Tag Archives: Gurdjieff

Silent Retreat, "The Listening Heart," March 9-16, 2016

Learned “by heart” during time alone in my cabin at GilChrist, Three Rivers, Michigan, with the half-formed idea of keeping this with me as a talisman of the “higher emotional center” (Gurdjieff) or “Chesed (Merciful God)-consciousness” (Kabbalah). Rilke’s poem somehow captures the nature of the work required (at least of me) by this intense and challenging venture into “the Listening Heart” :

“I am too alone in the world, yet not alone enough to keep every hour holy. / I am too small in the world, yet not small enough to be simply in your presence, like a thing — just as it is.

I want to know my own will, and to move with it. / I want, in the hushed hours when the nameless draws near, to be among the Wise Ones—or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity. / I want never to be too weak or too old/to bear the heavy, wavering Image of you.

I want to unfurl. / Let no place inside me hold itself closed / for where I am closed, I am false / and I want to be clear in your sight…”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

Impressions

#1. My cat does her morning business outside the litter box, which she has today deemed unsuitable to her needs. I watch myself move through: instantaneous anger, awareness that I have contributed to the event (pumpkin, a deliberate laxative, in her food), pity for her two-brained dependence on my care, and an attempt at “teaching” as I offer bits of the damage under her nose and simultaneously deny her request to sit on the couch with me.

#2. A Colorado friend worriedly emails me an article about multiple shootings in Chicago. We are supposed to rendezvous there next month. I send him an article from the Atlantic discussing the larger issue of race and powerlessness, and contemplate the many instances of random violence that have erupted around the country in recent months.

#3. Disturbed and overdue for my morning meditation, I closet myself for the ritual and take in a personal question with me. To my surprise, given my multiple concerns, I go into the inner space in minutes. For the duration I am suffused with the experience of the total body-being and love – “passion” is a better word but still not exact – which has visited me with increasing frequency in recent weeks. The brief sense of an angel around. Mind momentarily distracted by how such an angel might be painted. Redirect to the breath. My concerns and the particular question I brought to the session have been assuaged and answered.

Teachers

Gurus are relatively easy to find in India. So says Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi. Yet rooted in midwest North America by family and career, I’d despaired of every finding a teacher open to mystic needs. A Buddhist saying says, when you’re ready for your guru, he will come to you. And for all practical purposes that’s how Rob came to me.

For two and a half years I was at a standstill. In my meditation, writing, music, art, retreats and workshops—activities I’d promised myself for years I would undertake full-time as soon as I retired. Now I was. Three decades and a full library devoted to Western Hermeticism provided a satisfactory home base for my world view. Psychology, earned at the spousal side of a clinical psychologist, had given me an owner’s manual for the psyche. What was missing was the gnostic experience: first-hand experiential knowledge of the Ineffable.

Ten years ago I met Chris, an American Tibetan Buddhist and personal guide who offers retreats and counseling to show crazy-busy people how to relax in body, mind and spirit. On that particular morning-long two years ago, after a free association session with her, I walked out into the daylight and found myself gazing into gold- and rose-colored world, a world of a gentle hue yet unearthly intensity. The indescribable blessing, the specific sense of Presence, stayed with me for three days. I went home, researched and painted the Catholic image of the Sacred Heart for a week. Then the world settled back to Dull-and-Normal, as anticipated. But this time I noticed an edge, an antsy impatient longing at the back of my heart that told me something inside had opened. And I had no idea what to do with it. I floundered, experimented, and stayed stuck.

Two years later, a casual word from a friend, an arranged meeting, and there was my new teacher. It was G. I. Gurdjieff, disguised as a chef de cuisine at a local high-end restaurant. With Rob’s instruction (strict), guidance (clear) and new language (at times confounding), I would come to find in “the Work” the third leg of a stool which finally began to lift the everyday mental sluggishness to new states of self awareness and consciousness.

I now have five teachers, Chris, Rob, Gurdjieff, son Derek (who has always been able to talk “soul” with me), and Wyn, now from another dimension.

Seek, and ye shall find—eventually.

Self-remembering

Finally figured out that this practice Gurdjieff called self-remembering is virtually the same as the practice of staying with the “Watcher” in Vipassana, insight meditation. For the moments I (the inner mind-self) can stay in observation mode (of one’s actions, thoughts, feelings) and not get “caught up” in them (self-forgetting), I am in self-remembering mode.

Too bad I don’t have a dollar for every time I go into another room and forget what I was going there for. Must keep up meditation practice — best way to practice identifying with the “watcher,” with minimum stimuli or action to distract.

In search of the Beloved

An email from the Gurdjieff Foundation today informs me that this is the anniversary of the death of Lord John Pentland, long-revered president of the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York.

Fitting he should leave the planet on Valentine’s Day. For what is arising into new consciousness but another form of falling in love? And who’s to say that it isn’t the ultimate experience of being in love?

Like other equivalent experiences in my life, this one is as painful as it is life-giving. Maybe more so. I am barely a novice at this—the teachings, “the Work”—yet I burn, in the full sense of St. Paul’s usage. Something big is happening to me that only alchemy, Kabbalah, and now perhaps, the Work can help me through.