S4/E15: The 51% solution
Published October 7th, 2021
The 51% solution
Welcome to a series of talks about objective consciousness, an objective universe, and an objective way to awaken, expanding upon the works of George I. Gurdjieff and Russell A. Smith.
Continuing our talks on Work questions and answers, in this podcast we will narrate a dialogue between Russell and one of his students about stopping thoughts, the Work invading one’s dreams, identifying parts of the Instinctive Center, a blessing and a curse, and tips on memorization.
Russell: Good Evening, and how are you doing today?
Student: I am great!
My work is wonderful.
The only snag I observed was when I was trying to stop thoughts. It occurred to me that one of the questions I wanted to ask you was how to better stop thoughts, I am not sure if I am doing it properly.
I noticed that when I tried to stop them, there was a stopping of breath, which did seem to stop thoughts, or at least slow them down a little bit, however, as soon as I needed to breathe, or I saw an object outside, I labeled the object and that started me thinking.
Russell: Many people experience that.
At first, stopping thoughts is really about occupying the place with just one thought, holding one thing in there so nothing else gets in, and therefore, you have stopped the incessant flow of other things getting in.
Remember, associations go on continuously in every center from the moment that you are born until the moment you die. Without them, we would not survive. And as such, there is a constant competition coming from every center to push its associations to the forefront and have the machine give them their due: I want to eat, I want to scratch, I want to dance … or whatever the impression is. Every impression is trying to occupy the place.
It is possible to stop them for a time, but at first, just try to hold the place captive with one thought, and as such, you will be able to at least stop the incessant flow of the other thoughts.
Try to hold the idea, “I don’t want to think about anything,” and keep everything else out.
Student: Yes, I will try that.
Russell: In your attempt to occupy the place so that nothing else gets in, you may have to keep repeating, “I don’t want to think about anything, I don’t want to think about anything,” and focus so much on that, that you are able to keep everything else out, even the thought that you are saying, “I don’t want to think about anything.”
It takes great force, but start there. Try to hold just one thought.
Remember how we got instructions from Ouspensky about looking at the second hand of a watch and trying to just follow the second hand and only think about one thing, “I am sitting here following the second hand.” It is the same thing; and as such, you keep all other thoughts from entering, except the one that you are watching the second hand go around.
However, when your Steward becomes present, you will find that stopping thoughts is not that hard to do. Or I should say, that when you stop labeling things, the flow of associations that follow, will also stop.
Student: I will try that. Thank you.
Russell: Okay. Did you start your puzzle yet?
Student: No. The puzzle I had was 1200 pieces; and today, I went back to the store and bought one with only 100 pieces. Tonight, I will start with that.
Russell: That’s probably better.
I have a question about how to begin to observe my Instinctive Center while performing the lying still for an hour exercise in order to identify the cards in the Instinctive Center. As well as the fact that, apparently at night, my formatory apparatus is not disconnected from the other centers because I hear Work language going on in my head. It is not bothersome, I just wondered what that meant, or how to either observe it, connect with it, or utilize the Work talk. Is the intellectual function not separated from the other parts?
Russell: I will start with that question.
Firstly, do not label it as “the intellectual function.” It is just one center observing another center.
Student: Alright. Just one center observing another. Thus, one center is observing the Intellectual Center because it hears it chattering.
Russell: Well, see, there is the dilemma. We think that the Intellectual Center is the only center that can think. Whereas, many thoughts come from the Moving Center. That is why when you can’t remember someone’s phone number or how to spell a word, you grab a notepad and try writing it out, maybe the Moving Center will remember it. More often than not, stored memories are in your moving center, or in one of the parts of your Moving Center.
The good news is, since you are beginning to have dreams that contain Work ideas, the Work is starting to penetrate your sleep.
If you were a movie critic, I would suspect that your dreams would be movies. That is, wherever your center of gravity is, is most likely what will be in your dreams.
