Towards Intentional Suffering

In the tradition of Mr Gurdjieff, with Mr and Mrs Adie


Wednesday 14 June 1989


First Man: I’m having a lot of problems getting access to my children from my ex-wife, and it’s having quite an effect on my work, mainly becausе I know they want to see me but she is trying to hurt me through them. It is becoming quite an overwhelming thing and it’s a dilemma that I’m in. How to stop it, stop her, from hurting me and to accept that my children will contact me when they’re ready, when they want to, even though it was thwarted last weekend when one of them did want to contact me and she didn’t let him. But I’m just wondering how I can come to terms with this because it is becoming quite, because I’m very close to my children. Quite a problem. How I can stop it from affecting me.


Mr. Adie: Well, first of all, you know that it isn’t by the intention of your wife. She has no such intention. She is a machine working mechanically and she can’t help it. That’s one thing. So you can’t really blame anything. It’s circumstances in which you are a part, your children are a part, your wife’s a part. 


Second thing is, that if you suffer too much, you won’t be able to help the situation at all. You can’t afford unnecessary suffering. So you will have to accept it, accept it as legitimate. These are the circumstances of the life on earth, under the sun, into which I was born, having received this organism and all my possibilities, together now with this. How can I manage?


Looking at it from that perspective will give you the chance to be present to these sad circumstances, as they are. Making a big stir about it might damage the children more than taking it quietly, you see. First Man: That’s how I feel.


Mr. Adie: I don’t know any of the circumstances, so that’s why I’m free to speak. It could be a year, it could be two years, it could be a long time before you see your children. But if you’re not constantly ringing up, or bombarding them with complaints; if you are otherwise peaceful, they are bound to see that she is telling bad stories about dad.


You can’t help it. It’s a pity, but if you are hot-headed and blunder into taking the wrong steps, you’ll make it worse. You have to free yourself so that if you do see your children, you’re free. You don’t want to be playing the role of a suffering parent when you see them. I mean, what did the prodigal son meet when he came back? Not a broken down old man, full of self-pity and criticism, but one who told them to kill the fatted calf and so on. 


Use it to remind yourself. Use it. It’s part of the circumstances of your life. Go through the times when you’ve been extremely fortunate: your relations with your own father which I believe were very good. So, now is the time to use that. Don’t try and escape it. Try and see that it’s part of the deal as it were. Try and see that you project your own life. By our interpretations, our attitudes, our passivity, we project our own lives. And if you project your own suffering by your complaints, sense of being hard done by, and so on … well, it’s waste, it’s waste. So, transform it. Accept it.


Our work is by intentional suffering and conscious labor, so. If you confront the situation each day, you make that intentional, which will be incredibly valuable.


First Woman: The answer that you gave just now, it so much touched me, because 1 am in a position where I have to accept a lot, and I have never ever accepted much in my whole life.


Mr. Adie: That’s right. You were a good fighter, what?




First Woman: Yes, but every word you said, it was the truth. And I have, I can tell I have your help. I can’t tell you more.


Second Woman: Mr. Adie, I’ve been tiding to understand what conscious labour and intentional suffering means.


Mr. Adie: It takes a time before we really understand, yes.


Second Woman: And I thought I would try in the evenings to set myself some real tasks, little jobs that 1 avoid doing until I have to do them, or postpone them. Not very large ones. I thought I would try and start with very small things, to see if I was on the right track, or …


Mr. Adie: Oh, you’re on the right track. You’re on the right track, and you’ll find whether you’ve chosen too big or too little; but notice how you do it. To what extent are you conscious? You want to practise with consciousness, you see.


The possibility of consciousness is a matter of intention. Now, I can be summoned by a blow, or something like that, but the possibility of sustaining it for any length of time is a question of my own will. So, what is the measure of my consciousness?


And what is the content of it? How far will it serve me? Now I am using a knife or something. If I am not fairly conscious, I shall cut my finger. So I have got to see a fair apportionment between that and anything else that might intrude. I can work that way, to see, see all the different positions. I want to meditate, I want to sit quietly and find myself, to find my balance. I want to try and remember myself for a moment, and for that I know that I need to be aware of the sensation of my body, and the posture of my body – all the parts of it, and my feeling, and the forces flowing through me. My head is clear, a sense of dimensions, a sense of purpose … freedom from any weights and … and then thoughts begin to move.


