busy – this is the personality. But as the Verve in their Bittersweet Symphony so clearly put it:

” … I’m a million different people from one day to the next …”

Personality can change more often than the British weather.

So who am I?

If this a serious question for you, then you’re very welcome to join our next Café Gurdjieff meeting at 11am on 28 May in Central London.

Details from