Gurdjieff International Review

A Sense of Myself

Betty Brown

Sun through wood-framed glass warms my right hand, dapples my right leg. Toes on both feet tingle in their dark shoe pockets. Left leg is cool, the calf twitches. Left arm and shoulder quite soft-feeling, a contrast to the busy-ness of these other parts.

Someone speaks to me. I sense my shoulders tensing. I ask them to drop, relax. I smoke. The cylindrical cigarette does not feel round between my fingers. I write. I sense the hexagonal pencil in my fingers but do not sense six-sidedness.

Someone speaks to me. I am all smiles and crinkly face wrinkles. She goes away. I ask my face to unwrinkle and relax. Again someone speaks to me. I get up from the chair and do not notice this movement but find myself looking at my fingers sorting file folders at the desk. I have walked through the room to the desk but remember it only now. I am again seated in the chair. I sense my back where it rests against the chair. There is no sense of the separate pressing of the spindles, but of a ridged curve.

I decide to get up, to leave the house and walk to another house. I wish to pay attention to my legs walking as I go there. My legs help me—they are stiff; sensation from them rises to my attention. Now I am standing between the houses. The wind is cool on my body, the sun warm. I am both warm and cool. My eyes squint. I ask them to relax. I speak to someone. Just that, and I forget everything. Remembering again, I try to notice as I return to the house, walk to the chair, sit down. I have a sensation of my whole self as I do this.

A bell is rung. In the ensuing quiet I hear the sounds of nature. Water lapping attracts my attention. Small man-made sounds come in: a ticking clock, a cough. My toes tingle.

Now I feel that I don’t want to try this any more. I am tired of it. I go to get a cup of coffee. Standing, talking, laughing, I do not wish to go on trying. But something is there. I see myself standing, telling stories, listening to tales. In spite of myself I am here. I leave the others and at the same time I leave myself. Here I am back in the chair without knowing how I got here.

How do I feel about the effort I have made this morning? The wish which guided it is far away now. I feel little about myself now. But I have not yet hurried! I have been in my usual tempo. Can I work again now if I move more quickly? I walk very fast to another house. I run up some stairs. I am stopped short by the people and equipment of construction. But I am different now, searching. I walk back across the grass very fast. But the feeling is gone.

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This essay was first published in A Journal of Our Time, No. 2, 1979, Toronto: Traditional Studies Press, pp. 27–28, and is used here with their kind permission.

Copyright © 2007 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 2007 Issue, Vol. X (1)
Revision: April 1, 2007