I can’t think around corners, but I can assemble my position and then notice the suitable elements presenting themselves. Nobody can think around corners to answers. All they can do is to have the question in front of them, on the necessary level, and maintain that level. Sooner or later, similar material will be attracted. Like attracts like, on that level. I may find that I’ve got an answer, or I may find that I’ve got something similar to it, which emphasizes the correctness of the search, but isn’t an answer yet. Like that. If I think I have something valuable I try and make a note of it, and so on. But we must be responsible for the way we work, that’s consciousness, conscious labour.


Intentional suffering, they go hand in hand, because if I know that I revolt from doing some things, as you say, jobs that I should do or haven’t done, obligations that I should fulfill and haven’t. These cause me suffering, and if I choose to stay with them, it will certainly awaken me. We can talk about this, but it still won’t have done the trick. I have still got to go and experiment for myself, and find out: is this intentional suffering? And that’s a very different matter.


Mr. Gurdjieff once gave a personal example of intentional suffering, at his table. Somebody asked him this question about intentional suffering, and he said: “Well, this afternoon, I will spend hours with these people”, pointing out one or two people at the table, “selecting all the food and the hors d’oeuvres, and everything that I shall use when I go to New York in six weeks’ time to make all the meals that I shall have to cook. And I know that that will be a work, and that will cause me suffering. I do it now. I choose, this afternoon, to work at this programme, collecting all this food.”


And then he went to a hotel, where it was forbidden to do any cooking in the apartments, and yet, somehow, he manages to get a stove and he feeds forty people in his sitting room. Imagine the work. Me often did all the cooking. You may feel like it for one day, or for two. It may even be a sort of treat. But are you going to feel like it when you go to New York for three weeks, to convey the work and then come back again? That’s intentional suffering.


[Lengthy silence]


The more I sit, the more I can find I can achieve a posture. Almost in a flash I can find my sensation, my feeling and my posture, a certain freedom from unnecessary thoughts. It can come very quickly if I practise regularly. But I think one has to do it many, many times. He said: repeat, repeat, repeat.


If I was going to try and train a mouse, I wouldn’t go and put enough food on its plate to fatten it. I should try only a little, and if that seemed rather loo much, I should put a small bit less, and find out. Anyone training an animal would go like that. So it’s the same thing for myself. What avenues are open to me? I can’t sell all the children. I can’t use what I haven’t got. I haven’t got a million pounds. But I have certain duties. Could I honorably discharge them to some extent, perhaps? Could I not sense the duties of my position and be a little more moderate? I find that much time is lost over all sorts of seemingly harmless self indulgences, and little habits of unnecessary tidiness. Much time is lost over that. It’s comfortable to find it’s tidy, but having made it all tidy, the first requirement you’ve got, and you have to untidy it again. So, perhaps something in-between would be better. And then I realize I spend endless time tinkering, and not doing anything really valuable – and I am speaking from personal experience. I want a sort of divine moderation about the thing.


There is a duality, I have to live on this earth, and have the other simultaneously. That is a proposition for anybody in this room. Two lives: on earth under the sun, with all the things in the outside world, and the inner life, under the stars, with the possibility of receiving higher impressions, and giving me some choice, some self- control, some feeling of gradual development.


Then my world expands, I am free, I can exchange, I have no enemies. I can have a state inside where I have no enemies. Anybody can come in, they’re safe. That’s extraordinary, when it’s like that. Safe.


Sunday 23 March 1986 (Second day of weekend work at Newport)


(Morning Address by Mr. Adie) Yesterday we started off with the idea that a day is a cosmic unit: it has a significance. With that significance there comes a corresponding effort, an effort appropriate to the life of the day. A day has its phases: sunrise, morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night. It is experienced as so long or so short according to the impressions received consciously. A day can slip away if I am dreaming, but if I am making efforts, it can be considerably stretched.


