Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Self-remembering as an entry into nondual awareness.

(From "Views from the Real World"):

"Question: What is a higher state of being?

(Gurdjieff:) Answer: There are several states of consciousness:
1) sleep, in which our machine still functions but at very low pressure.
2) waking state, as we are at this moment. These two are all that the average man knows.
3) what is called self-consciousness. It is the moment when a man is aware both of himself and of his machine. We have it in flashes, but only in flashes. There are moments when you become aware not only of what you are doing but also of yourself doing it.

You see both 'I' and the 'here' of 'I am here'— both the anger and the 'I' that is angry. Call this self-remembering, if you like.
Now when you are fully and always aware of the 'I' and what it is doing and which 'I' it is—you become conscious of yourself. Self-consciousness is the third state."


From the above we can see that what Gurdjieff is actually pointing to is a state of consciousness (or a state of mind) in which we are aware of both (simultaneously) the apparent individual self (the machine, the constructed personality) and also one's state of being as nothing other than pure inclusive awareness. This awareness, which is our own natural state, MUST be attributeless- since there is nothing here other than awareness (pure "I"), which is normally completely fixated on the individual self (the machine), and the known world.

A stepping stone is often given, of having the 'practitioner' become aware of themselves throughout the day, performing an action- ie. a dual observation of both the action, and the "I" performing the action. However, this isn't the end goal (the "third state") mentioned above. In this scenario there is still a doing and a doer (although at least complete object-identification, which is our usual but abnormal state of mind, has been reduced). 

The hope is that the realization will occur (naturally, and when it does), in which it is discovered that the action, the "I" performing the action, and everything observed is seen or known from another vantage point that is beyond the known (and the knower!), but which paradoxically, also includes both. This is none other than nondual awareness, or what Gurdjieff calls 'self-consciousness' above.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fourth Way schools- SWOT.

Fourth Way- A SWOT analysis.


- Information largely available in print form, transcripts of meetings, and direct writings from Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and students. 
- Promotes group workings, and possible new group start-ups independent of any "official" body.
- Promotes individual efforts in self-work and self-reliance. 'The system works if you work it.'
- Contains basic ethical principles for social harmony (e.g. External considering).
- Contains real, workable solutions to the problems of identification, false/imposter self, multiple "I", disparate centre functioning, wrong work of the centres, etc.
- Contains workable and documented practices (self-observation, self-remembering) that directly relate to practical Direct Path type teachings.
- The chief founders, such as Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and others such as de Salzemann seem to have achieved "Self-realization" or at least some level of attainment of Self-knowledge or Self-actualization.


- Due to the "teacher-student" emphasis in some writings, some groups are prone to cult mentality, and guru worship.
- Most of the writings have been translated from original languages, and thus are prone to translation error.
- Writings also contain a good deal of impractical theoretical (and possibly fabricated) information, theology and cosmology.
- The above causes some FW students to completely become lost.
- The system contains much technical jargon, allegories, and words with special meaning requiring some prior study in Fourth Way materials. Some concepts (such as assigning chemical symbols and names to entities that bear no resemblance to established labels) creates obvious confusion. (See talks on Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen).
- Most "official" Fourth Way/Gurdjieff groups existing today have become so crystallized in their methods and orientation that the original thrust of the teaching has become lost, with the groups serving no real purpose other than their own historical self-perpetuating purposes. (Much the same as any historical religious group).
-  Solo work can be performed, but takes enormous energy, will-power, and drive to continue to perform daily and over time. The sheer amount of material available also makes it difficult for an individual to sort the 'wheat from the chaff'.
- The founders (Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and others) left the work (or died) in unhelpful ways, or without clear cut instructions going forward, thus leaving half-baked students to work out what was going on. "I leave you all in a fine mess." (Gurdjieff).


