Gurdjieff

9. Cultivate Attention and Discernment (1)

“Life is religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the “past.” People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the ‘Future.'”

The Cassiopaea Experiment Transcripts, by Laura Knight-Jadczyk


Reading time: 18-20 mins

“Pay attention.”

A very familiar phrase. I don’t know about you, but this reminds of my school days when I certainly wasn’t paying attention for a lot of the time. I was either messing around at the back of the class or looking out of the window daydreaming.

Hardly surprising. School tends to encourage stress and dissociation plus all the frustrations and inattention that follows. Not that there aren’t some fine teachers about. But the concept of learning has gone so far from the joy and wonder it is meant to instil, that all who partake in this factory of disconnection can only end up blind.  When it extends into adulthood it acts as a fly-paper for a host of other problems – dissociation being one high on the list.

Children have a powerful ability to pay attention to their surroundings. Their “distraction” is a crucial part of developing sensory awareness and something we lose as we reach adulthood. Children actually notice and remember more through this total immersion which is developed through play, interaction and natural presence. [1]  By the time they reach formal schooling (i.e. indoctrination) children are force-fed what to think rather than how to think. Attention is directed to specific blocks of information created and formed by a consensus which is really just a form of hypnosis and entrainment and a product of distorted history and consequent perception management.

Filtration, fabrication and distortion form the education of our day, so it’s no wonder that young adult are feeling adrift after they graduate from such institutionalised propaganda. Thanks to this type of education, social media, a backdrop of content consumption and production there is, according to a recent study, a “…more rapid exhaustion of limited attention resources.” As a result, humanity’s collective attention span is getting shorter. [2]

Then we have the increasing automation of technology which is cutting jobs and laying waste to our ability to hold on to and develop new cognitive and practical skills to take us boldly into the future. There is an attention deficit but it is not restricted to the psychiatric label designed to market more drugs. We have a crisis of attention thus perception which has been going on for a long time.

At the most basic level, without attention, we would all be crashing our cars even more than we do already: burning our food to a crisp; sleeping in everyday; leaving the shower on all day or adding our number to the legion of people that die in accidents at home while attempting to “fix” things. A lack of attention and an overestimation of our knowledge can be a fatal combination.

Without paying attention we cannot simplify our life, give our lover pleasure, find our blind spots, control our emotions, or learn a new skill. Without paying attention we cannot define or uphold what we value. When values are absent knowing the difference between fact and fantasy is a tenuous proposition.

Attention not only matters it can determine whether we live or die, accept a truth or a clever lie. And these two pairings usually go together.

In other words, cultivating attention is a BIG deal.

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Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (2)

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

“Inner silence is for our race a difficult achievement. There is a chattering part of the mind which continues, until it is corrected, to chatter on even in the holiest places.”

— C.S. Lewis


Reading time: 15-20 mins

Inner Considering

You’re on an internal cell phone to your “Self” that never stops ringing. You pick up and you say the same thing over and over. You hang up. And then it rings again and you start over, completely forgetting your last feverish conversation. Our wires become so crisscrossed and entangled with endless contradictions and conflations that we end up trapped in our mind.

A life of endless chatter, deliberation, vascillation, questioning, doubts, ten thousand possible ‘if’s’ and ‘but’s’ fuelled by our fantasies of the future and the past. These thoughts get our brain and nervous system so habitually overheated, criss-crossing over each other with complexity, that we cannot discern or discriminate objective from subjective.

That’s an unfortunate part of being human. We all do it to different degrees – mostly as our default position. It certainly takes me back to all kinds of poor decisions which were based solely on that inner noise of fear and anxiety and not much else. We can even make ourselves believe that it’s all logical and rational rather than an internal babbling of self-protection.

All this has a name: “inner considering”, a phrase drawn from the 4th Way teachings of George I. Gurdjieff and its relationship to indentification and self-remembering.