We mentioned yesterday, that the question of suffering arises, that the day can be filled with unnecessary suffering, but we – in a way – have to seek for intentional suffering in our day. Mr. Gurdjieff said that these are the two essential elements needed for development: conscious labours and intentional suffering. People found that physical and mental suffering could call them, could help us see how we are shunted off from everything. We found, too, that a particular benefit came from a suffering in the feeling.


And so here we have before us a perspective: this is the beginning of the day, and what is going to have happened by the close of it? Will I have made any effort? Our work, perhaps, may be said to consist in finding out what an effort really is. I may have a plan, but each second, I do not know what is going to happen. I have both: something definite and something unknown. So what is the necessary effort in each second?


Then I find the grace of the day: I have recently had this conscious experience, and so when I receive a reminder or even a shock, I find that an enormous number of fresh impressions are already available. 1 realize that, if I could be awake more frequently, the length of the day – measured in experience and sensitivity – would be enormously increased.


How can these ideas be related to our work? Some people yesterday had the actual experience of a lengthening of time. With that, we want to be clear about the question of suffering, because our idea of suffering is utterly erroneous. We don’t seek unnecessary suffering, we seek the suffering which is necessary in order to change. Any development or change will require suffering. There cannot be any birth without it. This is the principle: what is going to be born in us? And when? If not now, in this expanded moment, when? You see the inner process.


We are part of a great mystery, and yet we are not totally debarred from it. When I leave here at the end of the day, will I have any profit to show for it? Some people yesterday forced themselves to work uncomfortably, which was interesting, and is permissible – although I should not do it very often. But what it showed was that to conquer our negative states we have to face them, and that, without any doubt, is a suffering. So rather than try and escape them, we make an effort to be present and to work with intention.


If l wake up to realize I’ve wasted half the morning, there’s no point in getting negative. I accuse myself instead of immediately trying to work, and I find I’ve wasted more of the morning. I use the body, I work, and then assemble what facts come. While I work associations will appear, and some of these may help me.


Most of the examples from yesterday showed that the ordinary work had some kind of suffering attached to it. Discipline is a suffering for us, because we are undisciplined. We are subject to involuntary impulses, accidental shocks from outside, and to impose a discipline causes suffering.


So that is the thought for today. Minute by minute. Don’t waste a second. Use the day: it will remind you of intentional beginning, the time for work, and the inevitability of the close.


One other thing. Clearly, many people have experienced a good result from readings of Beelzebub three times in the course of the day. It’s been decided that for the time being we will proceed with that. So, today there will be three relatively short readings: now, before lunch, and before tea. There is no need to miss a word. If you really pay attention, you won’t miss a word. These readings take you straight into Mr. Gurdjieff and this enormous range of impressions which he creates. So there we are …


[After lunch]


Young Man: For this weekend, I planned to use the conscious receipt of air as a shock to disturb habitual associations. This morning there were some thoughts proceeding in me, considering how I was to speak here, and come across as intelligent. Something called me and I started to try and take the air more consciously, and I also saw that the turning thoughts were quite painful, that there was a certain amount of suffering with this. The nature of the thought was turgid. It lead to a headache, wanting to bring something at the table to impress everybody.


Mr. Adie: It had that taint. It is tainted. You had a very clear picture of one of the gentlemen of your false personality. Very clear. He popped out and did not notice that the light was on. It is very valuable, isn’t it? And it is painful. There is somebody who does not think he can be subject to this smallness.


And then there’s the headache. It may have been partly responsible for the association, but that is a kind of headache you often have when you’ve been pressing yourself, trying to cram in much and quickly. But now to get back to the start of the question, it was about unnecessary suffering, wasn’t it? Have we already answered it, or half answered it, perhaps?


Young Man: I think so, Mr. Adie. Yes.


Mr. Adie: You can use it. Just put yourself in the way of it. With any tricky job you’ve got, anything where you might be able to get some credit, bring that element along. Bring on the puppet and then go on. Do it with intention. You were there, and you saw these tendencies. They will keep quiet for a while, but give them a chance and they go off like chattering birds.


