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The Gurdjieff Society of Massachusetts

Calendar of Events

All events are open to the public.  

Wednesday
June 7
2017
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Exchange as a Practice of the Gurdjieff Teaching

T​h​e Gurdjieff teaching is a way of awakening and nurturing a lifetime of inquiry. An essential part of the Gurdjieff practice is the effort to express our questions about the undiscovered potentiality in each of us.

Our effort to articulate these questions regarding the nature of who "I am," the world around us, and a possible spiritual development are fundamental to this teaching.

Each of us is called in a unique way. The way in which we respond to the call to being is the basis for an essential and helpful exchange.

We invite you to this evening's gathering with several of our members to engage around your questions about inner work and the Gurdjieff tradition.

All are welcomed.
  .

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
May 10
2017
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Living in Two Cultures: The Conditions of Inner Work

We all find ourselves immersed in contemporary culture and subject to its many influences.
One's working day, one's home life and recreational life all unfold under the spell of our current time. What are some of the visible signs of these influences at work? Noise. Hurry. Marketing. Distraction.  Are these some of the "abnormal conditions of being-existence which they themselves created" which Gurdjieff repeatedly mentions in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson?

These conditions are a seamless medium within which we are held captive. Involvement in a living teaching offers the chance to place oneself temporarily under influences of a different order. Quiet. Deliberate movement. Thoughtfulness. Learning to work on oneself requires circumstances outside the bounds of everyday culture.  One then returns to one's daily life better prepared to live with a measure of independence, an independence which is essential to ongoing spiritual search.

A panel of four from the Gurdjieff Society will speak together about the experience of living simultaneously in two cultures, our common contemporary culture, and the timeless culture of an oral teaching.

We welcome your attendance and your questions.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
April 5
2017
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Relationships

To be related is to be connected. To whom and to what are we related? Certainly, to individuals and to our environment. But also to ourselves. And, finally, to that which is higher than ourselves.

Our inner state affects the nature and quality of relationships; it affects the giving and receiving that is the essence of relationship. While we cannot change what we see, hear, and sense, we can change how we receive impressions.

Gurdjieff taught that we must begin by knowing ourselves. With relaxation, attention, and self-observation, we begin to see how we relate: we often enter into new relationships in a reactive state; we often continue established relationships burdened by opinion, indifference, prejudice, anger, and fixed memory; we often ignore the development of a higher self.  Is it possible to open so that we receive deeper, more real impressions of others, from the environment, from ourselves, and from that which is higher? What practical work provides a way forward? What are the obstacles we must overcome?

Through inner work, we are able to develop the capacity to transform our way of being in relationship and to discover new meaning and purpose in our lives.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
March 8
2017
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  What is our real service in these troubled times?

Gurdjieff says repeatedly that human beings have forgotten a fundamental duty:  to work on ourselves, to understand and refine our identities so that we can participate more fully in our own lives, in life with others, and in even larger ways.  As caring human beings, how do we respond to the demands of these troubled times? What is our real service? Who or what do I serve? These questions can be felt as a call from the best of ourselves to the rest of ourselves.

The call needs to be heard. But to hear deeply enough, efforts will be needed -- efforts of a new kind little explored or even described in today’s culture. It is effort toward awakening -- but what is awakening? That too must be explored. Awake at last, each of us can be more wisely and resourcefully helpful to ourselves, our communities, our planet.


Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
February 8
2017
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Knowing and Not Knowing

How do we know? What different ways of knowing are there? What are the differences between knowing with the head, knowing with feeling, knowing with body, and knowing from experience?

What kind of knowing cuts us off from experience? Is there a knowing that keeps us from being present?

Is "not knowing" the opposite of knowing? We often think of not knowing as a lack, as ignorance. But is there a "not knowing" that is integral to any true Way?

And then another question, hidden among all these: what is the difference between knowing and being?


Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
December 7
2016
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  How to Approach Life's Difficulties?

For most of us, life provides situations we find difficult. We can be disturbed by outer events big and small, and by our inner attitudes and history. We can be knocked off kilter by physical conditions such as weather or traffic, by political events, or by a personal interaction.  Seeing these reactions is an inevitable part of knowing oneself. 

