Gurdjieff Movements as a Wisdom Practice
What are the Gurdjieff Movements?
Gurdjieff Movements are Gurdjieff’s interpretations of sacred temple dances and rituals he had seen and studied during his travels to monasteries in Asia and Africa. Gurdjieff saw them as a means by which ancient Wisdom is preserved and passed down to future generations. Through their embodied symbolic language beyond our thinking mind, a deeper perception arises. Although there are different kinds of Gurdjieff Movements: ritual, prayers, dervish dances, mathematical patterns, etc., the objective of them all is that they are prayers. Gurdjieff saw them as medicine. Like Eastern martial arts, they are exact and precise, demanding precision, discipline and dedication.
Gurdjieff Movements as a Wisdom Practice.
Not only are the Movements themselves both prayer and medicine, they are a practical approach to put the inner Wisdom work of awakening, the development of conscious presence, and the harmonizing of the three centers (Intellectual/Mind, Emotional/Feeling, Body/Sensation) into practice. They are meant to challenge the intellectual center in such a way that you must include the emotional and movement centers in order to learn them. They have also been constructed consciously with a three-fold purpose, called the three lines of the work.
The First Line of Work is work on oneself. The Movements give us an opportunity to practice presence in all three centers: returning to a curious mind rather than a judging mind, returning to a spacious emotional center rather than constricted or caught up in emotion, returning to a relaxed body using only what is actually needed for the gestures we are working with, letting go of unnecessary tensioning of the muscles. The practice of the movements with attention, presents us with opportunities for self-study and self-observation around how you can not get thrown back into familiar personality modes, habitual ways of operating, of judgment and evaluation. The difficulties one faces with the Movements are the same difficulties one faces in everyday life and thus as we work to find a balanced place inside in the midst of all the challenges that arise, this presence begins to show up in our lives.
The Second Line of Work is work with others. Although the Movements can be practiced alone, especially when practicing for proficiency of form, the real work begins in a class with others, struggling together with a mutual aim of three-centered presence and considering one another. One’s attention can expand beyond simply the work on oneself to include the entire class working together and becoming greater than the sum of the parts. You can become aware of the ways in which you are part of a web with a collective presence that grows and deepens.
The Third Line of Work is work for Work’s sake which is sometimes called service or work on behalf of all. When one brings three-centered presence to the movements individually and collectively, one/the group becomes a vehicle through which the subtle spiritual energies and virtues of the universe can flow. This awareness and presence of being is not only for fulfilling one’s purpose as a human being, but is helping all beings.
More about the Gurdjieff Movements.
About the Gurdjieff Movements teachers Amiyo Devienne and Chetan Greenberg share the following:
Who inhabits this body of flesh and bones? Is there someone home? What immensity does exist within the limitations of the body? How to answer this nostalgia of the “higher”, the “better”, and this call for truth that once in a while grabs one’s own soul? How to live more passionately the inner fire? What is the meaning of the Gurdjieff movements practice in our daily life?
This journey of discovery is priceless…
Given very precisely by Gurdjieff as a powerful tool for growth, the practice of movements creates exceptional conditions for transforming the body –machine into a place where the forces of intelligence, heart, and action can freely expand, through the development of a certain quality of attention and relaxation.
Sincere efforts are needed, but efforts in lightness…. We can’t fly freely through the inner sky burdened by the heaviness of seriousness.
Seriousness has been misunderstood as sincerity. Seriousness belongs to the ego and leads to self-importance. Sincerity is of the heart, it is totality, it is a love affair ….
Bringing a totality to our movements, our activities, we can suddenly realize that deep within, there is a still point, which does not know the world of efforts. It is the ground of our Being.
Effort on the periphery. Non-effort in the center.
Activity on the periphery. Absolute non-activity in the center. While practicing the movements, we intend to strengthen the watcher inside us, to keep our centre of gravity into the watcher. From the flow of movements, energies, emotions and thoughts to the one who sees them.
Yet we see how much we forget it again and again, how we get distracted by some desire to reach, “to get” the movements, to succeed, some comparison or judgment, some day-dreaming. As such is the society around us. The movements call us back to the watcher, and further, to an anchor of stillness, silence and inner peace.
Such is the inner process, the inner dance of attention, from the inner to the outer, from the outer to the inner. Learning to sense our body from inside, first one fragment after the other successively, then combining them, suddenly this sensation radiates to the whole of ourselves, a vivid sensation of existing as One. This experience can be called Presence.
Then, the watching is not limited to the body, but expands to the room, the other participants, the music and sounds…
Distance with thoughts and emotions is created. Stillness is experienced at the core of all movements, inaction behind action…
The seen is movements, forms, rhythm, emotions, thoughts, group action.
The seer is formless, inaction, motionlessness, silence.
Every movement springs forth from this silent life, and every movement deepens the stillness of this life
The movements are a flowing current but there is no movement at the centre. Through the changing forms, whether quick or slow, round or staccato, we awaken to the unchanging and the formless. Hence this feeling of freedom and expansion…
The 3 elements of human nature are always participating in the movements: The movements of our body, our heart, our mind are brought in a harmonic exchange with each other, in a certain common vibration. Hence the importance of the presence of the 3 components:
Obviously the awakening of an intimate relationship with our body through the sensations that are revealed, whether the body is still or not.
The intellectual part through a specific quality of attention, but also sometimes through counting, repetitions of words or statements.
The emotional part may be given by the music which will trigger a specific inner state, or the remembrance of a brother, sister et… or the suggestion to enter a special feeling, or the mirroring effect of the others persons in the room.
The practice of the movements is the attainment of balance and harmony. For this, intellectual discipline, emotional discipline is called forth along the physical discipline.
This word “discipline” is nowadays very much misunderstood. It simply means “readiness to learn”, a deep acknowledgement that without a guideline, I would be wandering around endlessly, and a joyful leap into learning…
Within the precision and the beauty of the movements opens a world of clarity, love, inner strength, creativity and action…
What to Remember.
It is not about being good at doing these movements. Although precision is important, it is never about how competent you are in the outer replication of the gestures. You can let go of that and relax into receptive consciousness instead of judgment and rejection of yourself or anyone else on the movements floor. It comes down to committing yourself to occupy the gestures with your whole self, as well as how you can hold a quiet center of attention in the midst of challenge, newness, and intellectual center scramble. Everything that arises during this time is grist for the mill of transformation. If at any point you get lost or frazzled you can stand quietly, regathering yourself with presence until you can return to some part of the movement again.