Do you remember the picture of the journeyman asleep? He had all these monkeys – his characteristics – and they were kept inside the sack. When he stops to sleep the monkeys come out and swarm all around him. They help themselves to his apparel, and use it for some very dubious purposes. All of us are sleeping men with a sack, while creatures climb all over our clothes and our person, just like that. Sometimes they whisper nice dreams into my ear, but sometimes I wake up horrified.


Elderly Woman: It appeared to me today that my attitude was following a physical discomfort. I was wondering how I could keep something alive irrespective of the circumstances.


Mr. Adie: Well, I can’t really say “irrespective of the circumstances”, because we all depend upon the circumstances. It’s better to ask how I can keep something alive in the circumstances. In the face of this undesirable thing, then what? I have to be present to it, with the observance and some understanding of what is going on, how I can better breathe, what is possible, how long I can stay in that position before I need to move, and so on. Then the mind is no longer given entirely to this self- pitying. This effort to understand can change things. There is a lot of unnecessary suffering about pain. It just needs one dramatic external event and one steps out of one’s pain. The legs still ache, but –


Elderly Woman: That is not to do with the Work.


Mr. Adie: Certainly. But it shows that it is possible under certain conditions, not to succumb to the pain without any diminution of it. Think about it carefully. Don’t jump to conclusions. Try and register the fact that you can indeed have a different state in conditions of discomfort. By not being passive before it you have some sort of action going in another direction, and so you have a chance. Accept an idea, for instance. You may sometimes have tried to comfort somebody who didn’t want to be comforted. They won’t have it: “How can you talk like that to mc? You don’t know what a toothache is.” And so on. They make it worse. People compete to prove whose toothache is the worst and most interesting and so on. Unnecessary suffering. It is a real beginning of freedom to see how we become attached to it.


[After Tea]


Young Man: Mr. Adie, I noticed at one of the stops that as I looked at each, I was with two people, I noticed immediately there arose in me a critical comment directed towards that person. It was related to some physical attribute. I couldn’t even put my finger on it exactly.


Mr. Adie: Perhaps it’s just as well you didn’t.




Young Man: The question came to mc, what is it in me that could support that kind of reaction? At the next stop I tried consciously simply to see myself, and 1 had a real taste of the flavour of this reaction. I think this is something that rules my life a great deal.


Mr. Adie: Certainly, but not fully. No, not fully. So what is necessary so that I may see and understand it, and come to be impartial to myself? Without impartiality, you will one moment think you’re a wicked man, and the next moment think you’re a remarkable personage. There are traps everywhere, there are bound to be, because I have thousands and thousands of past associations, and many of these lead automatically into chaotic and painful circumstances.


There’s a network of automatism, but if do not become negative about what I see, then I have a chance to affirm it.


The affirmation is to remain.


The remaining is a suffering.


So, only without a negative reaction and with an affirmation can I come to intentional suffering. This will show you whether your suffering is intentional or indulgent. I can’t make myself suffer, but I can remain and then I will suffer. Do you see?


I may know that suffering lies in a certain direction. I might with intention try and go in that direction … but the suffering is there. I do not make the suffering, but I am willing to be present to it and to understand. Then the possibility of resolving that suffering exists.


Suffering has very many forms. Ponder that.


Young Woman: I observed something in myself making derogatory remarks to myself. Comparing myself, and asking “why weren’t you given that job to do?” I was considering. I realized how unreal it was. I fluctuated from feeling slightly rebellious to feeling quite competent, taking a posture to show I wasn’t incompetent. There were patterns of attitudes and considerings.


Mr. Adie: This is very interesting. That’s how the puppet was going. See, I can move this arm if you pull that string, and there are more strings yet. And the patterns … a pattern generally means something which repeats. So after all the years you’ve been in the work, you’ve seen that under certain circumstances you’re just a puppet. Your thought can go in unpleasant and wasteful circles. It’s like tearing up pound notes. I am destroying my own force.


Do you think you could find this resistance again? Are there two or three different grounds where you might be pretty sure of finding it? If you are prepared to do that, you can work to undo it. But if you don’t do that, can you trust to luck that it won’t recur? If you plan to notice it, if you know that it happens, or often happens, when you go into that shop, then you are to some extent prepared. If the challenge comes you may be present.


