Hello all — as some of you know we just finished up what I may as well call a “wisdom work weekend” at Claymont—an on-the-ground gathering for people who have been working together virtually, on the Exercises over the last year. After returning home I wrote a letter to those who participated, and I am posting a part of it here to share with you, with love. ~ Andrew
I am back in Virginia Beach, full of rich impressions from our time together. Of outstanding importance is the real verification we all now share: that virtual, a-local practice of the Exercises and sharing observations, brings powerful results. Our almost immediate access to Presence and enjoined Attention when gathered together physically, was extraordinary—especially in the morning sittings, and in the Movements. Amy, Deborah Rose and Hardy repeatedly observed this to me. Beyond the real joy of having this level of Work return to the house at Claymont, was a deep feeling of wonder and appreciation, which I share, for the rigor and ability to be, and be together, that our group so clearly brought with us.
We are in this together for many reasons and one is the adventure and challenge of Work today. There is no doubt that the world, and in particular the US, has great need of a higher, finer energy; an organizing principle; and people equipped with a being-receptivity able to steward it, in the way we can, for the benefit of all. Our work to serve others makes direct assistance to that higher Good.
We share an aim to do what we can with the spiritual technology of these Exercises and basic Fourth Way tools. Already our work has offered incontrovertible evidence of their efficacy and power, when they are allowed to organically flourish now, in this time, even through “uninitiate” hands such as ours. Conscious evolution of our being has little to do with finding the right teacher or exact form, somewhere out there. Yes, it is necessary at some point to learn a tool and its proper functioning. But I am a first-hand witness to the fact that Help comes from Above, when we put even the most rudimentary set of tools into sincere use. And I am not at all convinced that the onward journey requires continual onboarding of more advanced tools, however deeply my ego desires to access and accumulate them. Mr Gurdjieff honored the obyvatel—the simple peasant—who with intimate understanding of a very few time-worn tools, could feed and sustain a large household for the whole of their life.
This perhaps offers some insight into my growing conviction that work with a single group, and even a single Exercise like the Preparation, can offer such a rich possibility in the face of our avaricious culture. I must be ever-watchful for this desire to go on eating and eating—eating the new, eating the next—when it is far past the time to Stop. Indeed Mr Gurdjieff often referred to the tapeworm inside us all. I am no stranger to this tapeworm, and am grateful to even have an objective glimpse of it, especially during this Christmas season. Getting fat with mental concepts and complicated tools hinders movement, agility, receptivity. Painful fasting, unlearning and unknowing are everyone’s road at some point, but the sooner started, the lesser the degree!
So let this be an encouragement to use what we have at hand. There is no doubt that each of us already has the knowledge of these basic tools that we need to sustain months, even years of inner work. And I am just now beginning to discover that if I am responsible with what I have, truly putting it to Good and Ordered use—and without greed for more—that when the time comes, it’s almost as if I discover the next necessary tool already there in my belt, available just and only at the moment it can be of real assistance. We are given only what we can bear, the Christian scriptures tell us. And I am reminded of Hardy’s exhortation to us that we invite the heart to be a full participant in our lives. The heart—cor in Latin—is the seat of courage, the organ of perception which may allow us to really see what is at hand, and to brave the humility required to use what I find. When I “take heart,” I assume a place, a stable and solid ground. And from this Place, this Present Moment, where I am irrevocably Held, my Essence may abide, bear witness, and understand—I already have all I need.
Receptivity in the silence, in the darkness, gave us the collective experience of midwifery. Together we came to the questions: Can I await Presence with Presence? Can I prepare the highway for God within? How do I listen within the darkness and silence, without collapsing into form? Do I lose the opportunity to Work now, because I am trapped by a vision of what I think I need become in the future? For this is our practise during Advent, to Prepare in hope and expectation, without attachment to outcome, without pre-determining the experience to come. That constitutive openness, that radical receptivity, that Being-work, is the Work of Mary, the Work for all who would become a Home to That By Which all things are moved and nourished.
About Andrew Breitenberg
After living in Amsterdam and Cape Town for 11 years as an art director and street artist, Andrew moved to the US (with a life partner and two young kids in tow) to become a Principal at Straight Path Management in Virginia Beach, a consulting firm that does strategic planning for nonprofits. He is also the Executive Director of Parallel Group, a 501(c)3 recently formed to facilitate wisdom and Fourth Way events with a special emphasis on young people.
Andrew was mentored for two years by Richard Rohr (2013-14), after which he joined an early iteration of The Living School in Albuquerque, NM. He has worked with Cynthia Bourgeault since 2016 and two years ago came under the direction of Joseph Azize (Sydney). Andrew takes freelance design projects (including Cynthia’s Eye of the Heart) and maintains an ongoing scripture translation called Pilgrim Bible.