Russell: Dreams contain associations, which constantly flow like a river in every one of your centers. You don’t notice them when you are awake because one center is holding the place captive, but when you go to sleep and start to disconnect, those associations get perceived,
Student: That is what it was like. It was like a river of words flowing by.
Student: I noticed that sometimes there would be short thoughts about the Work, and other times there would be lengthy thoughts about the Work.
Russell: Indeed. Tonight, you may find yourself having a dream connected to something which happened in your past.
Dreams are random. There is no rhyme or reason to them; other than they most likely contain what permeates you.
Student: I got it. So having Work material in them, is a good thing.
Russell: Yes, indeed. It is a very good thing.
I will share this idea with you (formulated, by me, many years ago).
I once realized that if I occupied myself with the Work more than I occupied myself with life, the Work would eventually win.
It began with sayings like, "As a man thinketh so is he." And, "You are what you eat," etc.
So I decided that I needed to invest 51% of the 16 hours I was awake (8 hours and 10 min) in the Work and in Work ideas: in exercises, in reading, in observing myself, in memory Work, and so forth ... and, if I did that, then the Work would win, and I would become the Work.
But then I realized that during the 8 hours I was sleeping, associations still went on ... and most of them were not about the Work, but were just random gunk from life.
Therefore, I would need to spend 12 hours and 24 minutes actively engaged in 4th way stuff - in order to counteract the 8 hours of sleep that was most likely filled with random non-4th way stuff.
So I got on with the cure.
I knew that if I worked hard and worked a lot, eventually my dreams would shift from being about random stuff to being about Work stuff, and then, even in my sleep, I would be working on myself.
And when that finally occurred, I was able to get my daytime efforts of working on myself down to just 4 hours and 24 minutes, and was still ahead of the 51% rule.
So, I worked like a crazy man from the time I got up until the time I went to bed.
Soon, everything was defined by aphorisms, book text ideas, octaves, octave' math, enneagrams, and the Fibonacci numbers, etc.
I was constantly observing myself and remembering myself.
That volume of effort changed me; and, miraculously, I awoke.
Then even more of my day was filled with Work ideas.
Next, Master appeared. And soon thereafter, I had never ending dreams about 4th way stuff, and was pretty confident that the rest of my thoughts while sleeping were also about the Work.
Student: Yes, I do.
Russell: Now ... you do not have to go “all in” like I did. You just need to put in a few more minutes of work tomorrow than you put in today ... and soon, the Work will be permeating your dreams, just like it is already beginning to do.
Student: That is terrific Russ, and it makes so much sense.
Work on yourself, even when you are sleeping, what a concept!
Russell: Okay. Now, I will address how to identify the parts of your Instinctive Center when you are lying still for an hour.
Firstly, you acknowledge there are three parts of your Instinctive Center: one that works with no attention, one that works with drawn attention, and one that works with controlled attention.
Then when you are doing the exercise, you observe which parts have one of those attentions.
There is a part of you that senses you laying on the bed; it feels your weight, the air blowing from the fan, or the cold or heat coming through the window. It also notices smells and sounds.
It brings many sensations to the forefront; and as such, you will be able to see what is in your Queen of Diamonds, in the part that functions when sensations are drawn.
Next, put your attention on things that happen in your Jack of Diamonds; that is, on things that happen automatically without any attention. For example: breathing is going on, digestive processes are going on, the circulation of blood is going on, and you are making blood cells in your bones. All of which happen without any attention on your part as to making them happen; and, when you discover them, do not try to control them, just try to observe them.
Student: So one of the areas of intentional observation should be to have a sense of the blood flowing through my veins?
Russell: That is correct.
As well as the functioning of your autonomic, parasympathetic, and sympathetic nervous systems.
In other words, right now you are digesting food, it might be yesterday’s food, but it is still going through the digestive process. There are villi in the small intestine’s that are taking out nutrients as we speak.
It is good that these things happen within us without our attention, but it is also good that, every once in a while, we come into contact with the miraculous part of ourselves that does these things without our attention; and, can do them perfectly.
