In this three-part series of Breaking Ground posts, Heather Ruce invites us to work with a cycle of eight Inner Tasks. These exercises were originally designed to be used sequentially over the course of eight weeks in conjunction with daily life. Bringing one of these exercises each week into moments of the day invites us into a deeper visceral relationship with Gurdjieff’s concepts of self-remembering and self-observation as we grow in our experience with the three centers of sensation, feeling and thinking.
Available here as part of Northeast Wisdom’s intention to offer quality resources and support for the Wisdom community, these may be used in whatever way best works for you. Each task is an excellent resource for extended practice in the activities of life over time, whether you are new to Wisdom or an experienced practitioner. All the links are provided at the bottom of this post.
We welcome your comments and your own experiences of these exercises in the Comments section below.
We have been working with deepening our experiences of self-remembering and self-observation and beginning to try to observe more specific things within ourselves. In Week V we focused on observing unnecessary tension in our individual bodies as well as the collective body—any tension that is not necessary for the task or activity we are engaging. I have found myself returning to this practice throughout the pandemic we are in and I hope you have too.
This week we will focus on another classic observation in the Work: unnecessary thinking. In his book Self Observation, Red Hawk says:
“Unnecessary thought” = any thinking which is not solving a technical problem or communicating with others, not related to what is happening in the moment: when I walk, there is just walking, no thought necessary; when I exercise, there is just the movement of the body, no thinking necessary; when I eat, just eat; when I stand, just stand: like that.
When I work, just work; when I play with my children, just play with my children; when I talk with a friend, just talk with a friend…
Our task this week is to notice both ourselves and the collective-self engaged in unnecessary thinking and to self-remember, locating our bodies in space and time through sensation. We will observe without judgment, without changing what is observed, with sensation, and with ruthless self-honesty.
In order to observe in this way, stop frequently and ask yourself—with ruthless self-honesty—is what I am thinking necessary? Is it really necessary? Is my thinking in the service of solving a technical problem or communicating to others? Is there really a problem or something that needs to be communicated? Are the thoughts of others that I am ingesting really necessary? Is the group think really necessary?
What do you notice about the state of your mind when you are engaged in unnecessary thoughts? What emotions emerge? And what sensations, gestures, or actions are you aware of? What happens in each center when you get wide enough within yourself to notice but not be caught up in unnecessary thinking?
Here. We. Are.
Still in the middle of a pandemic. So much fear, anger, hyper-vigilance, reactivity, indifference, complacency; the whole gamut of reactivity. Our individual and collective nervous system is activated and in a self-reinforcing cycle of chaos much of the time. We have an opportunity here to stop business as usual. To wake up. Individually. Collectively. Cosmically.
May our inner tasks be of service in this way.
We have been working with deepening our experiences of self-remembering and self-observation. We spent time observing unnecessary tension in our individual bodies as well as the collective body—any tension that is not necessary for the task or activity we are engaging. And we have been observing unnecessary thinking within ourselves and the collective—any thinking which is not solving a technical problem or communicating with others, or is not related to what is happening in the moment.
I have made many observations in regards to these two areas over the week but was especially aware when taking a walk yesterday how difficult it was to just walk instead of trying to solve the world’s problems in my head. It was a relief to just walk for a minute or so but quickly I found myself elsewhere in my mind. I was pretty amazed at how hard it was to simply take a walk.
This week we will focus on another classic observation in the Work: unnecessary emotion, or what Red Hawk calls, “inappropriate emotion” which, he says, is essentially “any emotion which is more than is appropriate to the present situation, extreme, dramatic reaction, not related to the present moment (as in imagination, daydreaming), not appropriate response to the present moment.”
Our task this week is to notice ourselves and the collective-self engaged in unnecessary or inappropriate emotion and to self-remember, finding ourselves in our body in the present moment in time and space through sensation. We will observe without judgment, without changing what is observed, with sensation, and with ruthless self-honesty.
In order to observe in this way, stop frequently and ask yourself with ruthless self-honesty, is the emotion I am having appropriate to the situation? Is it really related to the present moment? Could it be extreme, dramatic, or reactive?