If there were sufficient sensitivity and relaxation in all one's parts, perhaps there could be an embodied presence in touch with something quite deep within, which would mysteriously provide a different perspective.

Might difficulties even be welcomed as calls to awakening, brushes with reality? How in the midst of difficulty might an awakened attitude and right action appear? Then one could serve the good.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Sunday
November 13
2016
4:00 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  The Gurdjieff Teaching is a Way of Life: A conversation with Roger Lipsey

Lines from one of the ancient Indian Upanishads can start the conversation. The guru instructs his student, "Place this salt in water. In the morning, come back." So the young man does. His teacher says, "The salt you put in the water last night -- please bring it to me." The young man looks but cannot find it; it is completely dissolved. The guru continues: "Please take a sip from the top. How is it?" The student replies, "Salt." Instructed to drink also from the middle and bottom of the cup, the young man each time reports, "Salt." Invisible, pervasive. (Chandogya Upanishad 6.13).

How better to start our conversation about the Gurdjieff teaching as a way of life than by remembering this ancient conversation? 

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
October 12
2016
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  The Witness Within

Who isn't familiar with times of adversity and doubt, or a lingering sense that life isn't adding up very well? At those times, we may long for something more -- for some life-changing, firm creativity one can hardly describe.

Uncertainty is the human condition, but we all have the potential to live the human condition with clarity, positive energy, sustained inquiry. All of these good things -- elements of a new awakening -- are linked to the gradual appearance in us, out of the fog and imprecision of our lives, of a witnessing presence: my friend, my impartial and respected judge, an increasingly dependable guide, a transformer.

For most people, this witnessing presence needs to be earned. It calls for persevering work in the circle of an authentic teaching. Gurdjieff once spoke of the need for "a club in every city" -- a community of fellow seekers willing to undertake this work while continuing to live just where they are, with just who is there -- family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and co-workers. This work is in life.

By what method might we begin to discover this inner witness? By what practice can we struggle to create this more stable presence? In the Gurdjieff teaching, this work begins with efforts to know oneself. Through intentional effort and opening to a new attention and new relaxation, we begin to find a balance between our higher and lower selves and a deepening awareness of who I am. The aim is a quality of conscious thinking, feeling, and movement that enriches us as individuals and as contributing members of the commonweal.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
June 8
2016
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  The Body

Gurdjieff said that it's essential "to have in one's ordinary existence everything satisfying and really necessary for the planetary body."  This is the beginning: to have a well-cared-for body.  What is the role of the body in awakening to another level of consciousness?  Through the  body we are grounded, we can sometimes experience our deep connection with nature.  Human identity and experience are fused with the body.

Yet we are more than the visible, physical body.  It is the home of our psychic reality.  In this session we want to explore how the Gurdjieff teaching relates the body to the search for a finer awareness.  Awareness also is a beginning.  It is the basis for lives that make sense, that develop in depth and meaning from year to year.  We hope you will join us for this conversation.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
May 11
2016
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Honesty in Spiritual Search

The Gurdjieff Work is based on the notion that development and growth are real possibilities provided that serious inner work is sustained over time.  To persevere, an attitude of honesty is necessary, and this also needs to be developed.  Self-deception is an obstacle that appears in many forms and must be seen with a truthful inner eye. The teaching provides ideas, tools, and fellowship to help orient the seeker.

A panel of four will provide thoughts and first-hand experiences that testify to the difficulties and the hope in this adventure.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
April 13
2016
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Wiseacring and Sincerity

Wiseacring is an old-fashioned term, but we have a sense of it.  In Gurdjieff's view, it always leads to trouble.  Should we be concerned with it in relation to our own search for truth, given the pantheon of larger ideas: impressions, identification, self-observation, the three centers, the strivings, and so on?

Gurdjieff, who so often employed the term, indicates that to wiseacre is to shortcut, to distort, to claim as one's own what is not.  He mentions it in relation to manipulation of sacred texts and the ruining of fruit.  In Gurdjieff's use of the word, we hear his cautioning voice: Don't be arrogant egoists (or gullible fools).

