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  • Louis Vanrenen

The Body and Its Role in Awakening

 

        "I am here. My body needs to open to a force to which it is closed,

a force that comes from above, from a little higher than my head."

`      Madame de Salzmann 

 

       One of the foundations of the Gurdjieff Work is to become more aware of a three-centered presence: the body, the feelings, and the thoughts. Most people think they know what these functions are, but it takes time and effort to see more clearly, and longer to manifest something closer to unity. Years of mechanical living have muddied the centers and their potential connections.

      

Mr. Gurdjieff speaks of the moving, the instinctive, and the sexual centers. The body is remarkable in its moving capacity. We can walk, dance, and tie our shoes, all with little participation of the mind. The instincts are also highly intelligent. We touch; we see, a profoundly complex action; we digest food, a field of study that has occupied scientists for generations. Beyond all these myriad skills, we can return to the simple fact that we live in this body.


We might live in a body, but we are not aware of the fullness of its vitality. The body pulsates with life. It is a whole, though we don't sense it.

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man
Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man

Most people assume they understand their bodies. It seems so simple: here it is, I am living in it. We walk, eat, and breathe in the bodies. But a whole sense of the body is not so common. What role does the body have in awakening, and how does it relate to the mind and feelings? 

      

In some traditions, the body is not mentioned much, but in the Gurdjieff work, an awakening to the body plays a central role. The thoughts can be composed of an endless process of associations, often trivial, centered around daily life, egoism, and pride; the emotions can be reactive and habitual; and the body has its layers of tension and sleep. We might live in a body, but we are not aware of the fullness of its vitality. The body pulsates with life. It is a whole, though we don't sense it. Furthermore, it is inhabited by a finer energy. 

      

In its everyday capacity, the body is, however, an animal and stubbornly refuses to awaken. On the other hand, Madame de Salzmann says, "It is the receptacle, the vehicle for the energy in us. Furthermore, the body could be the greatest support for experiencing my existence."       

      

The body contributes much to a more alive presence. In this capacity, it also acts as an anchor or grounding for the more fleeting emotions and thoughts.

Mr. Gurdjieff's exercises -- such as the Movements -- can open us to an awareness of the body. Alone and with others, the daily practices of awareness, relaxation, and sensation create a new space within. Relaxation, not a dreamy softening, can permeate the mind and feelings; the body, letting go of muscular tensions, opens through the limbs, torso, and head. We sense that even the face is taut, and, usually, we are not connected to the back, torso, and feet. We do not know how to walk with presence. We are not aware of our breathing and how the breath travels into the limbs, torso, and core. 

      

The body contributes much to a more alive presence. In this capacity, it also acts as an anchor or grounding for the more fleeting emotions and thoughts. Grounding is a word often thrown around, but it can become a reality in our daily lives: not to be like a cartoon figure, with the body moving like a puppet, thoughts bouncing around, and emotions wandering with the play of reactions.


One characteristic of our sleeping state is perpetual reactions: I like this person, I don't like this person; I am better, or I am worthless. On and on it goes until, one day, we want to wake up to all these associations, reactions, and tensions. We turn to the practice of self-remembering. 

      

Being present in the living body is crucial to self-remembering, striving towards a three-centered presence. We have the limbs, head, back, and torso in the body's structure. In the belly, we have what Madame De Salzman calls our center of gravity, the core of our physical presence. With this presence, an activity, not a thought, we can become more stable but not rigid. Our head brain can become calmer and more collected. We see that, for a time, there is no need for mental distractions and the continual shifting of emotions. We can appreciate this new awareness. It is not a stiffness or rigidity, though sometimes the head center vainly tries to construct this process.


The body opens to a sensation that can permeate the mind and the feelings. The mind becomes quiet but alert. The feelings, steadier, recognize the value of this awareness. Each center contributes, but the core, the body's center of gravity, is the stabilizer.

The center of gravity and the whole-body awareness can, as we experience, guide the process. There is a simple presence throughout that has a life of its own, able to see the shifting thoughts when they arise as they always do. Mr. Gurdjieff said: "Repeat, repeat, repeat." This work can become a central part of our daily life and, at times, deeply satisfying. Madame de Salzman says: " I am a particle of the highest. Through sensation, I can know this. We can know God only through sensation." 

      

The body opens to a sensation that can permeate the mind and the feelings. The mind becomes quiet but alert. The feelings, steadier, recognize the value of this awareness. Each center contributes, but the core, the body's center of gravity, is the stabilizer. We are grounded and alive, not stiff or reactive, and in this way, we can allow a consciousness to emerge. We can be. Just be. Nothing needs to be added or created. We are. We can then perhaps touch the reality of that state that Mr. Gurdjieff speaks of: being

 

 

       

Why We Work on Crafts -- 2

The head knows the steps; the body is the faithful servant of the mind; the feeling surrounds the thinking and the body with love.

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