I've taken the summer off from blogging, but I have been doing some painting. Click on My Paintings on the left to see Bora Bora.
Also, Bruce Freedman has a new painting - Patterns of Growth.
This is the lastest offering from my husband's cactus garden. It is called echinopsis. I saw the flower in the morning and went and got my camera. I was glad that I hadn't followed my first impulse to put off taking the picture because by the afternoon the flower was closed up and wilted. According to my husband, this plant flowers rarely and briefly.
In Gurdjieff's All and Everything Beelzebub explains our tendency to put things off:
Thanks to this abnormal hope of theirs a very singular and most strange disease, with a property of evolving, arose and exists among them there even until now - a disease called there 'tomorrow.'He goes on to explain the "terrifying consequences" of this disease on our efforts to deliver ourselves from "some very undesirable consequences" that we all possess. Which brings me to the purpose of this post...I recently noticed on the Gurdjieff Legacy website that Mr. Patterson's September retreat is his last one that is going to be open to the public; after that, all of his retreats will only be open to his students. So, if you have been thinking that on some 'tomorrow' you wanted to attend one of his retreats, now is the time to do it. Here's the link to register.
My husband is an avid gardner and it is always a delight to go out into our yard and see his latest plantings. The other day I saw that he had set out the oval pot that he had found at a thrift store the day before. But I couldn't figure out why he had filled it with rocks rather than planting something in it. Then I looked more closely and saw that some of the rocks were actually plants. It turns out that they are a South African species called lithops. Lithops comes from the Greek meaning stone. They mimic the colors and the textures of the stones in their immediate environment as a survival strategy against things, such a turtles, that like to eat them.
When my husband said "survival strategy" an analogy popped into my head connecting the lithops and Gurdjieff's teaching on multiple "I"s. All of my "I"s survive by blending into the environment of 'me.' I'm not aware of them because I take them to be part of the landscape - my imagined indivisible I.
The analogy can be carried further because the lithos grow in clusters just as our "I"s are often in clusters. The cluster is grouped around one issue, but the different "I"s were created at different times and with slightly different relationships to the issue. For example, I may have a cluster of "I"s that formed around my experiences with authority figures. When I first begin to observe my functioning in circumstances with authority figures I may become aware of an "I" that is fearful. As I continue to observe I may see an "I" that is angry or a newer "I" that is passive-aggressive... and on and on and on.
If I take the pot to be analogous to my body and the clusters of plants to be my "I"s, then where is my indivisible I? This section from the Introduction to William Patrick Patterson's Spiritual Survival in a Radically Changing World-Time describes the dilema:
"But where is this 'I'? What is the referent? To what can I point? The primary assumption of my life is that this 'I' is real, something substantial, indivisible. And yet all my moods, thoughts, feelings and impulses, even beliefs (though they are more dense) are all changeable and many are contradictory, some extreme, given the circumstances.The lithops are supposed to flower in the Fall. I'll post a picture if they actually do. Then I can carry the analogy further with the flowering representing some outrageous behavior that brings an "I" into awareness. And then we can ponder - What is it that is aware?
"So, again, with answers not forthcoming or ambiguous, the question echoes, but now perhaps more immediately, more insistently - Who am I?"
I recently came across the Litemind site that had an article on the Top 10 Thinking Traps. Trap #5 was about how you should review your assumptions when given incomplete information for making a decision. The example was:
Harry is an introverted guy. We know that he is either a librarian or a salesman. Which one do you think he most probably is?
Of course, I said that Henry is a librarian because everyone knows that librarians are introverts and salesmen are extroverts. However, it was explained that salesmen outnumber librarians by 100 to 1 and so if only 1% of salesmen are introverted, the chances are higher that Harry is a salesman.
Even though I understood this intellectually and even have the personal experience of living with an introverted salesman, I couldn't shake the feeling that "librarian" is still the best guess. Litemind explained that we keep mental images, simplifications of reality, that make us jump to conclusions without questioning our assumptions. But still, I wanted to answer librarian. Then I thought about Gurdjieff's teaching on how we are composed of centers - primarily the thinking, feeling and instincitve/moving centers. He used the image of a horse to convey the speed and strength of the emotional center. He used the image of a dull-witted cabbie to convey the slower and lazier intellectual center. So my intellectual center, with its statistical information, can't override the 'knowing' of my emotions. Or as Sarah Palin 'explains,' "I know what I know what I know."