Why pair wiseacring with sincerity?  Certainly sincerity is not necessarily the diametric opposite.   But without the effort of sincerity in the moment to recognize habits of vanity and self-love, we easily revert to default modes of not-so-becoming behavior -- including the shirking of duty -- or in a word, to wiseacring.  Some of the rich and accessible passages in Gurdjieff's writing are about this effort to be sincere with ourselves and its absolute necessity for any true search.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
March 9
2016
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  What Does it Mean to be a Three-Brained Being?

At a meeting some years ago, there was an unexpected quiz.  The remarkable woman to whom Gurdjieff had entrusted his teaching asked a group of newcomers: "What is the most important idea of this teaching?"  There are many ideas, and many were cited a little scattershot by her listeners.  She wasn't satisfied.  Finally she said: "It is the idea of three centers."

Three centers: intellectual, emotional, and instinctive/moving (i.e., the body).  Three centers each with its own concerns, though potentially able to integrate with the others under the watchful eye of a new quality of attention -- a new attention that draws on all three centers and in return gives them a life and intelligence they haven't known before.  Unified, the centers pace each other, feed each other, ground each other.  Each at its place, playing its natural role.

In this session we invite you to explore with us the idea and the experience of three centers and their integration.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
February 10
2016
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Emotions

In what way does the development of the emotional life relate to a work toward consciousness—toward an integrated identity that is dynamic and challenging for oneself and genuinely helpful to others? The Gurdjieff teaching offers a map of human being that gives the emotional center as much importance as the intellectual and moving/instinctive centers. That map serves best as a guide for self-observation: we learn what we are, even from moment to moment. The life of the feelings, ranging from triggered reactions to deeply felt knowledge, is there to be discovered.  

The emotional center doesn’t yield its secrets easily. Emotions are quicker and more subtle than movement and thinking. Their language needs to be understood. How is it possible in practice to move toward this understanding? And what is the role of attention in this process of questioning and discovery?

Many emotions are what they are: ordinary, not so interesting or revealing. But sometimes a feeling appears that is immediately recognized as a different quality of knowing accompanied by a new experience of self -- of one’s identity. These moments of finer quality can serve as a guide in the direction of self-study, deeper questioning, and relatedness. Gurdjieff once described the emotions as potentially a means of knowing. What a promising idea, that emotional awareness can develop into a unique way of knowing, appreciating, and direction-finding. On the other hand, he promised work. Referring to the emotions he said, "The horse must change."

We welcome your questions.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Sunday
December 13
2015
4:00 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: The Seeker: An exploration in light of the Gurdjieff teaching

Spirituality in our time is often spoken of as a search. Not a finished body of knowledge or faith in which you come to rest, but a dynamic movement engaging the whole person. Endless in the best sense: ceaselessly promising, open to new and fundamental discoveries. The seed knows nothing of the tree inscribed in its tissues. Nonetheless it is confident.

What are the working attitudes and resources of the seeker? What misunderstandings and illusions denature the search if they escape attention? What kinds of maps does the seeker need, and what companions? What is the role of the elder whose words and presence may mean more day to day than a traditional map? When is it time to set maps aside for the most part and accept that there is uncharted territory asking for everything one has?

A persistent, resourceful seeker may in time become . . . an expert. Is that desirable? Does a seeker’s years of sustained concern lead to a finished body of knowledge or faith that may represent, unrecognized, the last and most binding trap? Is it possible to know enough to advance with confidence, yet acknowledge how little one knows? Freshness.

Presented by Roger Lipsey, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
November 11
2015
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: "The chief means of happiness in this life..."

The idea of identification in the Gurdjieff teaching deserves a close look. Unconsciously attracted and then trapped by what is present in our exterior world, we get hung up on things, people, and events.  Inside the same occurs: we lack a certain grounding at the center of ourselves because we unconsciously identify with goals, beliefs, hopes, fears.  We are absorbed.  Whatever inner freedom is, it's not this.  Whatever conscious relationship is, it's not this.

