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The Self-Remembering Series
(1) Mindful Breathing
Videos and Recordings As Jogging Partners
by Allan Clews
These Inner Exercises will teach anyone how to Self-Remember. Each one is a valuable Inner Exercise and even though you could watch them all in 75 minutes - which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing - the more you watch them, the more you will benefit.
Just like most people do not possess sufficient will to get up and go jogging early in the morning, most people do not possess the sufficient 'will' to 'do' Inner Exercises. Especially if they are isolated and don't really know what they are doing.
It is much easier to follow a recording, than it is to go it alone. Think of these videos and recordings as jogging partners. Pressing play is like opening the door and finding a friend beckoning you to put on your running shoes and join him on the path.
The only way anyone will ever be able to even begin to achieve something, is by doing Inner Exercises.
Knowing what I know now, if I had been given these recordings 34-years ago when I first became a student of the Gurdjieff Teachings I would have listened to at least 2 or 3 of them every day. This would have cut at least 10 years off my journey to get to where I am today.
Transformation is not some mysterious process. Every time you Self-Sense and every time you Self-Remember or engage in any form of Mindfulness, a highly refined physical substance is left behind within your Being (this also happens with normal memories where an image of the sky or a loved one's face leaves a trace in your mind). And like stalactites forming on the roof of a cave from tens of thousands of drops of water, it takes a lot of work to accumulate enough of these refined substances/memories for change to occur.
The Self-Remembering Series – 01 Mindful Breathing
This Inner Exercise was inspired by the Buddha's Great Discourse on Mindfulness where he first instructs us to become aware of our breath. However, rather than simply focusing on our body breathing as he recommended, as a non-Buddhist and a student of Gurdjieffian Psychology, I had to make it a little more complex.
This is because the more difficult our Mindful practices are, the more powerful and beneficial they become. As a result this Inner Exercise was designed to help us become aware of three simultaneous processes: the movement of muscles, the flow of air, and how our breath feeds and cleanses.
I also felt compelled to sneak in a far more advanced Inner Exercise near the end, because our breath is also linked to our emotions and if you can learn how to use your breath to breathe in a simple feeling of joyful delight and generate this positive emotion – then you can use your breath to lead you out of those feelings of chaos and turmoil.
So the next time you are feeling dark and broken or depressed and anxious. Just stop and ground your awareness in your breath. Become Mindful of the movement of muscles involved, the flow of air, and the feeding and cleansing. This will naturally help to calm and settle you on its own. And then when the emotional storm raging inside has subsided, you can use your breath to breath in a simple feeling of joyful delight.
The Self-Remembering Series – 02 Mindful Self-Sensing the First Variation
The ultimate aim of this Inner Exercise is to help you develop an awareness of your entire body as one organic whole. Self-Sensing is perhaps the most important Gurdjieffian exercise and it lies at the core of Self-Remembering.
Some actually find this a very difficult process, because we have spent our entire lives focusing on our thoughts, feelings and imagination. Our minds are usually filled with an incessant internal chattering. Pictures and images come and go. We rehearse and replay conversations. We make to-do lists and narrate our experiences and make judgements. All while paying as little attention to our body as we can.
Yet our body is our earthly home. We can change our thoughts, beliefs and opinions. We can feel one thing one minute and something completely different the next. And even though our body also changes, it does so slowly that we can regard it as the one constant in our lives. Because no matter where we go and what we do, our body will always tag along and be there with us. It is our loyal and faithful servant and yet all too often we treat it like our slave.
Most of us only pay attention to our body when something goes wrong. We never stop and realize that it is the vessel for our thoughts, experiences and feelings.
This Inner Exercise was inspired by one I learned in a Gurdjieff-Bennett group. The first half involves sensing various parts of the body in a downward progression; while the second part, the filling exercise, is a slightly tweaked version of an exercise taught by Mr. Gurdjieff where we fill our body with sensation as a vessel fills with warm golden honey.
The Self-Remembering Series - 03 the Second Variation
The aim of all self-sensing exercises is to develop the ability to instantly sense your body as one organic whole. However, unlike the previous Inner Exercise, this one doesn't just deal with self-sensing, but also with the way energy flows in the body as taught by Mr. Gurdjieff.
So it takes you sensation-by-sensation down the right side of your head, neck and shoulder; down your right arm and hand; down the right side of your chest and abdomen; down the right side of your back; down your right hip, buttock, leg and foot. Then it reverses, flowing back up your left foot and leg and up the left side of your body.
When you finally learn to master this flow of sensation you won't even have to spend ten-minutes doing this. If you find yourself scattered, if you find yourself feeling disturbed or upset, all you will have to do is to find a place to sit where you won't be disturbed. You can even do this on a bus or subway. Then simply take three deep abdominal breaths and sense the movement of muscles, the flow of air, and your breath feeding and cleansing.
Then breath in, and as you slowly exhale trace this pathway down your body: sensing the flow of sensation down the right-side of your head, neck and shoulder, down your right arm and hand, down the right-side of your chest and back, and down your right leg and foot. And then as you slowly inhale trace this flow of sensation back up your left side. If you are left-handed, you can even reverse this and breathe down your left side and up your right.
Continue to circle around for at least another two breaths and notice the profound effect this has on your thoughts and feelings and how it grounds you in your body.
The Self-Remembering Series – 04 Mindful Looking Listening & Smelling
We normally exist in a state of passive awareness. When our eyes are open, the photoreceptors in the back are continually absorbing rays of light; the tiny hairs in our inner ear are continually absorbing sound waves; the smell receptors in our nose are continually absorbing molecules from the air - we are just not usually aware of this.