When we fully identify with the object of our attention we immediately begin a cascade of thought loops about what might or might not be, fuelled by anticipation and inner dissatisfaction. People, in particular, form our most potent forms of identification. This is the social battlefield of unresolved childhood insecurities and misdirected sexual energies. Plagued by endless loops of inner considering we are not motivated by truth but by self-protection and inner comfort. It’s like we carry around a no-entry sign for any authentic interaction. Only those exchanges which bypass “sensitive” lanes into our heart are allowed access. And since most people are asleep to themselves, therefore inauthentic, much of what we see as social interactions are merely the exchange of inner considerations.

Fear is still pumped into society on a daily basis and has produced immense distrust and cynicism. Our infotainment mediocrity elevates artifice and images devoid of meaning which means most of us search desperately for anchors of purpose. Albeit entirely understandable, this is a fool’s game because it is driven by subjective, frustrated assumptions and all manner of negative projections – all of it largely unconscious.

The net result means no change, or change for its own sake. The loops are still there based on a refusal to take responsibility for one’s own development. A contractile denial of one’s own deformations remains in place.

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8. Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (1)

© Infrakshun

“We live in a society where detachment is almost essential.”

— Philip K. Dick


Reading time: 15 – 18 mins

The quote above highlights a growing shift in the consciousness of Western populations – if not the globe – namely, the detachment and separation from our political system to offer any kind of resolution to domestic and international problems. The defeat of the remain camp in the Brexit exit poll to the election of Donald Trump are both symptoms of disillusionment with establishment politics. They represent a negative detachment of progressive politics not from rejecting the conservative “other,” but from an attachment to a dream of what ought to be, thus in direct oppostion to objective reality.

As Gilad Atzmon notes in his recent book Being in Time: A Post Political Manifesto (2016):

The Post-Political condition is an era defined by a complete failure of politics (Left, Right and Centre) and ‘Grand Ideological Narratives.’ Liberal Democracy, Marxism, communism, capitalism, and free markets are all empty, hollow signifiers as far as contemporary reality is concerned.

Total detachment describes the current relationship between ‘the political’ and ‘the human.’ We Westerners are becoming keenly aware that we have been reduced to consumers. The present role of ‘the political’ is to facilitate consumption. Our elected politicians are subservient to oligarchs, major market forces, big monopolies, corporations, conglomerates, banks and some sinister lobbies.

Liberal Democracy, that unique moment of mutual exchange between humans and the political, has failed to sustain itself. [1]

In the context of politics and culture, non-identification is essential if we are to separate from belief and move toward constructive solutions. Not to play the game of identity politics is to reject the idea that just because there is disagreement with a certain ideology does not mean prejudice against a race, sexuality, gender or religion. Identitarians would have us all categorised into rigid groups of tribal affiliations according to opinions, feelings and surface image rather than the logic and plausibility of the idea itself. Since identity is enmeshed in ideology and persona, to oppose an ideologue is to launch a personal attack. A specific defence mechanism is thus created to maintain this triad.

Examples of this would be:

  • Being white and male you are privileged and inherently racist
  • If you vote for Trump you are sexist, misogynist and a white supremacist Nazi.
  • Everyone knows there is a rape culture and if you deny it you support it.
  • If you disagree with pre-school education on transgender sexuality means you are transphobic
  • Criticising Islamic extremism means you are “Islamophobic”.
  • Criticising Israel’s human rights record against Palestinians means you are anti-Semitic
  • If you stand against police brutality you support radical anarchists like antifa
  • Institutionalised racism exists and police target black people as a result.
  • All those who criticise the science of human-global warming are “climate deniers”.
  • Being pro-Brexit and skeptical of the EU means you are xenophobic and right wing

Such identitarianism is spellbound by image and feeling rather than reason an logic. There is no room for nuance or complexity. With identify politics, radical feminism and social justice groupings, group identity and its beliefs take precedence over individual belief and autonomy. Any attack against the group is an attack against personal identity, the latter of which the individual give ups to further group cohesion. The ability to discriminate and critique based on reality rather than personal sensibility is lost. As such, it is a collective defence mechanism called “splitting” which we will look at later on.

To identify with someone’s pain or difficulties is to engage empathy. But when we identify with the ideology and belief – regardless of good intentions –  we limit our ability to see outside that ideology. It is then that empathy becomes politicised and distorted toward power and projection fuelled by the momentum of the group itself.