An especially troublesome type of identification, nearly unnoticed by modern psychology, is identification with other people.  Gurdjieff called it inner considering: the worry that I am not getting my due, that I am not admired enough, that I am unworthy.  Or, on the contrary, a tendency to respond to others' regard with self-flattery.  Off balance in either direction, we tend not to see and respond in the present moment to real needs -- one's own or others'.  Identification is an obstacle to awakening.

How to live in the world, and with others, without loss of self?  How to understand and resist the forces that take this sense of self from us?  How to balance thoughts, emotions, and movement so that we can approach what Gurdjieff called I AM?  And how to perceive accurately, with kindness, one's own needs and those of others, and to respond to them with what Gurdjieff called external considering?  Practical work with identification and considering leads toward the center of every authentic spiritual tradition: "Love thy neighbor as thyself" and "Do unto others."

One of the aphorisms of the Gurdjieff teaching -- "The chief means of happiness in this life is the ability to consider externally always, internally never" -- is the focus of this talk.

We welcome your questions.


Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
October 14
2015
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: The Wish to Be

We are born with the potential to evolve, to experience and serve different levels of reality.  But that isn't the first task, it's the second.  The first task is to find one's place in life.  By the early adult years, most of us dvelop the ability to survive in the world as we encounter it, perhaps even to prosper.  This is not all that's possible, not all that is needed.  To develop further, something more is required of us.

In moments when we question our lives, an internal longing can naturally arise within us, a wish for something more, and more meaningful.  If we do not immediately seek resolution of this longing in the material world, we may hear an inner call, the wish to be.  One somehow knows that this is utterly important.  It is essential to respond.  But how?

In light of the Gurdjieff teaching, this talk will explore the nature of the wish to be, obstacles met when responding to this call, and the initial steps necessary to discover and realize our potential and purpose.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
June 10
2015
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Observation and Attention

We are born natural observers, not only with our eyes but with all our senses.  It's nonetheless true that our observations often occur automatically with an external focus and little self-awareness.  But on occasion haven't we all experienced a qualitative difference when our attention and capacity to observe are related?

Attention without the usual distractions can follow a movement, a thought or feeling.  Sometimes we might be aware of ourselves as a whole, nothing left out.  This often unnoticed possibility is a sign of an attention that for the most part remains hidden, a latent potential.

This simultaneous experience of myself and the world of impressions is the doorway that Gurdjieff's teaching invites us to enter.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
May 13
2015
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Pivot Point: Becoming Involved in a Spiritual Community

Many people regard the moment of becoming involved in a spiritual community as a pivotal point in their lives.  Something new begins and, for many, life will never be the same as before.

Four members of the Gurdjieff Society will discuss what they were looking for when they decided to become involved.  What attracted them to the Gurdjieff teaching and community?

Going a step further, they will address the question what, after years of experience with the teaching and the community, attracts them now?  What holds their interest?

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
January 21
2015
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: The Evolution of Man

"The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness. And 'consciousness' cannot evolve unconsciously.  The evolution of man is the evolution of his will, and 'will' cannot evolve unvoluntarily.  The evolution of man is the evolution of his power of doing, and 'doing' cannot result from things which happen."
G. I. Gurdjieff, as remembered by
P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

In the next two talks, we will explore the ideas in this passage and test them against experience. The language may seem in part old-fashioned, even remote. Will? Who today is interested in that?  Doing? What does Gurdjieff mean by that? Can these themes show us something essential about our lives and potential?

Finding our way together, as speakers and listeners, listeners and speakers, we can probe the possible transformation of an individual human being through self-knowledge and a practice that supports this search for being.

Then, we can open out these topics and join them to the first unquestionably resonant statement: what is the evolution of consciousness? Fairer and stronger societies, wiser management of the environment, education, and much else depends on a deeply internal possibility: the steady, sound evolution of consciousness.

The focus of the January talk will be how we live, the need for evolution, and practices that support the discovery of a new level of consciousness.

In February we will address the development of will and the power of doing.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
December 10
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: What Payment is Necessary for Spiritual Work?