What do you notice about the state of your mind when you are engaged in unnecessary emotion? What stories emerge? And what sensations, gestures, or actions are you aware of? Can you locate the emotion—energy in motion—in sensation in your body and be present to the energy of it without trying to change it or make it go away? What happens in each center when you are deep enough within yourself to notice but not be caught up in inappropriate emotion?
I find this task to be particularly relevant in light of all of the emotions going on right now.
Hello everyone. This is my final entry in this cycle of inner tasks, a culmination of seven weeks of exercise and practice.
Your Week VIII inner task will be to pause for a minute or two—it may take longer at first—to do the following practice before you are going to turn on the television, jump on your phone, or engage any type of social media.
This practice is a slight variation of a practice taught to me by Deborah Rose Longo, a Gurdjieff Movements teacher and mentor.
~ Pause and follow your breath in and out a few times while engaging your environment through your senses. Notice what you see, hear and sense with your skin. Then follow a few more breaths while sensing into your body, locating it in time and space.
~ Take a moment to consciously notice the places in your body that are already at ease and allow them to grow, supporting the release of any unnecessary tension present.
~ Take a moment to consciously notice the place in your mind that is still underneath the thoughts and allow this place to take up more space, supporting the letting go of any unnecessary thinking.
~ Take a moment to consciously notice the place in your heart that is soft and open underneath the emotions and feelings allowing it to grow and supporting the settling or moving through of any unnecessary emotions.
~ Stay in this three centered awareness and from a more open state of ease in your body, a quieter mind, access a feeling of gratitude—an inner “thank you”—and follow a few more of your breaths while you remember yourself.
Please share any observations you make below. Thank you for journeying with me; I hope these tasks have been of some use to you.
posted by Heather Ruce, June 9, 2020
In May 2020, we began with Self-Remembering, Self-Observation and Observing the Centers Part I, Weeks I and II; followed by Part II, Weeks III, IV and V. Here in Part III you will find Weeks VI through VIII to complete the series. Check out the growing collection of exercises on our Wisdom Resource page.
When Heather first encountered the Gurdjieff Work at a Wisdom School in 2012, something profoundly resonated in her. This part of the Wisdom lineage wove together the threads of her studies in psychology, somatic experiencing, and spirituality—grounding and enlarging them in a deep tradition and set of maps. The Gurdjieff Work and Movements have become an integral part of her life and she continues to commit to them in her ongoing practice of morning exercises, self-observation, and self-remembering, to name a few.
Heather contributes to the Wisdom community in many ways, most recently offering a contemplative retreat near her home in southern California entitled “An Introduction to A Wisdom Way of Knowing: What the Christian Path Has to Offer”; working as a TA for the CAC’s Introductory Wisdom School 14 week courses; offering Wisdom practice circles, lectio divina groups, ongoing Collective Pause Meditation & Practice; and currently holding the post for the ongoing the Friday morning Wisdom Meditation through Northeast Wisdom.
Heather assisted her mentor Deborah Rose Longo with the Gurdjieff movements at the Claymont Center in West Virginia in October and December 2019 during Cynthia Bourgeault’s “Mr. Gurdjieff Meet Mr. Teilhard” retreats, and has contributed to several posts on Northeast Wisdom. You may find links to those posts, her website and read more about Heather on her Wisdom Profile page.
Red Hawk is an author, professor, poet and 30-year student of the Work under the guidance of the Gurdjieff Society in Arkansas. His books, Self Observation: The Awakening of Conscience, An Owner’ Manual and Self Remembering: The Path to Non-Judgmental Love, An Owner’s Manual, along with other books and poetry, are available at Hohm Press.
Image credits from the top: Moon Cycle, thanks to @SanniSahil for making this photo available freely on @unsplash; Waxing Crescent Moon thanks to Luke Stackpoole for making this photo available freely on @unsplash; Full Moon with Branch, thanks to @dibert for making this photo available freely on @unsplash; Third Quarter Moon, courtesy Bruno Adamo, Unsplash; photo Heather Ruce courtesy of the author; Red Hawk photo courtesy of Holm Press above.
Eight Inner Tasks:
Self-Remembering, Self-Observation, and Observing the Centers
In this three-part series, Heather Ruce invites us to work with a cycle of eight Inner Tasks. These exercises were originally designed to be used sequentially over the course of eight weeks in conjunction with daily life.