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Strive For Simplicity, Economise on Energy (5)

Infrakshun / pixabay.com

‘In order to make gold, you need to have gold.’

— Medieval alchemist


Reading time: 20 mins

Energy Matrix

Eastern philosophy and medicine has been well in advance of the West when it comes to recognising the energy of the body and mind. For thousands of years Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese and Indian practitioners had knowledge of the channels or meridians which carried two kinds of force, yin and yang, which flow along a network of energy pathways which map the entire body.

It is now accepted that our bodies are electromagnetic in nature with these energy pathways acting as electricity conductors, a fact of which acupuncturists take full advantage in order to regulate and “unblock” certain imbalances in the energy field. Knowledge of the energy network of meridians forms the diagnostic methodology behind Shiatsu/Acupressure, Qigong, Tai Chi and Yoga. Indeed, science seems to be catching up with what the ancients have already known for thousands of years.

As no anatomical foundation was perceived to exist for the meridian network in our current Darwinian-saturated science establishment the concept had been discarded and ignored as the Newtonian/Cartesian mindset held sway. However, a flurry of new experiments emerged in 2013 which produced a new anatomical foundation called the ‘Primo Vascular System’. Researchers at the Seoul National University in South Korea describe the PVS as “… a previously unknown system that integrates the features of the cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and hormonal systems. It also provides a physical substrate for the acupuncture points and meridians.” They propose “…a new vision of the anatomical basis for the PVS and the vital energy—called “Qi”—as an electromagnetic wave that is involved very closely with the DNA in the PVS.”

What is most fascinating is the duplication of the PVS by the vascular and the nervous systems during the very early stage of body development. Consequently: “… the PVS combines the features of the vascular, nervous, immune, and hormonal systems. The PVS in all its aspects is understood as a system that covers the entire body, and regulates and coordinates all biological life processes.” [1]

This was followed in 2016 with discoveries on the microstructure of the PVS via the use of a patented microscopy system by Professor Vitaly Vodyanoy of Auburn University in Alabama. He revealed for the first time “the microstructure of the miniscule, translucent system of vessels, subvessels and stem cell-filled nodes—together making up the primo-vascular system…” which appears in and on blood vessels, organ tissue and the lymphatic system. As for less complex biological of rats, it too features in the human system. [2]

Instead of a simplistic version of meridians lying on the surface of the skin, classical Chinese texts have always indicated the three-dimensional nature of energy pathways which carry liquid Chi to the internal organs. This liquid is made of stem-cells packed with DNA. And we know the enormous healing and regeneration properties of stem-cells and the mysterious nature of DNA as one factor in the interface of consciousness with knowledge and reality.

Now, keep in mind the importance of liquid in our bodies and its role in carrying protective and nourishing information.

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Strive For Simplicity, Economise on Energy (4)

© Creator76 | Dreamstime.com

“A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


Reading time: 15-18 mins

Energy Conservation

To conserve our energy in the way we think, feel and act we need to know how they might all relate in simple terms. So, let’s simplify it.

Think of energy efficiency (upgrades) and energy conservation (energy use) leading to the correct economy for your life. The home can be thought of as a metaphor or symbol of your mind and body. (If you like, this is an extension of Jordan Peterson’s thinking of tidying up your room).

Energy conservation involves using less energy by changing your behaviours and habits. Energy efficiency, on the other hand, involves using techniques, traditional systems of knowledge and new technologies that requires less energy to perform the same function.

Energy efficiency = all those qualities and techniques you can find to maximize your potential and minimize chaos. Accumulate energy for creativity and minimize loss from internal and external entropy.

Energy Conservation = simplifying your life through judicious, careful attention and limiting unnecessary drains on energy. employing measures which ensure you are not only efficient but have a constant supply on tap. Conservation sometimes means getting very creative. The more you conserve, the more likely that can be!

In other words, to be energy efficient means looking at ways your personality system can be upgraded so that less energy is needed to perform certain functions and which provides qualitatively better results. This can be “costly” in the short-term but requires much less effort in the long-term. This includes insulation, replacements, careful monitoring and upgrades.