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
November 12
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Order from Disorder: Transformation of Being

Much of the time we are fully occupied by our interactions with life:  meeting daily demands and the challenges of relationship with family and friends, co-workers, and society, and -- not least -- concerned by a world in disarray.

In quieter, less distracted moments, many of us realize that something is lacking, something isn't right about the way we lead our lives.

Without an inner purpose that makes deep and lasting sense, without an internal center of gravity, we tend to value and pursue a confusion of external objectives and passive entertainments. One feels instinctively that living should be about growing throughout our lives. But what makes that possible?

The question for this session: How do I begin to transform my way of being?


Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
October 8
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Do We Live Our Lives in Waking Sleep?

First it is necessary to recognize that I am asleep -- to really experience and realize that I function throughout my life in a state of unconscious automatism, completely unaware of myself or the world around me, detached and disconnected from reality and life itself.  I have no center, no self.  I exist merely as a floating leaf on the surface of the river of life.  I react to events around me in a completely automatic way, taken by the current.

Is it possible to become more aware of how I am in my day-to-day life?  To really see that I am asleep?  One of the primary tenets of the Gurdjieff teaching is the practice of self observation.  This involves paying attention to how I am in the moment, being aware of my state such as it is.  Can I be aware of myself in this moment?

We will speak from our own experience and then offer a few exercises in demonstrating the principles discussed.  We welcome your questions.


Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
June 11
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: What stands in the way of experiencing my true self?

Our true self exists, yet we are not in touch with it.  We do not "become" it nor do we create it; it is already there and we can become connected to it.  What is missing is our experience of this truer, more real self.

Automatic behavior is one of the mechanisms that separate us from experiencing reality and being present.  Our habitual associations -- the constant chatter of the mind -- is another.  Experiencing my true self should seem a perfectly reasonable wish and not hard to achieve.  But I soon see that I am not in control, and that in fact I must use all my strength and resourcefulness if I am to attempt to battle against even the most simple of these habits.  It is a fascinating voyage of discovery to begin to know and understand these repetitive behaviors.  Struggling against them illuminates my current situation and indicates the path towards my true self.

Three women, longtime students of the Gurdjieff Work, talk about their experience.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
May 7
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: To seek is to question: What is my question?

Before I begin a work on myself -- one that follows an authentic spiritual tradition -- my questions may be about my behavior: Why do I act this way? Why can I not stick to a decision I've made? Why am I so restless, dissatisfied, anxious, or scattered? How can I find a sense of purpose in my life? My questions are constantly changing, entangled and conditioned by many influences.

When I begin the work on myself, different questions arise: Who am I? What is missing? How is transformation possible? Who in me wishes to awaken? Who does not? How can I begin to open to questioning?

At every stage of work, questions deepen -- those that arise from within, those I ask my teacher, and those I am asked by my teacher, by my group, by life -- and the possibility of levels of inquiry appears.

I always have a question that goes deeper, further. How can I learn to hear it?

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
April 9
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Affirming Difficulty

The Gurdjieff teaching necessarily places the individual in front of an array of obstacles or difficulties.

New capabilities are needed, for example, the ability to observe oneself honestly, the ability to become quiet inside, and the ability to struggle with the powerful forces of habit and conditioning.  In order to persist with such challenges, one must find a new kind of affirmation  in the face of difficulty.

A panel of four will present various points of view on the sorts of difficulties that a student encounters and the ways in which one's attitude toward difficulties evolves over time.

We welcome your questions.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
March 12
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Experiments with Presence

Many of us would acknowledge the benefits of being present to ourselves, our life, our surroundings, and our companions. What this means as an experience is less clear. Is the experience of presence something that can be generated at will?  Am I able to be present?  What inner movement is required, and what interferes with this movement?  And are there different qualities of presence that have very different tastes?

Exercises and discussions will be used to explore these questions. The aim is to work with concrete experiences rather than theoretical ideas

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
February 12
2014
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Self-Remembering: An Essential Practice in the Gurdjieff Work

Self-remembering is an engagement with the whole of myself--as best I can--with the mind, the feelings, and the living sense of the body.  How do I understand this important practice?  How can we understand this affirmative expression and make it come to life in daily activity?

