I am very grateful to Joseph Azize for his willingness to make five of the Gurdjieff exercises available to us within the cyber confines of our Wisdom School Community. These exercises are powerful tools of healing, cleansing, and clarity, and even when practiced individually or in small groups, they have a power to significantly shift our present planetary atmosphere. They are something you can actually DO: to steady yourself and ready yourself for the deeper energetic work that actually connects us and empowers us as a human species to do the alchemical work we were placed on this planet to do.
The five exercises I have recommended are all examples of what Gurdjieff calls “transformed contemplation.” For now—and in direct cognizance of the needs of our present global crisis—let me offer a slightly different definition than even Azize gives. “Transformed Contemplation” is contemplation that actually transforms something, both in ourselves and in the world. It is a kind of sacred alchemy, which is to be understood within the context of Gurdjieff’s great vision of “reciprocal feeding,” the exchange of physical/energetic substances between the realms which maintains the whole cosmic ecosystem in a state of dynamic equilibrium. We receive something for ourselves; we offer something back. Each of these exercises highlights a slightly different aspect of this and works on a slightly different skill set.
Before you dive in, you will need two foundational pieces:
- A basic familiarity with the notion of three-centered awareness. If you’re reading this post on the Wisdom School community page, you will already have made its acquaintance in the Introductory Wisdom School, but if you haven’t actually been to Wisdom School—or simply want to refresh yourself—the gist of the teaching is there in Chapter 3 of my The Wisdom Way of Knowing.
- A familiarity with the basic body-rotation sensing exercise, which is foundational in the Gurdjieff Work and figures prominently in four of these five exercises. We have worked on this exercise a bit in the Introductory Wisdom School and extensively in the intermediate school (The Divine Exchange), but those of you who know me only as a teacher of Centering Prayer may not yet have been exposed to this particular practice. So here’s the quick and dirty version;
First of all, SENSING. For the sake of this exercise, it means using your directed attention to awaken a sense of aliveness (often experienced as an actual subtle tingling) in a specific body part, while at the same time allowing that part to be the full container for your attention.
As a pilot run, bring your attention to your right hand. Try not to beam your attention down from outside, like a searchlight; rather, invite it gently to fill in from within. It will.
Notice how, under the beckoning power of your attention, your arm suddenly seems to “come online.” You are directly connected to it; you feel its vibrancy as a vitalization of your own being. (Isn’t it amazing how you can use this mysterious power always at your disposal, your attention, to fill up your hand with sensation; to increase the direct experience of your own aliveness?)
The rotation, then, typically goes; right arm, right leg; left leg; left arm. As your attention moves sequentially to each part, it also stays put there. If you see yourself wandering, daydreaming, judging…return to the direct sensation of the body part you are attending to.
For more on attention, I’m sure Bob Sabath will readily direct you to the marvelous excerpt “The Force of Attention” by William Segal.
Okay, with those two background pieces in place, you’re good to go. Over the next few posts, I’ll try to add a few very brief commentaries about the specific exercises themselves.