|FOURTHWAY MANHO CENTER|
Truth, Dancing: the Movements of G.I.Gurdjieff
G.I.Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949), the Armenian mystic, described himself as a “Master of Dance” and in his teaching he gave an important place to dance and movement awareness. Gurdjieff’s Movements, also known as the Gurdjieff Sacred Dances, are a collection of perhaps 150 different dances and exercises derived from ancient temple dances from esoteric schools, seen by Gurdjieff as he travelled throughout Asia. Unlike most dance forms today, which are a purely artistic/aesthetic experience, the Gurdjieff Movements are concerned with the spiritual/mystical experience: to bring about a higher state of consciousness and awareness - the dance is an expression of Truth.
Awareness means that whatsoever is happening in the moment is
happening with complete consciousness; you are present there....Awareness
means to be in the moment so totally that there is no movement towards the
past, no movement towards the future - all movement stops. That doesn’t mean that you become
static. A new movement
starts, a movement in depth.
In the teaching of the Movements it is this “movement in depth” that we focus on - a movement towards our source, our truth, towards the center of being - bringing the mind, the body and the emotions into a unified whole, rather than a set of automatic reactions:
Every race, every nation....has its own limited number of postures
from which it can never depart....the style of the movements and postures
is indissolubly connected with distinctive forms of thought and feeling;
and they are so closely bound together that a man can change neither the
form of his thought or his feeling without changing his repertory of
postures....it is an illusion that our movements are voluntary; in reality
they are automatic. Our
thoughts and feelings are equally automatic.
Our whole conditioning thus forces us into an automatic and limited repertoire of thought, feelings and physical attitude. The Movements help break this pattern, developing what Gurdjieff called presence of being. This is the first step towards an awareness of ourself in daily life.
The Movements work on a number of levels. Firstly they are to do with the role of the body/mind, the relationship between the state of the body and what the student is searching for within himself. The Movements are a specific way of looking at this relationship.
In developing presence of being a certain effort, a certain alertness is required. The Movements consist of highly structured, exact postures, multiple rhythms to follow, and often have quite complex sets of inner counting or word sequences. Absolute precision of movement is demanded, from the palms of the hands to the slightest position of the feet, requiring a dynamic balance of the whole, a centering, in order to support a search which can only be understood through direct experience.
experience of the Self .....is the only reason for practising the Movements"
All of the student’s attention is directed inwards - on the energy moving through the body, sensing the positions from inside; in his changing feelings and emotions as he shifts from posture to posture.
Furthermore, the student is asked to be in silence as he learns - energy is drawn even further inwards; but the Movements are group dances - so awareness must flow outwards at the same time towards the other students, thus each student is responsible both for himself and the group environment.
At certain moments the Movements reveal to the student the astonishing resources that his body can bring to his inner search when it is called upon in the right way; while at other moments they also show him to what degree the body becomes an obstacle through tension and inertia. The student learns gradually to let go of this state of tension - whether it comes through frustration, comparison, competition, thirst for a result or fear - as much emphasis is placed on coming from an inner space of relaxation, working from the Hara or Dan-tien - the area around the belly known for centuries in the Orient to be the center of being - rather than from the head, the mind -often believed to be the center of being for Western Man.
This is the kind of care we
should take in developing awareness: a relaxed alertness....It is the
highest synthesis of human consciousness; one polarity is relaxedness,
another polarity is alertness, attentiveness.
And, as the student begins to connect with what is happening for him, he becomes aware that the difficulties he experiences in the Movements correspond exactly to what stands in his way in everything he does in his life. It is not only when faced with the demand of the dance that he is heavy, incapable of giving of himself fully and fearful - this is how he lives all the time.
However, the student is encouraged to go on, noting but not judging his experience of himself. And, as seemingly insurmountable difficulties are overcome, the inner state of being changes. Tiredness and other obstacles dissolve; feeling becomes more confident, a sense of trust in oneself emerges; thought becomes clearer, the body feels lighter, freer, animated by a more subtle quality of energy, and the student is there, simply watching without interfering, the truth of the moment, a witness to the body in movement, a direct experience of being.
It is at this point, perhaps, that the true meaning of the dances, their sacredness, becomes apparent. Gurdjieff talked about the “meaning" of the Movements: in ancient times dances could be ‘read’, like books, by the worshippers in the Temples who understood the language of gesture, and that universal truth was expressed through them. Today, although the ‘meaning’ is lost to us, for the dancer this can be felt and experienced as he precisely and purely executes each position in a state of relaxed alertness ; not a conceptual meaning as such, but rather a direct experience, a direct knowing.
never talked about Zen, and he was doing living Zen. His methods were strange, but he
transformed more people than all these so-called psychologies. A single man has done an immense
service.... what he was doing was Zen, but it was his way of doing
are the Movements......It is simply Truth,
From: Jivan Sunder