Energy conservation involves actively seeking new ways to on your internal efficiency. You change your relationship to energy within your home. You seek ways to receive energy for minimum loss and a minimum amount of effort. It is strategic, long-term and eminently practical. It requires a re-calibration of existing appliances (organs of perception; centres) in order to extract a maximum amount of energy. The energy that you have is used wisely.

In other words, it means a change in overall behaviour through commitment and a creative application of knowledge.

How might we use our energy more efficiently?

Insulate, upgrade and monitor.

Insulate your mind and body from that which would drain but remain porous enough to let constructive influences through. And if you have good quality insulation then you have more energy to produce warmth and proper flow of electricity and therefore creative potential. (It might be stretching this metaphor to its limit but it’s no coincidence that key brain areas found to have more nerve fibre insulation or “myelination” equates to advantageous personality traits!)

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Strive For Simplicity, Economise on Energy (3)

“I have long held an opinion, almost amounting to conviction, in common I believe with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, one into another, and possess equivalents of power in their action.”

— Michael Faraday, English Physicist and Chemist


Reading time: 20 mins

Energy

What is energy?

Energy is a property of matter, space, objects and fields. It can be transferred and converted, but it can’t be destroyed – or created. Energy can be chemical, thermal electrical and kinetic, all of which exists in and around the mind-body system.

For our focus it is potential energy which can be stored and qualitatively accumulated which is of interest.

Energy can be refined in order to get more vitality for your voltage, so to speak.

Since sufficient energy is the fuel for all manner of action, (and The Work) it stands to reason that the more energy you have within your mind-body system the more enhanced the capacity for change.  With enough stored, (and the “space” ready to store it) we have a greater chance of changing our physical, mental and emotional states.

With a greater store of energy on tap, this might even provide the “nourishment” and power needed to fuel overall meta-physical transformation.

At this point in history the demands on our time and energy are relentless. Many of us have become mentally ill or physically debilitated due to environmental and psycho-social factors. In this technological age there are reasons to fill every waking hour with activities and distractions which feed our restlessness but give little in terms of true nourishment. If we cut out the clutter and re-organise our daily lives so that things become simpler we make better use of our time. Time management goes hand in hand with simplicity. Economising conserving and simplifying are mutually inclusive.

What is crucial to your life and what is just repetitive, useless busy-ness? Is that moving centre sending into you spirals of pointless activity in order to displace energy that could be useful to personal transformation? Ask yourself honestly: Is your attention habitually fixed on getting things to feel better? Has this focus overshadowed what’s truly important in my life?

If that’s true and like so many of us, you have been caught up in finding too much satisfaction in possessions (or possessing people) then it’s a cue to simplify and to realise that attachment to beliefs and their possessions are often the greatest obstacle to living a more harmonious life. Or, as German poet and playwright Johann von Goethe expressed it: “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”

To achieve simplicity we have to conserve our energy in thought and action. One thing is for sure, you’ll need every ounce of it if you are to transform your inner life. By gettting rid of that which ultimately drains you, it opens up the space for an ongoing process of spring-cleaning, much like you do with your flat or house. And it’s amazing how much more can be achieved by decreasing one’s complexity.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (8)

“There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be
taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.”

– George Eliot

“I’m not asking anything” she said. “I’m merely passing on the advice of a succession of shrewd old birds…Start by becoming aware of what you think you are. It’ll help you to become aware of what you are in fact.”

— Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962


Reading time: 20-25 mins

We’ve looked at the importance of positive emotions (and its dark side); fantasy over creativity; as well as an overview of male and female brain differences in processing emotions. We’ve also explored how constructive emotions are overall, an essential part of moral, psycho-spiritual identity.

In this final post on constructive emotions we’ll have a closer look at how they operate within a specific metaphysical/esoteric tradition with particular attention to the theory of chakras or centres. These ideas are present in much of the occult traditions but also in “esoteric science”, or the old, custodian forms of Eastern and Western traditions behind many of our religions.

