Fourth Way Perspectives


Selected questions and responses from The Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation group meetings.

Question: In relaxing through doing the body impression sequences, I often experience areas of tension. Once these relax, new areas of tension are noticed. There seem to be levels beneath levels of tension.

Response: Make a fist. Metaphorically, that's how we are inside. (Please, everyone, make a fist, don't just look, participate.) Now, slowly open your fingers but not all the way. When we say we are relaxed that half-opened fist is what we think being relaxed is. Now, open the fingers a bit more … even more. Now, open the fingers of your hand completely. That's what it would be like to be completely relaxed. So, as you say, there are levels within levels of relaxtion, of tension. That the body breathed meant that your hand was open, so to say. But then you tightened up again. The formatory mind reasserted its control.

Now where did you experience the knot? Probably the stomach, yes? So focus your attention on adjacent areas and breathe into those. Allow them to soften. Then, focus on the stomach and, without force or interference, breathe into the knot.

Q: Once I had the realization that I wasn't controlling the breath, the body was breathing without the head interfering. I felt a kind of joy. But since then I notice I do control the breathing.

R: Head-bound, we are held hostage by the neurotic need to control everything. So we don't breathe from the body but the head. It's only by activating the body through attention that the grip of the head weakens and we begin to experience a true breath.

Q: My wish was to observe the body during times of emotion. For days afterward I kept that wish with me, repeating it over and over to myself. Then, when winding a watch of my father's, I noticed this sadness. It was in my chest. It was as if it was being stepped on, a heavy weight. Well, after that I didn't see much and completely forgot my wish.

R: Your wish was answered. And your father was the means. As Mr. Gurdjieff said, your deep feeling toward your father, your loss, makes a place for something higher. We only have so much energy for Work and when that is used up no Work is possible. So it is not surprising that you completely forgot your wish. But, speaking as you have, your wish can be renewed. Do you follow?

Q: I had a meeting today with someone over business. We had what I thought was a good discussion. This evening while sitting here the conversation came back to me and I realized how much I had talked. And I see now how I was talking so much because of my fear. I was not present in the conversation.

R: Fears drive so much of our action and inaction. Living from the surface, we never see the true motive force. We think we are in control but we are controlled. Coming here, attempting to be present in this space, the past can represent itself and you see anew. It's good that you've spoken. It would be so easy to tell yourself that having seen this there is no need to report it. This is another, more subtle example of fear controlling us.

Q: At work I made presentations to two different men. I wanted to make a good impression—to be business—like and appear confident even though I felt nervous and unsure. The meetings went well and I felt as though I presented myself in a professional manner. But this week I had occasion to meet again with the first man. I walked into his cube and blurted out: "You're not so-and-so." I hadn't recognized the man. Then a few days later I walked right by the other man and didn't recognize him either. He had to call out after me. I see that I was so identified with myself and the impression I was making that I had "blanked out," I didn't take in the other people at all.

R: We need to work in more neutral moments. That is to connect with and relax the body, reeducate the nervous system little by little. Perform simple functions knowingly, over and over, to observe the novelty vanish and the boredom set in. And continue to will ourselves to be present. In this way, in more super-charged times, we might be able to see what and who is in front of us.

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