Even John Bennett, much as he loved doing the Movements himself and valued them for his pupils, believed he could improve on them by designating specific “emotions” to be felt at certain places, adding Turkish or Arabic prayers, and so forth.
* * * *
AFTER WATCHING A BEGINNER’S CLASS
(JAN HUS HOUSE, New York, 1981)
Since so many of you are now embarking on the Movements, it seemed it might be appropriate to say something, both about their background or even about the way you do them.
I’m told that you are now beginning to study the Movements. How many lessons have you had? Four? Five?
Well! Doesn’t it feel very interesting that Mr. Gurdjieff was not content to just give his system of ideas, but that he also brought a system of sacred dances, of “Movements”? And he made it very clear that the study of the ideas and the practice of the Movements were to be complimentary.
And if I think a little, I realize why it must be.
Certainly, when I first hear of the “Teaching” I am interested, uplifted, because I know Mr. Gurdjieff’s aim was to help us develop consciousness and this gives us a purpose in life. We realize then, as some of his words have brought to us, that itis quite true: We are asleep in certain ways. We don’t really know what we’re doing-what we are thinking – what we are feeling. We are not aware. We don’t live intentionally.
And when we realize that, something wishes to be able to live differently. And we try! We find that we really do need many, many reminders. We do need to wish very deeply and very continuously.
And then it is made possible for us to go into the Movements. And there we are under different conditions. We find that our habitual vocabulary ofattitudes, movements, and gestures isn’t required. We are asked to take positions and move in ways that many of us have never done before. And so there is a possibility of seeing – of knowing myself.
And as I “work,” I realize that what I need is a very special kind of attention . With my HEAD I try to be clear. In the Movements, my head knows what the next attitude is supposed to be. It tries to help my body to get there directly. My BODY feels the different positions. It senses how it should be. It knows that it changes the tonicity of its muscles according to the various positions. So it has an attention as well as the head. And in myself I’m eager to do the Movements. I’m eager to learn what they can bring and so there’s also an attention in the FEELING.
And when all of these are present -somehow I’m aware of all my energies being used in a right way. I feel myself collected. Somehow, a kind of life force in me is released and I can become more open, more sensitive, and perhaps receive impressions of a finer quality than usual.
Now! One thing I’ll say to you. In the beginning in the Movements you will want to do them very well. And so you should, because these Movements are created in such a way that unless they are done absolutely exactly, the inner connections will not be linked, and the vibration that one looks for will not appear. But!
If I grow too identified with how I do the Movements, and think only of executing the Movements very well – Ah, then I lose something.
It might be that even if I made a mistake -if I we re able, at that very instant , to see myself – Not the mistake so much. Not to criticize myself, excuse myself, justify it -but really see HOW I AM AT THIS VERY INSTA N T. It’s the act of seeing at this exact moment – of being aware at the moment one moves. THAT IS WHAT I MUST TRY TO DEVELOP!
What I see – how I do -Yes, I learn from that. But if I can try to be aliveand awake at the very instant that I move or speak – then I really am helping myself along the road to growing more conscious.
So try not to forget when you get enthusiastic about your Movements. Try to remember what it is you are really trying for – to develop and make grow.
I hope you all get a great deal from Movements. Most of us have. You’ll find that, somehow, through your body and your feeling you’ll begin to understand things in the system of ideas that might otherwise remain, perhaps, only theory.”
. . .
Dushka: At a Movements seminar Mother was asked by one of the Canadian teachers: . “ Mrs. Howarth, you once said that if all the complicated movements we re lost , we could always work with the Obligatories. Can you say anything more about that?”
She replied:, . . .
Jessmin: You know, thinking about it after a long time, I realized that the Obligatories . were really shocks.
In the First Obligatory you had to move suddenly. Instead of moving in acontinuous way, you had to move from position, to position, to position. Now we have all grown accustomed to that, but in the beginning that was a very great shock. At least it taught us to re p resent to ourselves a position in advance
and manage to take it absolutely definitely without having to adjust or anything.
The First March was done in a very Oriental kind of way. That also was something different for us. None of us we re used to putting our arms down like this , sliding, traveling around our bodies.
In the Counting, for me the most important thing of it, besides the feeling that you’re measuring with your body, is that, something we never do, you listen to your own voice. He gave us a new variation every single time. You had to speak in different languages. Sometimes you went slowly. Or very fast. Or in canon -or singing, or backwards. Sometimes he stopped the physical movements and you continued to sense them inside, or stopped the voices until he said to begin again and all together you knew exactly where you were.
The Note Values, I think one knows immediately what they could be used for. There’s the trying to be aware of one’s whole body sensation and be able in the midst of all that to move the arms, and the head, and legs, and at a certain instant, “strike the same note” with them all together.
The March Forward. Again, here were for us some very strange positions. I don’t know if he ever said that, but we used to call them the “Buddha positions.” One drops on the floor and everything.