By the way...I did a Google image search and had to go through several pages to find this nice library cat picture. Do an image search on "librarian" and answer this question: Harriet works part time as a librarian. Her other job is either a porn star or a salesperson. Which one do you think she most probably is?
Photo Source: podpocalypse.wordpress.co
I just returned from a retreat with William Patrick Patterson at a beautiful Jesuit retreat facility in Morristown, New Jersery. Right before I left for the retreat I received Leland Vall's Alekander Tip (see my previous post for how to sign up for these) which included the picture below of the diaphragm. It was very helpful to have this image in my head since the diaphragm was the focus of many of the breathing and meditation exercises. Until seeing these pictures I had not realized how large the diaphragm becomes with the exhalation.
The retreat was a harmonious blend of the physical, emotional and intellectual. For the intellectual part, Mr. Patterson provided many insights to the From the Author section at the end of Gurdjieff's All and Everything. My physical and emotional centers were fed by wonderful walks in the wooded area surrounding the retreat house. The physical center also enjoyed the wonderful meals. The first night was glazed salmon with chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert!
Mr. Patterson's next retreat is going to be in California in September. I highly recommend it - although no guarantees on the food. You can get the details here. Hope to see you there.
Following on my 'Doing' post, I'm going to continue with the second pitfall to the Alexander Technique that is found at this site - http://performanceschool.org/ - and again draw a parallel with Gurdjieff's teaching, this time on self-observation.
The Performance School describes the second pitfall as the desire for "reassurance that you have, in fact, made some change. You will want to 'feel different.' The changes you are making, however, are very, very small and subtle. .... Also, you are not used to paying attention to yourself in this way. Because you have no experience in this kind of work, you don’t even know what you might feel, and might not notice a change when one happens. Nonetheless, you will probably still have a strong desire to 'feel something happening' to reassure yourself that your thinking has had an effect. We want the reassurance that we have 'done it right.' What most people do, unfortunately, is begin their nice, easy, clear thinking, and part way through interrupt themselves to 'check' and see if anything happened. ...THIS WILL NOT WORK. Remember, you are making changes in the way you move by making changes in the way you think. You will only be able to continue changing if you continue your new way of thinking. Any time you check to see if something happened, to see if you 'really' made a change, you have stopped your new thinking, and therefore stopped any change you may have started. So, no matter how tempting, no matter how strongly you want to feel you have 'done it right,' just be very clear that you are continuing that nice, easy, gentle awareness of how you are doing what you are doing."
Gurdjieff's practice of self-observation entails the observation of all of our functioning - our thinking, our emotional states as well as our physical postures, gestures and movements. The pitfall to self-observation that Gurdjieff warned against was analysis. I see it as being similar to the second pitfall to the Alexander Technique in that they both have the hidden agenda of self-judging. (Thus, the picture selected for this post - the people at the table represent our various "I"s heavy into self-judgment.) This is how Gurdjieff described this pitfall:
"Self-observation, especially in the beginning, must on no account become analysis or attempts at analysis....In trying to analyze some phenomenon that he comes across within him, a man generally asks: 'What is this? Why does it happen in this way and not in some other way?' And he begins to seek an answer to these questions, forgetting all about further observations. Becoming more and more engrossed in these questions he completely loses the thread of self-observation and even forgets about it. Observation stops. It is clear from this that only one thing can go on: either observation or attempts at analysis."
Photo Source: www.belonging.org
I've been enjoying the weekly Alexander Technique tip that Leland Vall emails. Just seeing it listed in my inbox list is a reminder to think the directions. Today's tip was about breathing and the connection between "your pointing spine and your hanging ribs."
Go here to sign up - it's free!
It had been several months since I had an Alexander Technique lesson but in the interim I had read The Alexander Technique Manual by Richard Brennan. Although I am sure that I had heard and read many times that you do not do the Primary Directions, you think them, for some reason it had never really clicked with me until I read this book.
For those of you not familiar with the Alexander Technique, the Primary Directions are:
1) Allow the neck to be free
2) Allow the head to go forward and up
3) Allow the back to lengthen and widen
So the other day when I had a lesson and the teacher began with "Give me your best thinking" I actually heard it for the first time. I think in all of my past lessons I must have unconsciously translated that into my way of being - trying to do - and attempted to adjust myself into my idea of a 'correct' posture. But this time I just thought the directions. This could also be described as getting out of my own way.