- Any individual so motivated can take up Gurdjieff's writings (BTTHG, Meetings, Life is Real) along with other works (In Search, Herald etc.) and begin 'working'. The instructions are all available in print form.
- A Fourth Way group can be started by a group of motivated people and perform real "work" on themselves with the above.
- Results can be quick or slow depending on levels effort and motivation involved, regardless of external influences.
- The variety of material available offers something of appeal to almost anyone.


- As time goes on, the Fourth Way historical groups and founders become more dated, direct students die off and become less, and the whole movement risks becoming history or a legacy.
- "Official" Fourth Way groups stuck in the past become increasingly less relevant to the youth of the day. Their resources diminish to nothing. Some groups have been going for 40 years with little to show (materially and work-wise).
- The relatively large percentage of Fourth Way group failures, cult experiments, and implosions reflects badly on the whole movement and teaching, turning potential seekers off, and veiling the true potential in the system.
- Inter-fighting and egoism between the small number of "official" Fourth Way groups destroys the movement and teaching impetus as a whole.
- Existing groups become fossilized in their practices and routines, focusing on one particular area (e.g. dances, readings, cosmology etc.) and failing to ever aim at (or even consider) the (previous) primary goals of self-observation, self-remembering and becoming Man Number Four (finding a true centre of Being).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Self-observation as a practice.

The Keyword for the day is "Self-observation" or "self-observation".

Note- There is no difference in spelling 'Self' with a capital S or 'self' with a small 's'. Countless books seemed to have confused the point beyond repair, in order to stress the point that there is a 'true' self (Self) and a false self (self). However, practically speaking, there is only one findable self- the self that you are right now, which is aware of this sentence. Inquiry into your self, right now, always works (regardless of what you think that 'self' is).


As a verbal cue, we can use this word today to bring us back to our self (and ourselves apparently, for as Gurdjieff said, we appear as multiple "I"s all day long).

"Self-observation" can be done either by focusing on a part, or a function or a segment of ourselves, or by focusing on ourself as a 'whole'. Either way is OK. Focusing on a part or function (or "centre" in Fourth Way terms) is normally done first, since it is easier to gather attention or concentration on a specific external part, rather than the whole. However, if we find it easy to do, it is probably more efficacious to focus our observation on the whole, which includes all parts (that we think constitute 'us').

Self-observation brings me back to myself, breaks identification of the mind with objects, and strengthens the 'witnessing' power of the mind. Ultimately, it enables us to remember ourselves, or 'self-remember', which often takes enormous energy and can only be done a few seconds at a time. With repeated self-observation (and especially during quiet sitting sessions), self-remembering can happen more frequently, for longer periods of time, and automatically throughout the day.

Practice: Verbally repeat the phrase 'self-observation' today, and then rest in some quiet self-observation for a few moments. This can be done at any time or any place. Alternately, it can be done on the hour throughout the waking day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"I am- I wish to be.

"I am- I wish to be."

This enigmatic Fourth Way phrase (attributed to Gurdjieff and his groups) can be taken in many different ways- all with different results depending on the focus.

Much has been written by Gurdjieff on what he means by the words 'to be', though usually these words point to 'be-ing' in a way that involves conscious, self-aware, and non-automatic, living. 

One way the above phrase may be used, in order to enable (or rather) promote self-remembering, (ie self-awareness and direct self-knowledge aka nondual awareness and countless other phrases of similar meaning), may be as--

verbally saying and noting -

"I am" - which brings one back to one's self in this moment, including but not limited to sensations, perceptions, identifications, etc. The whole of one's self, especially including one's being-ness which is the background of awareness that includes all of the above external objects. In short, a sense of personal being-ness, am-ness etc.


"I wish to be." - which sets one simply in a state of relaxed, open, spacious, aware, be-ingness. It is really an affirmation and self-allowing permission just to relax and be in one's current state, while also being aware in/as the background awareness. It is the state aimed at within other nondual teachings such as Zen (shikantaza), Dzogchen (Rigpa), Advaita Vedanta (Turiya), Jnana Yoga (ParaBrahman), Sufism (Haqq), etc.

"I am- I wish to be."

Try it, you'll like it. You might even return to it again and again, once you get a "taste" for it.

