I am going to share another theme that I read in the Friday pause. Some of you may have already seen it but I thought it was worth staying with a little longer. It is important for us to return to how we are bringing all of the ideas about spirituality and the wisdom path into our lives. To make them real by applying them to our daily life circumstances without needing life to be other than it is.
I share it at the risk of the task at the end being misunderstood and eliciting reactivity. As you read it, just observe any initial likes or dislikes and stay with it until something else arises. This comes from Mrs, Staveley, a Gurdjieff student, in her book “Themes I”:
“Practice of Work”
“In our teaching, as in all others, much has been made of the absolute necessity to practice what is taught rather than read ‘about’ it, talk ‘about’ it, think ‘about’ it. The word “about” has a connotation of going in circles. “Round about and round about and round about I go.” In England merry-go-rounds are called roundabouts.
Jesus says: Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken [them] unto a wise [human] which built [their] house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish [human], which built [their] house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the wind blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)
And I have often quoted the Buddha, who says: I do not say to you, believe this for so it is told you, but do this and little by little, as one climbing a mountain, for yourselves ye shall see and know and understand, needing no guidance from another; no, not from a brother, nor a Brahmin nor another. The Kingdom of Heaven is within you. Look inward and see it and be glad.
And our work says again and again in many ways that one must apply the teachings to oneself. It is I myself that must change—my own being, what I am.
And still this remains the hardest lesson to learn. Again and again ad again people come to groups, make certain (even quite great) sacrifices and efforts, and yet fail to see that one thing. That the work is about me—that it is me myself that must be remembered, observed, [transformed, made whole]. Not [human]kind, not my neighbor, or my wife, or my friend. Myself. No amount of reading or thinking or talking will do the job. No one can do it for me. I must give up running away from this task into thinking, talking, reading.
In our work, our teaching, the first step is to observe what is in the house of myself. Let us take one thing to observe today. In America we usually laugh and smile too much. It is one of our meaningless mechanical habits. It may be ingratiating, depreciating, charming, defensive, protective, whatever. In any case it has become mechanical for us and probably irritating. Try to observe smiling and laughing in yourself today. Do not try to stop it altogether but just once or twice see if you can make a serious, friendly contact with someone else without smiling or laughing. The work says: Remember yourself; observe what “it” [the mechanical part] does. Can you do this? Not theorizing, not interpreting, not analyzing or labeling or justifying. This would be work—this is what your work is. Can you make a simple, honest effort to do it?”
The core invitation here has nothing to do with whether smiling and laughing is good or bad but rather to see the ways we are habitual and mechanical with our smiling and our laughing. To see the ways we use it for some of the reasons listed above (ingratiating, depreciating, charming, defensive, protective, whatever) without even realizing it. It may even be useful for you to see the times you do not smile or laugh for similar reasons. With curiosity simply notice your habits in either direction and just once or twice do something different. Notice what happens next.
Try to have fun with this one!
Here the Readings from this week's pauses:
“When you go outside,
be careful not to lose sight of
the One to whom you
That feeling you have
in your cell
or in [inner church/your meditation room],
take it with you. It will
protect you from the rest-
— Meister Eckhart
"The most sacred, most ordinary, and most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God. When we practice the presence, we enjoy and become familiar with God's divine company, speaking humbly and looking to them lovingly for support all the time, at every moment, without methods or limits, especially during times of temptation, pain, loneliness, exhaustion, and even disbelief and stumbling."
— Brother Lawrence, trans. Carmen Acevedo Butcher