One of the reasons why they work so perfectly, is because, we are a system that has been perfecting itself for billions of years, and as such, those functions got pushed down very low and have become automatic.
Remember, everything started in higher parts of centers, and then over time they got pushed down to lower parts.
Even if you learned to play the Piccolo, after a time, the playing of the Piccolo would get pushed down to where you could do it without paying any attention to it. That is, you could be thinking about what you are going to have for dinner and still be playing the Piccolo.
It is good that Mother Nature has designed life to where whatever it acquires gets pushed down into mechanical parts. So that, in the morning, we do not have to, once again, learn how to walk.
But, this blessing is also a curse, because our higher nature needs to be pushed up, not down. That is, in order for us to ascend, we have to intentionally go against Mother Nature and push things back towards the top.
That is why we have to bring attention and do the opposite of what Mother Nature wants to do, which is make things mechanical as soon as possible, so that the newborn foal gets up on its hoofs, almost immediately, and starts a-running.
Student: Wow, that is an awesome explanation of what Gurdjieff meant when he said that our journey was against nature. Thank you.
Russell: So, for life, it is good that Mother Nature works the way she does, but for us, it is not so good. Our awakening cannot be automatic. We must bring attention to that which has become mechanical. Only then will we be able to unify our three lower centers into one, and awaken ... because it is impossible to unify automatic parts.
Student: Umm Hmm. I see that very clearly now.
Russell: Wonderful. So when you do the ‘lying still for an hour exercise,’ try to recognize that there are three levels of attention in your instinctive center: one that happens with no attention, one that happens with drawn attention, and one that can happen with controlled attention.
Then you will be able to resist the part of you that is brought forward when you feel an itch, and say, “No, I am not going to scratch you.”
In fact, you may find that when you say “Go ahead and itch,” the itch will go away.
Student: Yes, I have noticed that.
That is a good marker for attention.
Russell: No, thank you.
Okay, how was your state today?
Student: Well, I actually had quite a bit of emotion today, and there was quite a bit of joy. Yesterday and the day before, it was rather dry. But today, when I performed the I-Am Exercise there were waves of emotion, which came to the surface, and I felt such joy. I was closer to myself than I have been in a long time.
When I woke up this morning, I said, “Let this be a glorious day,” and placed more attention on making conscious efforts.
Russell: That’s exciting!
Student: Yes it is. So I am in a good place.
I hope the pendulum keeps swinging in that direction.
Russell: I am confident that it will, as you have already shown that you possess the ability to control the direction of its swing.
Student: Yes, I have noticed that.
Russell: If someone comes over to your house and tells you that you are a horrible mother; you have the ability to either allow that impression or not to allow that impression.
Student: I sure do.
Russell: And if someone comes over and says that you are a wonderful mother: caring, compassionate, and a kind individual; you also have the ability to not get too enamored by those impressions.
Student: Yeah! I do.
Russell: Because of that, you should be able to maintain balance.
Student: In the case of the joy; is it okay to feel the joy?
Being in balance means being impartial to the world, not indifferent.
Student: Okay. I will allow myself to feel the joy.
Student: I also wanted to share this with you: I told you about the man who I lived with for a period of time that I had not seen since last year. Well, I saw him on Friday, and when I did, I was able to have a conversation with him and maintain my center of gravity.
Student: And I was able to sincerely say that I wished him well.
Russell: That’s exciting.
Student: Yes it is.
On another topic, regarding memorization: I saw how my memory work allowed me to occupy the place.
Something occurred that wanted to take over my thoughts, but instead, I started reciting what I had memorized so far and was able to keep that something out until it dissipated.
Russell: That is terrific. The only way a thought can get in, is if you allow it to get in. It is very helpful to have many things memorized, valuable things, things that have weight.
Student: Yes, it was terrific, and I will work on that.
Russell: Excellent. Keep up your efforts. Keep up your reading. Keep up your memorization, until you get it down to where you can read it off the back of your forehead, just like you are reading it off a page in the book. Then, nothing will be able to occupy you ... but you.