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
December 11
2013
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Work in Life

I tend to compartmentalize my activities—job, church, chores, yoga, errands, fun.  Some are mundane, but others have a spiritual quality that remind me of my place in the universe and bring me closer to a fuller connection with my life.  I find that I need this connection.  It refreshes me and gives me a renewed purpose.

Yet I still feel imbalanced.  My everyday activities tend to dominate my life.  I wonder if taking more yoga classes would help balance things.  If only I had the time...  

We would like to examine this dilemma.  How can I live a more balanced, connected life?  Can I find a new relationship with my activities, a new attitude towards them?  Gurdjieff used the expression "work in life", but what does this really mean?


Presented by experiences members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
November 13
2013
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Money, its Influence and its Potential as an Instrument for Knowing Myself

How has money been influencing my life since childhood? What would a more conscious, self-aware relation to money mean to me? Have I sincerely pondered how much is enough for me?

Presented by experiences members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
October 9
2013
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: The Fundamentals -- the Ideas, the Practice

New to the Gurdjieff teaching, we may become confused and entangled in its complexities.  This first talk of the 2013-14 series will revisit a few of the ideas and the tools for experiencing a work on oneself:  What is insight into myself and how is it enabled practically?  What is this idea of a new attention, how is it different from mere concentration, and how is it experienced?  What is a "three-brained being" and how do I watch this in myself?  Why is a group practice necessary for my work to know myself?  We will address these and other questions, including your own.

Presented by experiences members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
June 12
2013
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Conscience

Conscience is known throughout humanity as a source of moral guidance.  Central to Gurdjieff's teaching is the idea that conscience, as self-aware intelligence, lies buried and has become mostly inaccessible amidst contemporary life.

With the help of this teaching, and through individual and group practices, we seek to open increasingly to the influence of conscience.

We look forward to an exchange on this topic and welcome your thoughts and questions.


Presented by experiences members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
May 29
2013
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: How Working Toegther Conveys the Teaching

Gurdjieff brought people together in a great variety of situations and conditions for the sake of conveying to his students the meaning of work on oneself.

There was dialogue and work with music; there were readings, dance lessons, and all kinds of practical work.  This was work in a school.

At the same time, students had their own lives, careers, and families.  Gurdjieff encouraged, even demanded, individuality.

A panel of four will speak about how working together in a school is still the primary means by which the teaching is conveyed.

  
We welcome your attendance and your questions.


Presented by experiences members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
May 8
2013
7:30 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: You Are the Horse

Gurdjieff offered a perspective on human functioning with the image of the horse, the carriage, and the driver --- or the feelings, the body, and the intellect, respectively.

"You are the horse" describes the major role of the feeling in our lives.  The horse is fast and highly nuanced; we are permeated by the emotive current. 

Is it possible to accompany this richness and complexity while seeing to the horse's needs?
  
We welcome your attendance and your questions.


Presented by experiences members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Sunday
April 14
2013
4:00 pm

Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Spiritual Community: Hints from Long Past and Nearby

This session will explore the larger world of spiritual communities from Pythagoras, the Desert Fathers, early monastic codes, and St. Benedict to Dogen Zenji, Sufi codes of conduct, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton, Suzuki Roshi, and Thich Nhat Hahn.

All were wrestling with the same issues--the goodness and potential buried in human beings, the tendency to narrow self-serving and triviality, the need for an axis of truth and, revolving around it, a sensible, encouraging discipline. We will be looking for principles, practices, and tales. And in the end returning to Gurdjieff. The measure of success here is not to know everything, but to engage with the question of spiritual community as a living thing, slightly alien, slightly promising.

Source material relevant to this talk can be found here.

Presented by Roger Lipsey, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
February 13
2013
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: How Do We Work?

Please join us for a special panel of four women, senior members of the Society, who will speak on practical work.

