I am very grateful to Joseph Azize for his willingness to make five of the Gurdjieff exercises available to us within the cyber confines of our Wisdom School Community. These exercises are powerful tools of healing, cleansing, and clarity, and even when practiced individually or in small groups, they have a power to significantly shift our present planetary atmosphere. They are something you can actually do: to steady yourself and ready yourself for the deeper energetic work that actually connects us and empowers us as a human species to do the alchemical work we were placed on this planet to do.
The five exercises I have recommended are all examples of what Gurdjieff calls “transformed contemplation.” For now—and in direct cognizance of the needs of our present global crisis—let me offer a slightly different definition than even Azize gives. “Transformed Contemplation” is contemplation that actually transforms something, both in ourselves and in the world. It is a kind of sacred alchemy, which is to be understood within the context of Gurdjieff’s great vision of “reciprocal feeding,” the exchange of physical/energetic substances between the realms which maintains the whole cosmic ecosystem in a state of dynamic equilibrium. We receive something for ourselves, we offer something back. Each of these exercises highlights a slightly different aspect of this and works on a slightly different skill set.
Before you dive in, you will need two foundational pieces:
- A basic familiarity with the notion of three-centered awareness. If you haven’t actually been to Wisdom School—or simply want to refresh yourself—the gist of the teaching is there in Chapter Three of my book The Wisdom Way of Knowing as well as in Marcella and Jeanine’s recent post “‘Wisdom Way’ Study, Chapter 3…” right here on this site.
- A familiarity with the basic body-rotation sensing exercise, which is foundational in the Gurdjieff Work and figures prominently in four of these five exercises. We have worked on this exercise a bit in the Introductory Wisdom School and extensively in the intermediate school (The Divine Exchange), but those of you who know me only as a teacher of Centering Prayer may not yet have been exposed to this particular practice. So here’s the quick and dirty version:
First of all, SENSING. For the sake of this exercise, it means using your directed attention to awaken a sense of aliveness (often experienced as an actual subtle tingling) in a specific body part, while at the same time allowing that part to be the full container for your attention.
As a pilot run, bring your attention to your right hand. Try not to beam your attention down from outside, like a searchlight; rather, invite it gently to fill in from within. It will.
Notice how, under the beckoning power of your attention, your arm suddenly seems to “come online.” You are directly connected to it; you feel its vibrancy as a vitalization of your own being. (Isn’t it amazing how you can use this mysterious power always at your disposal, your attention, to fill up your hand with sensation; to increase the direct experience of your own aliveness?)
The rotation, then, typically goes; right arm, right leg; left leg; left arm. As your attention moves sequentially to each part, it also stays put there. If you see yourself wandering, daydreaming, judging…return to the direct sensation of the body part you are attending to.
Okay, with those two background pieces in place, you’re good to go. Over the next few posts, I’ll try to add a few very brief commentaries about the specific exercises themselves.
For more on attention, you will find William Segal’s marvelous excerpt through this link, “The Force of Attention,” on the Contemplative Society website.
You may visit the Wisdom School Community (Cynthia Bourgeault Wisdom Students) facebook page to receive more directions about working with the five exercises recommended by Cynthia Bourgeault in her post Pandemic Homework. They say: “This is a private facebook page dedicated to the community of Wisdom School students of Cynthia Bourgeault…that we may continue our work together and share in the journey. Since the page is private, you will need to personally message us to inform us of which Wisdom School you have attended or are scheduled to attend in order to be accepted. Due to the unusual circumstances of these times, if you have not attended a Wisdom School but are familiar with Cynthia’s teachings through having worked with at least a few of her books, particularly The Wisdom Way of Knowing, please make note of this in your request to join.
If it is in your heart to work with the five exercises please join the group so that you may have access to the exercises, commentaries, and enter into the group work together.
We look forward to doing this work together.
Cynthia offers further background to Pandemic Homework in the following post From the Eagle’s Nest…(the background to the instructions). More to come, in Raised Cyber-Eyebrows: Internet Technology and the Pandemic Homework, posting soon.
These exercises may be found in Joseph Azize’s book: Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises. It was published by the Oxford University Press in early 2020 and contains the five Pandemic Homework exercises and much, much more. It is available in print and on Kindle.
Northeast Wisdom thanks you, Joseph Azize, for your generous support of the Wisdom community working with these exercises at this particular turning point in time.