Gurdjieff International Review

Simple Moments

David Young

After reading In Search of the Miraculous for the first time, I picked up the idea that on the one hand there is ‘life’ and on the other there is ‘Work.’ This idea led me to believe that the ‘Work’ and ‘life’ are mutually exclusive. After a while I began to believe that ‘life’ occupied so much of my time that I had no time to spare for the ‘Work.’ Then, as I became more involved in group activities, I began to believe the converse.

When I said of someone, ‘He is in the Work,’ I meant, ‘He belongs to a group.’ As I reflected on this idea, I began to question some of my assumptions. Were there people who did not belong to a group but were in the Work? Were there people in groups who might not be in the Work? My answer to both questions was yes. Even I might be in a group but not in the Work.

I suspect that for the most part I was using the word ‘Work’ without having given much thought to what it might mean, and this was equally true of my use of the word ‘life.’ I might think of life from the point of view of life influences; for example, influences that drive me to seek recognition and approval, and feed the impulse to acquire superior status and power over others. In that case, ‘life’ certainly is opposed to the idea of ‘Work,’ but this desire for status and power exists even within a community of seekers of truth. I can find it in myself at this moment. If I wish to understand how to bring the Work into my life, I need to be clear about the meaning of the words I am using.

It helps me to think of life as everything I do, whether taking part in a movements class or buying a newspaper. Life is what we wish to live more abundantly. That is possible if we bring attentiveness to everything we do, or to use Mr. Gurdjieff’s injunction, to “remember yourself always and everywhere.”

Work may take many forms, but all of them require directed attention—even if I wish to let go and make no effort of work. At this moment, writing this article, I can bring my attention to the physical work of typing, the excessive coldness in the room and the shivering of my body. However, if I’m identified with what I’m writing, as I was a few minutes ago, I pay no attention to the needs of my body, and my typing is quite mechanical. I go and get a sweater. Now, as I notice my identification as well as my physical state, my attention stretches to include more of what is taking place in and around me. This attempt to include more in my attention is a form of work or maybe a degree of work. As I become aware of my emotional state as well, there is an increase in the degree of my work.

If I stop for a moment and remember that I am a cosmos, and I am aware of only a tiny fraction of what is taking place in me, a feeling of wonder may arise. Such simple moments stand out in my life: kneeling to get water from a stream; the feeling as I walk down my street that I’m walking on the surface of the planet. Suddenly everything is new. These moments are not merely remarkable incidents that have occurred in the course of my life. They are my life.

~ • ~

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