What is practical work on oneself?  The ideas of the Gurdjieff teaching, like those of other authentic teachings, can be found in an increasing number of books.  However, practical work on oneself relies on daily practice, self-observation, and personal experience.  What are some of the tenets of this practical work?  We will discuss how both personal and group tasks are used to support the work to awaken.  We welcome your attendance and your questions.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
January 23
2013
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Silence

The practice of silence, an essential in all authentic teachings, is necessary for spiritual understanding.  But why is silence needed in the work to know oneself and to draw from deeper resources?  What are my beliefs about silence?  How do I understand silence in all its layers?  How can I find silence in the noise of life?  What blocks the way?  Not least, what can we discover about the interdependence of silence and true speech, silence and clarity of mind? The Gurdjieff teaching opens these lifelong questions.

Presented by experienced members of the society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Sunday
December 9
2012
4:00 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Spiritual Community: The Ideas and Practices of Gurdjieff

Is spiritual community needed or desirable today? If so, why? What sustains a reasonably steady order? What forces tend to break spiritual community? Are there rules? Is authentic community even possible in today's urban life? Questions...

From 1912 until his passing in 1949, G. I. Gurdjieff modeled different forms of spiritual community. Over those years the outer forms varied from a full-scale institute bordering the vast Forest of Fontainebleau to a modest Parisian apartment where he welcomed his pupils. At the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man (1923-33), Gurdjieff's talks and aphorisms--and innumerable anecdotes recorded by participants--reflect his practice, while his three books published under the general title All and Everything convey among many other topics his view of the principles underlying spiritual community. But "view" is a cool word. What readers find in his pages is warm with life and his unique blend of irony and hope.

The model isn't settled. It was meant to be fluid and adaptable around a steady core. In Gurdjieff's vicinity, the issue of spiritual community comes alive. There is much to learn
.

Presented by Roger Lipsey, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
November 14
2012
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: Reading and Listening: How to approach the writings of G. I. Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff wrote three books of remarkably different style and substance. This material was obviously of great importance to him, since he spent two decades writing and revising the books. At the same time, an emphasis of the Gurdjieff teaching is the importance of oral transmission, and the need for all the parts of the human being to develop, not just the mind.  What, then, is the role of the written words, and how can that material be approached and possibly assimilated? How could these written works inform more than the ordinary mind, and what conditions would help to make that possible? Gurdjieff provides specific instructions on how to approach his published writings. This talk will explore those instructions in the context of the stated purposes of the writings and the roles of oral and written transmission in the Gurdjieff Teaching.


Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
June 20
2012
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Ways of Knowing

Our culture places a strong emphasis on intellectual knowledge, but there are many ways of knowing.  The intellect is one capacity, but our emotions and body have their own modes of knowing the world, which open up new dimensions of experiencing ourselves, both inwardly and in relation to the world.  When we work with these different ways of knowing intentionally through practice based on Gurdjieff's ideas, they help us to live more fully and understand the world in a more whole way.  We can then move from being merely information processors into knowing, and from knowing to the wisdom of understanding.  In this session we will explore through conversation as well as with physical exercises related to Gurdjieff's movements.

Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]

Wednesday
May 16
2012
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Returning to the Question: "What is the Teaching's View of the Self?"

During the many years that Gurdjieff unfolded his teaching he approached the question of the self from diverse perspectives large and small in scale, always reminding us that we have forgotten an essential "remembering" of ourselves.  These descriptions of our human condition are scattered throughout the teaching.  Each has its own force and clarity, yet for us is a fragment of an unknown whole.  Beginning to understand these essential characteristics on their own terms can help give a view, if even partial, of the inner and outer direction the teaching offers.  This needs to be discovered.  The question of the self and what we are asked to remember is at the heart of the teaching.

Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]

Wednesday
April 18
2012
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: The Challenge of Practice

Four elements of inner work in the tradition of G.I. Gurdjieff: attention, relaxation, sincerity, perseverance.

The challenge of practice involves struggle or striving -- choose your word.  Striving to come to, to work with a new attention that is more whole and integrated.  Striving toward a relaxation that allows what one is to become visible to oneself.  Striving to be sincere with oneself so that whatever is seen isn't falsified.  It is seen, known, acknowledged.  This is striving over the long term, a perseverance.  But the word "striving" doesn't reflect all that needs to be kept in view.  "Remembering" speaks to another aspect, softer but not less intent.  And with all these values in motion, there can be a practice.

