Gurdjieff International Review

Until My Attention Is Divided, There Is No Work

John Pentland

Until my attention is divided, there is no work. As long as I’m in my ego, as long as I think just following one idea or applying one idea to myself is work, is practice, nothing can come. Now, very often, that is how I begin to work. And then at a certain point the attention divides ... at a certain point I feel a relaxation.

I begin to be aware of a current, a movement of relaxation. Now, do you suddenly switch to putting all your attention on the relaxation? That wouldn’t be consciousness. To be aware, partly the tension attracts my attention and partly I feel myself relaxing...

Then I can really say I’m between. It’s not a thought, not something of an image—the attention is divided. It’s so brief, it’s so insecure, I can hardly say that I experience it. Then I experience it again, maybe. Maybe another moment of relaxation, where partly the attention is taken by this current towards relaxation, towards going down in myself, but some of the attention remains behind on the tension. And so, again, for a moment I’m between...

Sometimes in movements you feel in between. You know something with the head a little bit and with the leg a little bit and somehow when both are going you feel insecure. You feel the attention divided. It’s the same thing...

One knows that this situation with the attention divided is quite a different situation than when the attention is distracted... When my attention is divided, there’s a sort of balance. And there’s a place in between, but it’s not a place that’s secure, that’s permanent.


To be attentive, I have to free my attention. What a work that is. My attention clings to things... But work is a question of freeing my attention again and again from what it is sitting on and bringing it back to myself.


What is that kind of attention which, through becoming connected with myself, has a sort of organic knowledge and knows better than my ordinary mind how to deal with these things? That’s what we mean by in search of the miraculous. We mean in search of this kind of attention... This kind of attention is my possibility, my right. And it knows much better than we do, than I do, in all sorts of ways.

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These excerpts are from John Pentland’s book, Exchanges Within: Questions from Everyday Life, New York: Continuum, 1997, pp. 279–280, 328, 378.

Copyright © 2013 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Fall 2013 Issue, Vol. XII (1)
Revision: November 1, 2013