As for the last one, the Mazurka, in the beginning I didn’t take it very seriously, especially when M. de Hartmann told me that Mr. Gurdjieff claimed he took the music for that one from his guitar method! But later I saw its effect on people and the lesson to be learned. After working seriously through the other five exercises, as soon as they reached this light, springy, melodic dance -how difficult it was to maintain the special energy and attention that had been gradually generated. A real validation of Mr. Gurdjieff’s warning, “the very first moment you have an opportunity to lose your attention – you will!”
* * * *
MESSAGE TO MOVEMENTS INSTRUCTORS AT THE END OF A SEMINAR
(GURDJIEFF FOUNDATION, New York, 1983)
Maybe you sometimes see, as I still so often do, that the difficulty is to remind myself, with an ever- renewed passionate wish, to try to remember.
To be present again and again in life and in the Movements classes.
How to find useful “alarm clocks”? My wish for you is that when you go back to your homes and your classes you will feel that the way we have worked together here has provided you with a variety of means for working on your own.
When you learn a new Movement you face a challenge and you bring interest to it. Ask yourselves: Do you learn it with your head— picturing the positions, making mental notes of it? Or do you learn it through your body sensation— imitating the positions shown and so coming to feel the kind of tonicity needed to execute correctly what is given? Try both ways, for Mr. Gurdjieff said one must, in the Movements, work with all three centers, in order to develop clarity of mind, depth of sensation, and vitality of interest.
You have found that each center has its own kind of attention and when these three come together, in whatever proportions, a special state of total attentiveness appears.
At first, too, in your efforts to remain present you find yourself in a kind of solitude. But the re one can, at times, set oneself to be aware of and feel with the other people working beside you. Every Movement when correctly executed sets up certain vibrations in each person. Many of them are so created that they bring about a definite result only when everyone in the class and every unit of the design is in harmony. When that result comes, you will all feel it.
In connection with self-study: To help one’s right feeling and effort, remember why one came to the class, for what purpose the Movements are done, and how one has “slept” between lessons. REMEMBER THAT OPPORTUNITIES MAY COME IN THIS LESSON THAT MAY NEVER COME AGAIN. Try to use the Movements lesson as an opportunity for observing “one’s creature” in a new activity and from a new viewpoint.
We are apt to imagine that, by practicing the Movements, we can quickly reach a “higher” state; we aim for a result. This may lead to identification with how well we execute the Movements. We forget that it is the inner state of attentiveness and impartial watching that is essential
Attention is energy— you exercise it and it is constantly renewed.
Sensation can be understood in many ways: Being aware of sense impressions before they are named and pigeonholed by the head. Or sensation can be the awareness of life in different parts, or the whole of one’s body. It is this inner reservoir of vital force that we call upon each time we move with intention – with attention .
Try to realize that the impulse, the need for every movement comes from and is rooted in a state of inner stillness before it is seen on the outside.
If you can think, during Movements classes or elsewhere, of ways to remind yourself often to come back to your inner attention, write them down. At the Prieure, we used either to carry these papers around with us, or place them somewhere where they would often catch our eyes. (I remember how Orage stuck them around his mirror.) You may find them useful in ordinary life too. Every moment of watching, of sensing, is a drop of energy transmuted.
Try to be simple about this. Start from where you are and how you are. Then demand more from yourselves.
* * * *
To you instructors: I’ve recapitulated all this process because I wish to call you to a renewed effort of study, ever active in searching for a deeper understanding of the teaching, to continue in a simple and honest appraisal of your function, and to bring thought to all you do.
You know, whenever there is a Movements instructors’ seminar the first question is always, “How should I be in front of the class?”
I have to say to you something that may shock you all.
During a class you must put your own work behind you. I mean that your real effort must be to try to be centered enough to be sensitive to the manifestations of the class, the people in it, and altruistic enough to place their need before your own wish to use the activity as an exercise for yourself. The times that you have remembered to try for a state of over-all attentiveness will be your support. With simple and frequent “unstrained awareness” the personality becomes transparent – the essential wish to help others to profit shines through -and the head stops hogging one’s energy.
The teacher’s responsibility is to provide the challenge, to connect the physical activity with self-remembering . For this it is necessary to be very alert and alive in many different ways, capable of making each thing new, and approaching it from different points of view. You must never use the class just for your own work. They are not the re for you to experiment with. They are not there to enhance your power or to try out your magnetism on. You are there to help them. YOUR OWN WORK COMES BEFORE AND AFTER.
You all need to work much more closely together. Your way of teaching must be your own, but your material must be exactly the same. You should check together conscientiously on every detail of the Movements you are passing on. It is quite shameful that the same exercise should be shown differently in different classes at the Foundation.
In a very few years, the older people who have struggled to prevent distortion of the Movements will be dead. You can continue your dedication to Mr. G.’s teaching by actively setting about the formation of a nucleus. You will try to exchange, share and stay all together, supporting each other’s efforts, and so endeavor to preserve purity in teaching Mr. G.’s System of Movements.
Unless we always remember that the Movements are sacred, we shall not be able to collect all our attention and reach a state open to higher impressions and influences. We are trying, all together, each bringing his drop, to fill a reservoir of genuine consciousness.