-- Roger Lipsey, from a talk given under the auspices of the Gurdjieff Society of Massachusetts


Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]

Wednesday
March 21
2012
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  From the perspective of the Gurdjieff teaching why is 'working with others' necessary for self-development? Can we explore the creative force in the collective work that makes the solitary endeavor of 'working in life' possible?

The teaching left by Gurdjieff has been called 'the Way in life', a means by which one can work towards development and growth in the midst of daily life. At the same time Gurdjieff said that alone a man or woman can accomplish very little, that for work on oneself to be effective the support of working with others is vital. The work with others unfolds within the context of the school. The school functions through a variety of forms- group work of many kinds, movements exercises and dance, music. As diverse as the forms are, they have a common denominator- 'working together'. Working with others is potentially a strong and creative influence on each participant, an influence which can persist in the midst of daily life. In this talk we will attempt to explore various aspects of the influence of 'working together'.


Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]

Wednesday
February 15
2012
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Hearing the Call: The First Step

We are drawn outward by the needs of our lives.  All of the energy, which is given to us, is completely expended in our daily activities.  Ordinary life can be thought of as a current in which we must participate, but it does not require us to use all our energy in service of its needs.

There is another current that needs our participation. It calls to us from within.  Can we open to an inward movement, to a connection with an inner world?   Opening to this call from above is the first step on the way to experiencing the purpose and transformation of our lives.

Do I hear the Call from within?  If I feel the need to respond to the Call, what is required of me?

Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]

Wednesday
January 25
2012
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  The Body:  Access to Ourselves

We are educated to gather, analyze, manipulate, and categorize information in order to "find out."  When we use this method to discover ourselves, we are dissatisfied. 

The Gurdjieff teaching suggests a wiser first step in knowing ourselves:  the observation of the body -- the emotions that live there, the tensions that seem stuck there, our uses and misuses of this miraculous instrument, and the natural knowledge that can be found there. 

When we begin to inhabit our bodies, we can develop a new kind of relaxation, a new kind of attention.   We can observe our thoughts and emotions more objectively. We discover access to ourselves. And we can develop a strong, stable presence in our lives.
 
But how? The Gurdjieff teaching provides us with the tools for this first step in knowing ourselves.


Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
December 14
2011
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Judging -- How our automatic habits preclude our ability to experience reality

We wish to see -- to truly experience the world around us.  Brief glimpses of something new tantalize us but they continue to escape our grasp.  It is almost as if there was a filter keeping out the light of the real world.  We will look at a particular example of how our automatic habits get in our way:  our continuous tendency to judge ourselves and others.



Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
November 16
2011
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic:  Is faith necessary?

Many of us perceive a kind of chaos in our inner and outer life and in the world around us. And, faced at the same time with the wonders of the universe, we may be called to question whether there might be a sense and aim to human existence.  Does such a thing exist?  How could we know?  Faced with such issues,  many of us may feel the need to have faith in something, and sometimes faith is said to be the first thing that is necessary. The Gurdjieff teaching is reality-based, calling upon initial questioning rather than initial faith. What then can we rely on to help us in our search-- for an inner and outer life of meaning rather than chaos, and for an approach to the larger questions of the place of a human being in the world and universe?

 

Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]


Wednesday
October 19
2011
7:30 pm
Introduction to the Ideas and Practice
of the Gurdjieff Teaching


Topic: The Thinking, Feeling, and Moving Centers

 

How could we look at the integration of our centers, as Gurdjieff called them, the thinking, feeling, and body?  Gurdjieff used the term "being horizon"; it sounds like a vast vision of our full functioning.  Indeed a main tenet of Gurdjieff's thinking is that the modern human falls far from his possible functioning as a whole organism and understanding the work of the centers is key to our developing ourselves.  Could there be a "language" shared by the mind and the emotions, a real marriage of reason and feeling?  And what is the role of the house of these two centers, the body?  We will look at the wrong and right working of these three main centers and their individual attributes.


Presented by experienced members of the Society, followed by questions and discussion.

First Parish Church, 3 Church St, Harvard Square, Cambridge [map]