This all got reinforced after the lesson when I happened to come across this blog - http://performanceschool.org/ - that has a page about the "pitfalls" that can be encountered in the Alexander Technique. (The image above is supposed to represent me on a path that has pitfalls.) The first pitfall listed is "Remember, don't try to DO anything to make any changes."
And this was further reinforced because I had also been reading a section in In Search of the Miraculous in which Ouspensky relates what Gurdjieff says about 'doing.' Gurdjieff is speaking at a much deeper and more complex level but there are parallels with the not-doing in the Alexander Technique:
"...man's chief delusion is his conviction that he can do. All people think that they can do, all people want to do, and the first question all people ask is what they are to do. But actually nobody does anything and nobody can do anything. This is the first thing that must be understood....To get rid of this conviction is more difficult than anything else for a man. You do not understand all the complexity of your organization and you do not realize that every effort, in addition to the results desired, even if it gives these, gives thousands of unexpected and often undesireable results, and the chief thing that you forget is that you are not beginning from the beginning with a nice clean, new machine. There stand behind you many years of a wrong and stupid life, of indulgence in every kind of weakness, of shutting your eyes to your own errors, of striving to avoid all unpleasant truths, of constant lying to yourselves, of self-justification, of blaming others, and so on, and so on."
Photo Source: http://sadanandsafar.blogspot.com
As above, so below.
- Hermes Trismegistus
People travel to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
- Saint Augustine
In studying the world and its laws a man studies himself, and in studying himself he studies the world.
- G.I. Gurdjieff
Photo Source: Dreaming www.cocodrillo.devianart.com
"Bear in mind that your sight has the property of presenting distant objects as though they were near. Beguiled by the nearness of the aim toward which you strive, blinded by its beauty and ignorant of the measure of your own strength, you will not notice the obstacles on the way; you will not see the numerous ditches across the path.... It is very easy to stumble and fall if your eyes are not concentrated on the step you are taking."
Photo credit: Jillian St. Germain of Rebecca Rice Dance by Matt Karas. www.rebeccaricedance.com.
The theme for Mr. Patteson's September retreat in California has been announced. It is "The Primordial: Actualization & Exploration." You can get the information here.
Another talk by Mary Ellen Korman has been scheduled for May in Washington, D.C. She is the author of A Woman's Work with Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Anandamayi Ma & Pak Subuh: The Spiritual Life Journey of Ethel Merston. Here's the link for the time and location.
This is my 14th, and last, post on David Appelbaum's book The Stop If you missed the first 13 go back to January 1 so you can follow the sequence.
One of the final sections of The Stop is An Embodied Sight for the Sighted in which Appelbaum discusses how the sighted can learn to see as the blind do so that "vision can be informed by a consciousness greater than the intellect."
A training regime is required that would "remedy the habituated interference of intellect in the act of visually seeing" and involve "a reharmonization of functional aspects of person, intellect, feeling and body." This is the cultivation of the stop which includes "a process of resensitizing sight." Appelbaum explains, "The momentuum of received visual learning must be arrested in order for a new (or renewed) function of sight to commence."
I believe that Gurdjieff would explain the process as our conditioning to see in a certain way - intellectually - must first be awared through observation. Then with the light of consciousness illuminating this habitual functioning, we have the possibility of changing it.
So first I become aware that I am always focusing my eyes and am not embodied. All of my attention is out there. I get the 'taste' of this. Then I try to soften my gaze so that rather than narrowly focusing the eyes, I include the peripheral vision. The taste of this is of allowing the world to come to me, rather than going out and grabbing it.
Appelbaum explains that once we are released from the strictly conceptual mode we are open to other influences. "What is seen then signifies the wider cosmos as it expresses itself through the visual field." Rather than valuing objects for the pleasure or utility that they offer me, I am open to experiencing their wider, deeper significance. The world ceases to be a reflection of my values, my preconceptions, my interests and "grows transparent with higher purpose….Returning to home in the body, we are returned to our place in an order of things, ever new, ever regenerating."
Photo source: www.flickr.com/photos/notsogoodphotography/
This is my 13th post on David Appelbaum's book The Stop If you missed the first 12 go back to January 1 so you can follow the sequence.
