If you do not go deeper into attention, you will achieve neither your inside nor your outside aim. I had from Mr. Gurdjieff that in all that we do, we must have an inside and an outside aim. Something that we do in life without an inside aim will never sustain our Work and the two aims must meet and they must help one another.
Nothing in us is able to hold attention in the way it is needed, to really centre our attention, to keep it for ourselves, for a real pulling together of all the powers which have been given to us to be. But the incentive for trying again can become a little stronger if it corresponds to something we need. I have not got it, but I know I need it.
The fundamental meaning of our effort is to acquire and to perfect the instrument, our attention. Attention can be measured like a wine, like silk. It may be very coarse, or it may be fine and supple.
If I were fully alive, everything would be fully alive around me, as it really is. What is needed for me to experience that? A different kind of attention, active, collected. It will not be given to me, though the fundamentals are given—I cannot create attention. Attention comes through my feelings, my body—all my centres can give different kinds of attention. Potentially they could have attention together and at that moment a man is transformed, re-created.
I cannot do anything except train my attention, and if I think that is not enough, I am a fool. To perfect one’s attention is to perfect oneself. I can still hear Mr. Gurdjieff’s voice in my ears, “Never tire, day after day, practise, practise”—against all that wants to dream, to drift.
I am like a sleeper who opens a quarter of an eye then goes to sleep again. Attention—as if every cell of my body were called to attention. But my wish is not big enough for that—the wish has to grow, and it can only grow if I see myself more, if I see myself as I am... Gradually I know that, second after second, I have to sustain that attention, as if it were an antennae feeling right through my limb. It has to go right inside. Inner work is inner penetration. Strange? But it is as concrete as that.
A more real question must bring together at least two centres and come from the shock of inner work. Being, without attention, is nothing. Attention is the fire of our Being. Attention can free second force and something practical can be achieved.
We are not sufficiently awakened to attention. I call to my spine, to the whole of my body to help me. I am alive, here, now. A man must have a reference to more of his whole, to gather his different powers together.
A man needs moments of retirement for the sake of relating attention, parts of himself with other parts, attention to some reality of life in him; then he needs to go towards life willingly in order that it brings him the impressions of himself that he needs, even though they are difficult to swallow. They are food.
This question of attention is very serious, but our experience remains limited. In us a conscious attention is missing. Only such an attention through the quality of its movement of energy, can hold together the three essential parts of our being: thought, body and feeling...
At certain moments we see, though perhaps distantly, that this attention ... is the key to a greater inner opening in which less heavy, finer energies come together. These energies confer life, light, and warmth on our inner world, in the service of a Great Reality in the universe, just as the Sun confers these things on the Earth. For those who seek to awaken to what they truly are, this new attention has more value than anything else in their lives.
Real remembering can only occur if your attention is entirely directed toward and maintained on yourself. But what is this attention? It is the attention connected with being-effort, the attention that comes from all essential parts of ourselves, gathered. It is an effort to be there. This requires a certain inner struggle to keep open a window that is only half-open and can suddenly shut again. It is a struggle for. Without this, nothing can remain gathered in myself. In this struggle, our attention is not turned toward doing or engaged in fighting against, but rather to be there, to receive what is there.
Through my attention, I try to experience all that I can of my being, to have as strong an impression as possible of my collected state and also of what I receive. This is not the limit of my being, it is this moment’s possibility. My possibilities develop only very slowly, yet from year to year I recognize that I know something more of myself. I am less blind and my attention is less taken by no matter what, no matter who.
My moments of attention must become more real; they must have more weight and seriousness. What others have helped me understand I have not really understood for myself. It is indispensable for me to open to experiences myself. This is what is extraordinary: that no one can be forced to experience attention.
Our attention needs to be vivified. Help is given it, but afterward one must struggle so that the help does not disappear into a dream... We need to submit to an attention of a better quality.
We can see that our habitual attention is much too fleeting. It has no stability, no continuity. In this world where we lead our lives, we need a much more stable attention. This attention is like a little flame that tries to hold its own in the wind.
The attention of the Work can only be given to people who so need it that all the rest becomes secondary in their eyes.
Try to work regularly and methodically, and to relax all the parts of your body. Try to open yourself to a quality of attention that can penetrate you. Understand that this is more important than anything in the world.
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These excerpts are from two books: Inside a Question: Works of Henriette Lannes, London: Paul H. Crompton Ltd, 2002, pp. 14, 6, 16, 17, 18, 24, 92, 105, 192; and This Fundamental Quest: the Journey of a Pupil of G. I. Gurdjieff, Far West Institute, 2007, pp. 59, 128, 131, 148, 150, 161 (translated by Roger and Susan Lipsey from the French edition, Retour à Maintenant, Editions de Tournadieu, 2003).
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Featured: Fall 2013 Issue, Vol. XII (1)
Revision: November 1, 2013