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: http://www.meetup.com/Cafe-Gurdjieff-London/events/231652005/

Essence and Personality (2)

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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 cafe@gurdjieffstudies.eu

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 cafe@gurdjieffstudies.eu

Types – Know Thyself!

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There are many different “human typologies”, for example Ayurveda (Kapha, Pitta, Vata), the four temperaments of Humorism (Phlegmatic, Melancholic, Sanguine, Choleric), Chinese Five Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, Wood).

G I Gurdjieff describes human beings as being “three-brained”, i.e. having intellectual, emotional and moving-instinctive functions or centres which are only rarely working harmoniously. In the psychic life of each person one of these “brains” is dominant – and this is your type. What type are you? Intellectual, emotional or physical?

In this meeting we will study the different ways of looking at types, the nuances and variations, explore the meaning they have for our own lives and the challenges each brings. Is it helpful if we know our own type or can it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Are we able to understand one another? Is there a possibility of change or development – and if so, in what way?

Come with an open heart and mind to engage in a discussion and search for meaning at our next Meetup in Central London at 11am on Saturday  7 May.

For details of the venue join Café Gurdjieff or email us on cafe@gurdjieffstudies.eu

 

Ecology on a Bigger Scale

In modern England, cafés are places where men and women meet to discuss, read, write and sometimes work. They are the equivalent of an ancient Agora where people gathered to spread news and ideas.

We are having our first meeting at the British Library coffee shop, aiming to introduce a new way of sharing fundamental ideas and questions that have meaning for us.

21st century women and men wake up in the morning, go to work, produce and spend, get informed from the mainstream media and so it goes on. And at the same time, the Earth and the Moon keep on turning, people are born and die and the vast universe continues to exist and develop. Ancient people built monuments corresponding to the movements of the Sun and the Moon. Modern scientists believe that the Earth’s moon has been essential for life on Earth. If you sometimes sit in the early hours of the morning and look at the Moon and the stars, does it inspire you to have a sense of your existence in a different way? What does it all mean? What does my life mean?

Come at noon on Saturday the 23rd of April to exchange with us in a meaningful way on the theme of ‘Food for the Moon’ and meet like-minded people.

Café Gurdjieff Meetup

Food for the Moon?

Saturday, April 23, 2016
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
The British Library, First Floor Café

My father, when I was growing up, sometimes used to say “these people are food for the moon” when, for example, we were watching TV showing some ‘cheap’ programme with mindless chatter and ‘trivial acting’ or behaviour.

The expression ‘food for the moon’ shocked me then as it does now. It challenges the commonly held view that we humans are the centre of everything – anthropocentric (Greek ἄνθρωπος, ánthrōpos, “human being”; and κέντρον, kéntron, “centre”). It introduces the idea of humans being connected with planets.

As the native American Chief Seattle said ‘The Earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the Earth. This we know…’

But what about things we don’t know?

What is the connection between man, the Earth, the Moon and other planets?

What is our role in the Cosmos?

Are we just food for the moon?

It seems obvious to me, instinctively I feel that man is connected with nature, the earth and the planets: ‘Everything is connected’.

At the same time, it disturbs me because it implies that we, as humans, are powerless in front of the forces of ‘great nature’. How does the moon influence me?