It is like we are blind, deaf and dumb to the myriad of sights, sounds and smells that our brain is constantly ‘feeding on' each moment. It is only when we stop being 'passively' aware and become 'actively' aware, that we start to wake-up to world around us. Everything else is slumbering.
When we become Mindful of what we can see, hear and smell, it is as if the act of making an effort to be aware sends out an energy to meet these sights, sounds and smells. This is easiest to notice with hearing. So try to focus on a specific sound you can hear right now and notice how it is almost seems like something within you seems to reach out to that sound. This is 'active' rather than 'passive' awareness.
Self-Sensing, the subject of the first three recordings is a skill you have to master. However Self-Sensing really belongs in second position. To properly Self-Remember, Self-Sensing has to be ‘passive’.
Looking, listening and smelling must come first, that is, they must be in the ‘active’ position.
This is why I represent the proper form and sequence for basic Self-Remembering with the formula; “consciously looking, listening and smelling, while also sensing the body as one organic whole.”
This exercise was not inspired by anyone. I started with the idea that recordings could serve as training wheels to help us develop our ability to be Mindful. Then I simply reversed-engineered what I had being doing for 30 years. And after months of recording and then tweaking, finding what worked and didn’t work for me and further refining, this is the end result.
It works as text on a screen and a Youtube video, though you really should download this Inner Exercise as an mp3 recording, load it on your phone or mp3 player: then go for a walk, catch a bus, sit under a tree. And put this training wheel on.
If you are a normal person and you ‘actively’ listen to this, not only will it be the ten most Mindful minutes of your whole day, something of this energy will linger and help you double the number of moments of Mindfulness you experience in the rest of your day. Maybe even triple them.
The Self-Remembering Series – 05 Mindful Perceptual Exercises
When I was in a Gurdjieff group we did a quick pre-exercise exercise where we looked up at the roof of our vision and then circled clockwise around the edges of our vision three times. When creating this series I realized we could also do this a number of different ways and not just with our sense of sight.
Even when we are Mindfully perceiving the world around us, we are not normally Mindful of depth, perspective and the edges of seeing, hearing and smelling. I have listened to this one more than any other the other recordings in this series, because I know that even when I am being Mindful, it is easy to forget I can never really see, hear or smell the world.
I know we can never really see the redness of an apple, or hear the sound of our teeth biting into an apple, or smell the scent of an apple. At least not as objective events.
Light-waves hit the photoreceptors in our eyes and are converted into electrical signals. So when we see red, we are not really seeing red, as anyone who is colourblind can attest. We are merely perceiving the electrical signals which arise from the light-waves our eyes are able to receive and our brains are capable of interpreting. Anythin else is lost.
Our eyes, ears and nose are incapable of perceiving the full spectrum of reality. We do not have the vision of an eagle, or the sense of hearing and smell of a dog. So hopefully this exercise will also make us more aware of own organs of perception and their limitations. More aware of the role played by the photoreceptors in our eyes, the tiny hairs in our ears, and the olfactory receptors in our nose. More aware of the edges of our perceptions.
And for your own safety only listen to this recording when you are sitting or lying down in a place where it is safe for you to go into a deep meditative state.
The Self-Remembering Series – 06 Mindful Self-Remembering The First Variation
If you have listening to all of the previous recordings in this series, you will have already practiced all the skills involved in basic Self-Remembering. All that is left is to put them together.
Self-Remembering is an advanced form of Mindfulness. According to the Gurdjieff Teachings it is the most profound and transformative Inner Exercise a normal person can practice. It would take a book to explain all of the reasons why this is so.
Normal Mindfulness involves a one-pointed focus of awareness, such as becoming Mindful of the sensation of our body, or Mindful of what we can see or hear or smell. While Self-Remembering involves simultaneously dividing our attention in two: such as between our thoughts and sensations, our feeling and sensations, or, as we teach in these Inner Exercises (which is by far the most important form) between our external perceptions and internal sensations; or 'consciously looking, listening and smelling while sensing our body as one organic whole.'
There is a proper 'form and sequence' that must be followed to achieve the right results. Mr. Gurdjieff talked about the need to work with polarities; with 'positive' and 'negative', 'affirming' and 'denying', 'active' and 'passive'. Something that is encapsulated in basic Self-Remembering.
Here our perceptions must be 'active', while our sensations must be 'passive' (so they become like positive and negative poles; and it is the friction between the two that creates a highly refined substance within us that leads to what the ancient alchemists meant when they used the metaphor of transforming lead into gold).
This is why it is absolutely necessary to first master Self-Sensing. And to do this requires us to first learn Self-Sensing in the 'active' position (something we have done in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th recordings of this series), so that when the time comes to learn how to Self-Remember, Self-Sensing is easily able to slip into the 'passive' role or second position.
This is highlighted by the word 'while' in our formula for Self-Remembering: 'Consciously looking, listening and smelling WHILE sensing our body as one organic whole.'
The Self-Remembering Series – 07 Mindful Self-Remembering The Second Variation
The first variation involves taking all of the separate pieces involved in basic Self-Remembering and stacking them together one-by-one and building up to Self-Remembering. This does the same, though in a slightly more balanced way, because it starts by alternating between seeing and sensing, hearing and sensing, and smelling and sensing, until we put it all together and begin simultaneously dividing our awareness between perceiving and sensing.
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