Otherwise, as a more base practice, the phrase can also be used in a somewhat grounding way:

“To prevent reverie, you have to visualize or repeat something, such as ‘I am, I wish to be.’ ” (Richard Rose)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Points on Direct Path practice (self-inquiry)

  • When you ask "what sees/feels this," as in "who am I?" or "who is the author of this experience?" you are practicing the quintessential "direct path" exercise. That question points to the direct apprehension that the knowing and that which is known are "not two." This is advaita, which is a Sanskrit word meaning..."not two." This is not vipassana, but a complete practice unto itself. You can become fully enlightened, as did Ramana Maharshi, by continued inquiry into "who am I?" Ramana insisted that no other technique was required. Of all the practices I have done, including a great deal of vipassana, "Who am I?" self-inquiry, as taught by Ramana is my favorite practice. I recommend doing it in conjunction with your other practices, as it has the power to completely disabuse you of the notion of a separate self. With this kind of practice, "the path is the goal." In other words, you are able to see what it is like to be enlightened, long before your development catches up with your momentary insight. (KF)

  • The confusion arises when we try to evaluate one technology through the lens of another. Developmental technologies like vipassana begin with the assumption that you can strip away layers of delusion over a period of time, eventually arriving at the simplest thing. At that point you see clearly and are said to be enlightened. Interestingly, those who have mastered this approach point out that what they "found" was there all along but was obscured by delusion. The other major approach, the "realization" school, begins with that very understanding. If the simplest thing is already here, we can see it now. Their techniques are designed to cut through delusion in this moment, allowing even beginning yogis to see what is true. "What is true," or "the simplest thing" is prior to the arising of time. For that reason, development through time is either not emphasized in realization teachings or is explicitly refuted. It is thought that if you are obsessing about how enlightened you will be in the future you will be unable to see what is already true. (KF)

  • Chinul called the developmental approach the "gradual awakening, gradual cultivation school," and the realization approach the "sudden awakening, gradual cultivation school." In both cases, he pointed out, cultivation is necessary. I know of very few people who teach that you can wake up in one moment and remain forever awake. If you listen carefully, even realization teachers are telling you to cultivate your realization through time. Instructions like "dwell as the watcher," "remain stable in the awareness," etc., are all ways of saying that there is still something to be done even after realization. Ramana Maharshi spent years meditating silently after his awakening. Eckhard Tolle sat on a park bench. Adyashanti had already meditated for years before his realization and continued to meditate afterward. (KF)
  • Notice that both schools are present within Buddhism. The Tibetans, for example value and teach both systems side by side. There is no reason why any of us should feel attached to one school over the other. That would be just more dogmatic thinking. To understand the two schools, we must approach each through its own lens and stop trying to understand the timeless through the lens of time. (KF)

  • The direct approach is not a subset of Hinayana. It has exactly nothing to do with vipassana or the three characteristics. It is the direct apprehension of reality, prior to the arising of your identity. Stop trying to shoehorn it into a concept that is comfortable for you. And, by all means, don't make a boogie man out of it. Just try it. (KF)

Points on Noting / Vipassana.

  • As a general rule, note until things become very subtle. At that point I would let go of noting as it is unnecessary and can disturb subtle states of concentration. Think of it a gearshift. (I think I originally heard this idea from Shinzen Young.) When the going gets tough, and you are having trouble noticing clearly, downshift to 1st gear. This would mean lots of noting. Once you get some momentum, but still want a reminder to keep yourself on track, shift up to occasional noting, just to "frame the picture" (that one is from Joseph Goldstein). When you are really cruising, and objects are effortlessly appearing and being noticed clearly, abandon the noting; it's just a distraction at that point. (KF)

  • And if you are practicing the samatha technique, don't note. You can use a mantra to gain access concentration, but once you enter jhana stop all self-talk and take the jhana itself as object. That might mean physical sensations or mental phenomena depending on the jhana and how deeply you have dived into it. (KF)