This might appear to be a bit abstract, so those averse to too much theory on that score, hang in there, even it’s just theory at this point, it’ll give you a working knowledge as to how your “subtle energy” might be working in your system. Similarly, if this is just an interesting curiosity, the mere awareness of new possibilities is useful since it gives you further information to process within your personal open feedback system. Information can always be turned into practical knowledge if you test it against the whetstone of reality.

That said, a word to the wise: the following theories of esoteric work isn’t something to flirt with – a point I’ve made at various junctures on this blog. Better to just have that awareness than fully engage with what esotericists call “The Tradition” or “The Work” than only half engage. That’s as dangerous as entering a dense jungle in flip-flops, with  a plastic water bottle as your only means of survival. A paucity of sincerity and mere intellectual curiosity is not a good combination. ( know well of what I speak!) Beyond a certain point, to turn back from that Work will create a chaos you can barely imagine. As the Buddha mentioned:  “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting.”

Cautionary warning dispensed with – onwards!

Fourth Way /The Centres/Chakras

There are three major influences that determine the personality and its trajectory:

  • Genetics
  • sociocultural programming
  • spiritual/religious beliefs

Our spiritual beliefs – occult or esoteric/metaphysical – have been directly or indirectly influenced by the ancient idea of chakras or subtle energy centres.

The chakra systems as we know them today have been put through the new age and occult grinder so it’s no surprise that the theory behind their functioning bares little resemblance to their original sources, be it from the yoga-tantra traditions or from esoteric Christianity filtered into the West.

The particular system I’ll focus on I believe retains the original template of the “subtle energy centres” which is the system of teaching called The Fourth Way delivered to the West by George Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky and later Boris Mouravieff among others lesser known.

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2. Respect Yourself (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“Above all things, one should maintain his self-respect, and there is
but one way to do that, and that is to live in accordance with
your highest ideal.”

— Robert G. Ingersoll


Reading time: 15 -18 mins

“He doesn’t respect himself much if he can carry on like that.”

Did you see her last night? She’s got no self-respect.”

Have some respect for yourself for God’s sake!

Such judgements and admonishments are unlikely to install the kind of respect those persons are looking for. The very notion of self-respect is highly subjective. One man’s accusation of poor hygiene, grungy dreadlocks and disrespect for authority is another man’s expression of a “free spirit”. What matters however, is whether you have the kind of respect for yourself that makes your life worthwhile and makes you a pleasure to be around.

It reminds me of my time as a bewildered twenty-something who gave an air of self-control and ease but was struggling to make sense of life. The recurring theme of that period was a battle between dissociation and reality, creativity and sexuality, perfectionism and surrender. When one has the feeling of persecution and guilt embedded in one’s very being it means that making a mistake is the end of the world whereby great horror, ridicule and even annihilation awaits should you err in the slightest way. Way over the top of course, and a form of compensatory narcissism that makes you retreat into a smaller and smaller bubble that you deem navigable, where everything is micro-managed to shield oneself from anymore pressure. Ironically, that only makes such a bubble more prone to bursting, since embracing objective reality becomes a threat to that congealed mass of ego-masks built to protect, yet a barrier to growth. Bloody conflict ensues between one’s fears and the promise of change. Thankfully, I did break that conflict, but not without cost, which is as it should be.

Self-respect never arrives when we shield ourselves from life and do everything we can to avoid failure. The latter is how we learn and there is no other way to build success – be it in business, relationships or the growth of self-awareness. You will err, you will fail and that’s okay. The information that led you to failure offers knowledge for next time. And provided you don’t give up, then such bad experiences become useful for the future you wish to create – they are needed grist for the mill.

Without self-respect it is hard to achieve what we desire. It is even harder to sustain any success should we manage to block out that doubting voice which is intimately linked to self-sabotage and victimhood. “Better to scuttle one’s ship now and face an even bigger disaster” says that voice, Better to protect myself from that kind of pain and suffering.” Yet, it is precisely this fixation with future “disaster” and the debilitating voice of unreason that is asking to be analysed and thereby integrated. (see no. 1 Heal Your Past).

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