Student: I have already noticed that. It is beginning to happen.
Russell: What else, any other questions?
Student: Just one. Do you have any tips on memorizing stuff?
Russell: I think I can find some for you.
If you have a cassette or digital recorder, it would be very helpful to recite your memory work into the recorder, and then go back and follow along in the book, and say, “Oh look, I inserted a word there.” And, by knowing that you did, you will be able to avoid doing that in the future.
Student: Ah, I get it. Record it on the tape from memory, so that later I can listen to the tape and follow along in the book, so that my eyes see the correct words, and my ears hear any mistakes or hesitations that are made; and as such, I will know where they are and where I made them, and can go back and polish those parts and places.
What a great idea.
Russell: Yes, and what will happen is this: the next time you do it from memory, you will remember those parts and places; remember where you made a mistake or hesitated because you were not certain of what came next. And as such, you will be reminded to do it correctly. Then you will be able to say, “Ah, it’s ‘those’ instead of ‘these,’ or it’s ‘illusion’ instead of ‘illusions,’ or whatever the error may have been.
Student: Awesome. I will get out my recorder as soon as we are done and record what I have memorized so far.
Russell: That is fantastic.
Another good technique: don’t try to say it too soon from memory. Instead, read it aloud, tape record it, and keep your eyes on exactly what is there, because one of the biggest mistakes people make in memorizing, is that they take their eyes off what is being memorized, and as such, they start to insert what they imagine it to be; and thus, insert things that are incorrect.
Student: I have done that many times.
When I was trying to learn Spanish, that was probably my biggest failure.
Russell: Yes, that is the way it is. We read the first line ... and then we immediately take our eyes off the page and try to say it from memory; and we don’t even have it memorized yet. We start to guess; and, when we do, we guess wrong. Or, as Gurdjieff said, we put blue in the place of red, and then, when we recite it, blue slips out instead of red.
So let’s be intelligent and say, “I am not going to take my eyes off the page until it is memorized. I am going to keep reading it and reading it and reading it, and going over it and over it and over it and never guess, so that I will not put wrong things in place of right things.
I will use all the tools I have: I will read it aloud, so that my ears hear it correctly, my mouth says it correctly, and my eyes see it correctly; I will even change inflections and the pauses.
I will read it sitting down and standing up, while walking, skipping, and running; that way it will be memorized in every posture.
So shall it be done.”
Student: Wow, that is much better than trying to drive it only into the Intellectual Center.
Thank you for sharing that.
Russell: You are welcome.
Student: Okay, that is what I shall do. And, because of that, I am now certain that I will have it memorized perfectly in no time.
Student: I can’t wait to start.
Never having to guess will make memorizing very easy.
In addition, I will start every day with an exercise.
Russell: That’s terrific.
May I suggest that the next time you do the I-Am exercise and don’t feel emotion, that you reverse the process - with all the force you can muster - and say I-Am not. I bet that will make you emotional!
Student: [Laughing] Yes it will. It most certainly will. I have been on that edge before.
Thank you, Russ, for your time.
Russell: You are most welcome.
I am always here for you. I am always here to listen to your questions and your difficulties, and maybe, even offer some sound advice.
If you keep doing the things you have been doing, nothing will stop you from awakening higher centers.
It is not a miracle. It’s not a mystery. It is just a matter of simple efforts. With simple efforts, on the right things; and, with the right understanding, men can change … and, the good news for you is, women can change too!
Student: [laughter] Thank goodness! Yeah, of that I have no doubt.
Well, we will speak again next Thursday.
Russell: Have a wonderful class on Wednesday, and keep up your super efforts. And, when you can push, push; and when you can’t push, pause. Intentionally take your pauses … and then go smell your flowers.
Student: Okay, I will.
Pushes and pauses, I like that.
My love to all.
That ends this question-and-answer session.
Thank you for listening.
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Goodbye until next time.