Long ago I asked you to put on torn stockings, and a stained frock, and then go and do your shopping. Do you remember? You did it, too, brave girl. Well, you have to find experiments like that for yourself. Put yourself in a position where you are likely to see the caperings of your puppets, prepare, and then go and meet them.


We don’t all have to do that exactly, but we do have to experience intentional suffering. There will be intentional suffering there, if you don’t consider. It’s your responsibility to do something about it.


In ordinary life if you buy something which has a fault in it, you don’t just put it away, you return it for an exchange or a refund. But we don’t do that with our observations. If an observation is not complete, don’t leave it there. If there is something to be understood or taken further, pursue it. Go back to the shop with it. If we don’t we waste the material. But are you too busy flying kites? Does that satisfy you? You think it has? Good.


Tuesday 28 June 1983


Questioner: Mrs. Adie, today I was in a situation where I was able to observe myself in unusual circumstances. I had to detain a couple of criminals until the police came to arrest them. I had the impulse to strut around the office collecting accolades and praise. I opposed the impulse, and went off elsewhere and did some work and didn’t seek any praise at all. It caused more mental effort to resist getting the praise than it did to hold down the villains. When I got home I tried to repeat the exercise by not saying what a great hero I was, but I had no chance at all. I just had to bring it all out and bask in the glory. I was powerless in the face of that rampant beast seeking praise. I have to admit I only put up a token resistance at this time.


Mrs. Adie: Yes, but the resistance you put up the first time had a certain amount of tension in it. You hadn’t really transformed that wish for applause. By not expressing the desire for accolades you had only half done the job, and when you arrived home – in new conditions, with new people – you could not resist the urge.


This is a very good example of how one doesn’t make the effort in quite the right way. One has all the outward appearance of not looking for praise, but one has not accepted that 1 don’t need it and don’t want it. The same thing happens when I resist a certain negative emotion but I express it inside. You can’t lose the desire for praise, but you can attempt to separate yourself from it.


Now what can I learn from that. Many things, of course, but one thing is that I am trying to make passive something in myself and that I cannot do it in a sort of forcible way. This thing is present, but something in me can understand it and be free from it, not fight it. Just be free from it. You cannot punch it out.


Questioner: I’ve noticed I have a tendency to aggression, which comes in well- defined peaks, but now it’s dwindling and it would be very hard to get mc riled up.


Mrs. Adie: Yes, that’s very important. It is passive now, but you cannot afford to be passive. It goes in cycles: all our work goes in cycles, and in waves, too. There are waves when we have much more understanding and feeling, then it reaches a peak and it begins to drop – it’s a law. That’s a very important time for me. I can’t get that same feeling but I have to try and maintain a level even without the feeling. It’s very difficult. But if I can maintain some effort, the feeling will gradually come back, as a result.


Young Woman: Mr. Adie gave me an exercise of looking at people, but with open eyes, and trying to be present to myself, not just dragged out of myself by what I see. But I just seem to react so quickly – I have a fast temper and I just seem to flare up.


Mrs. Adie: It’s never easy, this sort of thing. It is not easy. You have to expect not to have full results to start off with. It’s a great help to look at people, and without thinking about it, regard them. Regard them as the other person they are. Listen to them. Accept that you may say something stupid because my head is so awfully out of control. It’s always got to say something, and then I consider about that, which is more wastage.


Bit by bit you do it. It’s a very good idea to try and look at people. You have a way, I’ve noticed it myself, of sitting with your eyes staring, but they’re not really looking. Perhaps it’s a sort of dream, I don’t know. But at the moment you are looking and seeing.


Young Woman: Yes.


Mrs. Adie: There’s immediate contact. And if you’re not at the same time, in the back of your mind, worrying about what you’re going to say, you can try to be free and have an open mind. Listen to what people say. You will be more able to control your head, and you will be able to reply. But this doesn’t come all at once. It’s quite a big thing.


Almost everything we try is bound to fail, but I don’t say that I can’t. I don’t know what will happen, but I have to remember at the same time why I make the particular effort, the particular aim which I have in mind when trying what I do. You may not be able to find the words so easily, but we can understand something without words.


