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

“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 enquiries@gurdjieff.org.uk 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 enquiries@gurdjieff.org.uk 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

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

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 enquiries@gurdjieff.org.uk

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 enquiries@gurdjieff.org.uk

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?