“I cannot develop you.
I can only create conditions in which you can develop yourselves.
Take the understanding of the East and the energy of the West and search. ” G.I Gurdjieff
Here is my two cents worth on the Gurdjieff sacred movements approach, to share some of my experience from more than 25 years of working with them. Like for any awakening process that has to do with a direct and personal experience, it is difficult to define…
Still, I will speak about the origin and the basics of this unique approach.
So many things have been said about Gurdjieff – from the most negative to the most positive. As always the spiritual masters of the world upset and provoke all kinds of controversy – and humanity needs this to evolve. It is so.
Not enough known and often misinterpreted, Gurdjieff has been hated as much as he has been loved. He did not leave anyone indifferent.
He certainly inspired many seekers of his time and of nowadays – especially in Europe and in the USA. Many of these seekers have themselves had a significant impact in their own time. In his way, Gurdjieff could inspire and provoke the blossoming of their creative forces.
This remarkable man created a brilliant revolutionary method for awakening consciousness that develops the missing unity in mankind and frees us from the mechanical behaviors which keep us ignorant, half-asleep, and which reduce our potential to be what he used to call ‘a real person’.
Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was born in Armenia in1877 (more or less) in the Caucasus on the frontier between Russia and Turkey, to a Greek father and an Armenian mother.
Gurdjieff was first trained as a priest and as a physician. The answers offered by science and religion could not satisfy his deep existential quest. He spent years traveling in Asia and in the Mid-East searching for the secret teachings of the ancients. He wanted to understand the meaning of the human condition, the existence of the soul and its relation to the body, the reality of death, of life, the place of man in the cosmic order, our full human potential in this infinite universe. He was a seeker of Truth.
During his journeys, he has been initiated to the sacred dances (or sacred movements) in a mystery school in some remote mountains of Turkey – the Sarmoung brotherhood.
What he discovered then was a new body language, a kind of alternative alphabet that puts in relation the three levels of the person – body, emotion and thought, to access to the Essence and become available to higher and finer universal forces.
Gurdjieff began to establish his school in Russia in 1912; he presented his teaching as a ‘Fourth Way’ – a science of being. This way calls for the awakening of another intelligence – a knowing and understanding which requires work on all the three centers at the same time. He was teaching the wholeness of ‘Presence’ – the experience of i am and I Am.
With family and followers he had to leave Russia during the great revolution.
After traveling through the European continent they ended up in France. There, a new center was created in Fontainebleau near Paris – le Prieuré.
People from all over the world came there to be initiated to his very unique awakening methods in which everything was given to serve one’s harmonious development.
The sacred dances held a very important place in Gurdjieff’s approach.
He was saying that we move and dance the same way we lived.
In this way, the learning of the sacred movements forces us to face the reality of who we are as products of a society, of a time, of a certain education and of habits we have contracted throughout a life lived without much consciousness.
Inspired by the traditional sacred and pagan dances to which he had been initiated in the Far East and Middle East, Gurdjieff himself created hundreds of dances based on the same principals under the light of his observations and findings throughout a constant and passionate work with his followers.
He was also a good musician. With Thomas de Hartman, they created music with the same frequencies as the sacred movements. The music that accompanies the sacred dances supports the efforts of the students and helps to elevate their spirit.
As for all sacred art, the songs are sober and beautiful; they contain the essence of a pure inspiration that is very close to silence.
The goal is the person
The sacred movements are not an art for performance. The movements are rather a set of tools that help in the process set off by learning and practicing them.
It is essentially a method to get to know ourselves and to eventually be freed from the limits of our ego.
Therefore, the goal is not the movements in themselves; they are they are rather the means to walk the way – the goal is the person.
The dances require a total presence that places us directly in front of ourselves…
and in front of new possibilities of living with totality and harmony.
‘Who am I? ’ is the background of each movement, each instant.
All the emotional and psychological pains of our lives have been crystallized in our body. We can allow a work of re-education to happen through the moving center, breaking down the walls of the prison in which we have unconsciously locked ourselves for security and survival.
The learning process of the sacred movements is a strategy to develop presence and awareness; a reconnection, an alignment of the mind with the body and with the feeling center in such a way that they become one reality.