What do you think is in you, that makes you not really look at people? Is it a sort of hiding, or is it an embarrassment? Is it a difficult effort for you to make, to look at people?


Young Woman: Yes. It’s a fear.


Mrs. Adie: Yes, that’s right. It is a fear. Always, with an effort in the face of fear, you have to relax, you have to quieten everything inside, and calmly observe the outer signs of tension.


You have to quieten your feelings – it can be done.


You try to feel your presence much more. There’s something so important, something you don’t want to lose. You can’t do it every time, and probably not when you’re caught unawares. More could be expected in a regular situation. You have a greater chance, but then neither can I wail for that. I have to try and awaken in me this feeling, this aim.



Awakening to Reality and Compassion


Words of the Morning, 2 March 1986


My body is relatively real. My thought, when I am sleeping or in waking sleep, is anything but real. It is a phantasy. And I see the truth of this verse: “All that seems is made up of my thought.”


Now, for me, preparation must consist of observing and ordering my thought. As I gradually increase my awareness of phantastic thoughts, sooner or later I am struck by a relative contact with my body, my tensions, my breathing. I notice the effect of those thoughts on my bodily functioning, and see their absurdity in relation to the reality of my body.


This realisation comes with a definite impact, and I experience a certain awakening. I become separated from my thoughts and from the feelings that were following them. I recognise this passage as a critical moment of choice for preparing myself and for Doing-for-Being, for my own sake and for the benefit of others.


This is the moment of the rising of the sun of my real thought within me.


Now I have a sense of direction.


Now I know that I AM, and that the Work is possible.


Now, love for life and the truth of the brotherhood of life illuminate me.




Today, I shall try to pause innerly before outer action, to preserve something of the inner conscious reality of life, life of a new level. And at the same time to have my feet on the ground of reality. Let me live this given day, the forty seventh of my given eighty sixth year, as a working,


truly Compassionate Idiot.





The Three Camels Sat Down


Words of the Morning, 23 October 1987


“I” becomes obliterated in me through identification. My state becomes unstable, uncontrolled. My thoughts become erratic, fragmented; my feelings frustrated and painful. My thought goes round on its repetitive course, colliding accidentally, one fragment with another. There is no reality, no stability, no logic, no reason in all this. This is the degeneration and the involution of the void.


Something in me shouts STOP!


I recall: “The three camels sat down.” I begin to come to myself.


There is a cessation of all that infernal shrieking, that sulphurous mental madness, that egotism.


Enter Faith, Hope and Love. Enter the Law of Three. Enter love of my brother, of all men.


Let me be simple and do what lies to hand with only part of the force available.


Let me retain part of the force for my own reality and for the safety of the others. Let me thus retain part of the force for myself.



To Keep Alive in me this Work


Words of the Morning, 7 February 1986


How to keep the Work alive in me?


For this I have to know that ordinary daily life will give all the material, and endless opportunities. Life is given. The material provided by life is given on different levels, and can become in me active or passive. For a process of evolution to proceed in me, the material of life must be consciously received, then the ascending order of the action of the three forces can be actualised.


The question is always the same, but always new and always different. Not absurd – it means that the Aim is always in the same direction, though the conditions are always unique. Every instant is a moment of the everlasting creation.


The answer is always the same, but always new and always different, and contained in the fact of the life-gift. In this gift is present the seed of conscious development. So, constantly, I must return to a recollection and an experience of this inner truth of the reality within me of this living gift and of the need for its nurture.


So, of each impression, of each breath, each mouthful of food, let the first part go to the nurture of this inner given self-evolving life-centre from which comes the Word:





Breath of God


O breathe on me, Breath of God,


Fill me with life anew,


That I may love what thou dost love,


And do what thou wouldst do.



O breathe on me, Breath of God,


Until my heart is pure,


Until with thee I have one will,


To do and to endure.



O breathe on me, Breath of God,


Till I am wholly thine,


Until this earthly part of me,


Glows with thy fire divine.



O breathe on me, Breath of God,


So shall I never die,


But live with thee the perfect life


Of thine eternity.


trad. Irish hymn

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