One of Appelbaum's final concepts that I'm going to try to describe - without fully understanding it - is divinatory perception. Divinatory perception is of signs which connect the invisible, interior world with the visible and exterior. This perceiving is an interpreting of an inner meaning, the essence of things.
Appelbaum goes on at length about signs - including an illustrative consultation with the I Ching - which I won't go into. It seems to me that the important point of this divinatory perception is that I am involved in the process. Appelbaum writes, "To perceive is to be myself perceived." To describe this process requires an unusual syntax. "I touch a flower" would be "I touch myself a flower." "I see a rainbow" would be "I see myself a rainbow."
This is what William Patrick Patterson calls subject-object perception, which is the state of Gurdjieff's self-remebering. In the Fourth Way Meetings section of his Spiritual Survival in a Radically Changing World-Time he includes this in an answer to a student's question: "We think we live in subject-object orientation, but do we? If we watch our attention we are all object; that is, our attention is completely identified with the object. Or we are all subject, completely identified, indwelling, full of self-concern. But because you are now being introduced to the idea and practice of having a double attention - having a recognition of both the subject and object simultaneously - it was suddenly realized how swallowed up you were."
Appelbaum calls the 'self' of self-remembering the submerged "I." He writes, "Whatever I perceive assists in revealing a secret identity for which my ordinary identity is a sign....Since I attend to perception as a witness, it can be said that I am attendant to my own birthing."
Image: John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball
This is my 12th post on David Appelbaum's book The Stop If you missed the first 11 go back to January 1 so you can follow the sequence.
Appelbaum says that we ordinarily view time as:
1. Sequence - one event follows the next event
2. Direction - past to future
3. A Quantity - either there isn't enough of it or there's too much
4. As Something Extraneous - being outside of time
With the stop we experience "an organic apprehenion of the present moment" - meaning that the intellect is not involved and so time is not something extrinsic to the current moment, but a quality of it. "The organism meets time as pulse, rhythm, and tempo. Time is a paramount practical concern that governs locomotion, coordination, and the manipulation of tools." So with the stop, rather than time, we have timing.
Every thing, process and event has many influences to which it responds with different rhythms or tempos. The stop and embodied perception disclose these to us. When we relate to the cosmos in this way "timing becomes the great hidden meaning. Who knows the timing of things holds the key to power." This can be easily seen at the ordinary level - the timing of a political message, the timing of a comedian's joke, the timing (or lack there of) on Dancing with the Stars.
According to Appelbaum the perception that shows me who I am operates through timing. I like this concept because it offers an interesting line-of-inquiry for self-observation. If I look for it, it seems that it should be fairly clear when my time is off and when it is on.
Photo Source: www.davidharbersundials.co.uk/
I got back a few days ago from a week-long retreat at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in the foothills outside of Tucson. It was a wonderful week lead by William Patrick Patterson. The theme of the retreat was "God, Machine & Me." We explored the question of how man can be said to be both an image of God and a machine.
Mr. Patteson's next retreat is going to be in Morristown, New Jersey at the end of May. The theme of this one is going to be "I Am, I Am Not, I Am" - sounds like another conundrum that we will be exploring through the body, the mind and the emotions. You can get the information here. If you can't make that one, there is also one scheduled for September in California.
Another upcoming event is a talk by Mary Ellen Korman, the author of A Woman's Work with Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Anandamayi Ma & Pak Subuh: The Spiritual Life Journey of Ethel Merston. The talk is April 29 in Towson, Maryland. I have heard Mrs. Korman speak. She has a gentle presence and is very knowledgeable about the Gurdjieff work. Here's the link for the time and location.
Now I want to get back to my final posts on Appelbaum's The Stop. Stay tuned...
Today I came across something in Gurdjieff's All and Everything, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson that I think is such a perfect description of our present celebrity and talk radio culture that I wanted to share it:
"Here it does no harm to notice that owing to the existing abnormal conditions of ordinary existence there among your favorites, the three-brained beings of that strange planet Earth, especially during recent centuries, only those beings who manifest themselves, not as the majority of them do, but somehow or other, more absurdly, become noticed and consequently honored by the rest; and the more absurd their manifestations and the more stupid, mean, and insolent the 'tricks' they play, the more noticed and famous they become, and the greater is the number of the beings on the given continent and even on other continents who know them personally or at least by name.
"On the other hand, no honest being who does not manifest himself absurdly will ever become famous among other beings or even be simply noticed, however good-natured and sensible he may be in himself."