We need to see that we mostly live fragmented way, glued to habits in a half-asleep mechanical behavior dictated by all the little ‘I’s’ to which we are identified.
This is what Gurdjieff calls our prison.
The quality of the energy in our prison is livable but very low, much lower than the real potential of a complete human being.
By nature, the movement of energy goes up or down, it never stays neutral. If we are unconscious, it brings us down, towards the less evolved: inertia, tensions, rigidity, laziness, fear, etc. The result is the feeling of constant dissatisfaction in life; the body has no access to the soul, like if the earth had no sky.
So whoever we are, we have to get out of the fog of unconsciousness and develop our ability to be centered, totally present and to become real conscious beings.
It’s a life time process – the Work.
The sacred movements allow the field of exploration needed to face that which keeps us locked in mediocrity: our beliefs and projections about ourselves and others, our fear of not being good enough, of not being able, our habits of abandoning or of getting angry as soon as an effort is needed, our tensions, our lack of coordination or rhythm, our difficulties to understand, our poor memory, our lack of individual and collective definition, etc.
All this falls into the awakening process. Little by little, solutions appear through a constant effort, relaxation sets in and grace finds its way.
Observation is the key and love is the basic ingredient
This process is perfect for those who are determined to explore and experience their own truth. The difficulty of the process is not so much on a physical level – the movements being rather simple as such and the learning process being gradual. Because of that, no special skills or talents are required to do them.
What is mostly demanding has to do with presence and centering – that is what we develop throughout the process.
By and by we develop new brain capacities by practicing ‘divided attention ’ – a way of using our mind rather than being dominated by it, and to allow expansion.
We naturally use the ‘divided attention’ in our lives but mostly unconsciously – like when we drive a car for example.
As long as this operation remains mechanical, it places us outside of ourselves and leaves us fragmented. This is what creates stress, dispersion, lack of concentration and general unease: a low level of vitality.
Because of their precise geometry and uncommon rhythmic, the movements constantly bring us back to the reality of the here and now. We have to break through our mechanical patterns and make ourselves available to a new physical and energetic vocabulary.
Attention without tension
As we look for a state of attention without tension, a tight collaboration is necessary between our physical, emotional and intellectual centers so that they support each other instead of sabotaging each other.
Sometimes, after an intense effort, a moment of presence arises that connects us to Essence – a moment of initiation, a moment of grace that will affect us forever – an experience of the sacred within us.
In each movement, in each measure, we invite this moment to come.
The goal is to open up to Presence as a basic quality for our daily lives.
Before Gurdjieff died in 1949, he asked Jeanne de Salzmann to establish his teaching (among others of his followers) – and she surely did. She died at the age of 101 in Paris in 1990 and she could teach until the end of her life.
In her last notebook – The Realty of Being, she wrote:
“The truth of what I am can only be seen by a finer energy, an intelligence in me that sees. This requires a precise relation between my usual thinking and this seeing. One must submit to the other, or I will be taken by the material of the thought. There can be no contradiction, however small, in myself. Otherwise, I cannot see.
A contradiction means on one side the need to know what I am, and on the other, a head that functions for itself alone, an emotion that feels for itself alone, and tensions that cut me off from sensation.
When I see myself lost in the dark, I feel the need for clarity, for vision. I feel the necessity to see, a completely different feeling from wishing to change because yesterday I had a better state.
Then, little by little, the tensions in the body let go by themselves. T
The mind sees without seeking a result, and the body opens to a different quality. The energy becomes free and an inner quality appears.
There is no more contradiction. I see, just that…I only see.
To observe without contradiction is like following a fast current, a torrent, anticipating the rushing water with one’s look, seeing the movement of each little wave. There is no time to formulate, to name or to judge. There is no more thinking. My mind becomes quiet and sensitive – very alive but quiet.
It sees without distortion. Silent observation gives birth to understanding, but this truth must be seen.
Order is born from understanding disorder.
To be disorder and, at the same time, present to the disorder brings the knowing
of a different possibility, a different order of things.”
To conclude I can say that the learning process, the practice and the teaching of the Gurdjieff sacred movements have certainly changed my way of living for the better and it has been the same for many people I know all over the world – knowing that our best is in a constant evolution from yesterday to now to tomorrow.