S4/E13: A Meeting of Remarkable Men - Part One
Published September 23rd, 2021
A Meeting of Remarkable Men - Part One
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 the first half of a dialogue between Russell and five of his students, which took place in a recent Zoom call, wherein each student reported their understanding about some facet of the work.
It includes the Three-Fold Attention exercise, creating reminding factors, the DOGTALE “Understanding trumps Knowledge,” the Five Obligolnian Strivings, assisting octaves, and sleep.
Russell: Good Morning guys.
Students: Hi Russ
Jerry: We all had topics. So, let’s dive into them.
Bruce: I’ll go first.
I chose the topic, describe and discuss an exercise, or open a discussion on it, and the exercise that I chose was the three-fold attention exercise. So I will start with a basic description of what you do.
What one does, and I guess I will say I do this most often when my wife and I have a joint meditation session once a week, and often there will be soft meditation music playing in the background, and she will be doing her meditation and I will do my Three-Fold Attention exercise. I sit down and close my eyes and begin to count my breath, and I like to do it 1 on the in-breath and 1 on the out-breath, 2 on the in-breath and 2 on the out-breath. In the instructions, you can also go 1 on the in-breath, 2 on the out-breath, or reverse of that, but I kind of like to double count. So I quietly establish the count and, after a little while, by the 20th count or so, I pretty much feel like I have the counting of my breaths locked in, then I begin listening to sounds; and, when I do it by myself and it is quiet, then I am listening to my breath, that is the main thing I listen to; now if there is traffic, or someone is talking outside, or something, I will listen to that, and if there is music in the background, I will listen to that. So, that is the counting of the rhythm of my breaths and the sensing of listening. Then, when they are locked in, I go into gratitude, which is usually the emotion I focus on, and it is so easy to do. There is a lot that I have to be thankful for.
So now I have three separate attentions: the counting is continuing, the listening is continuing, and there is the gratitude. Though I have to say that the gratitude, for me, is kind of like a drone, just a humming in the background. I don’t want it to be “oh, I am grateful for this, and I am grateful for that” because that is thinking, and I think that brings in intellect. And I want to kind of keep it emotional, because I find if I do those three, there is no room for thought, there is just no room; I am fully engaged.
With a 20 minute meditation, I get to a count of about 300 and then I kind of close in as the music is ending and become unified, just kind of bring them all together; these 3 separate attentions, bring them all together. It feels irradiant, I connect with my ‘higher’ in a substantial way. My ‘higher’ is right there with me. It is kind of like, visualize, and boom; “I am unified.”
I say that to myself afterwards.
Then, what will happen is I am in sort of a ‘pick-a-center’ mode, but I am picking all three centers at the same time: I am doing the moving, I am doing the sensing, and I am doing the emotion; wow. I am doing them all at the same time, and I don’t want that to dissipate; instead, I want to make use of it. So, I do, and maintain that state for quite some time.
Well, that is my version of the three-fold attention exercise.
Jerry: Thanks. That was delightful. It reminded me of my first contact with THEDOG, I asked if I could get into the Archive and Russell said, “No, it was just for students; but you are welcome to come and study with me in Sanger and become a student if you wish. In the meantime, here is an exercise that you can do while you are deciding,” and he gave me the three-fold attention exercise. I read it and said, nah, there is no way I am going to be able to do that. Rick had a similar experience; we were both shaking our heads. However, the instructions were very clear, so I tried it, and it worked.
Before that, I hadn’t gotten a result from an exercise in many many years. So, getting results from a work exercise was oh, my God, maybe this Russell guy does have something.
Russell: Isn’t it amazing, how, at first, we think we can’t do something, and then, when we actually try it, we realize that we can; and … that it works!
Rick: Yeah, that was a real shock.
Jerry: Well, after 40-something years of doing lots of different kinds of exercises and getting minimal results you get a little skeptical.
Russell: I agree. What is supposed to happen when you do the sittings anyway, or the Ablutions? I never could figure them out.
Jerry: What are Ablutions?
Russell: Oh, man, you haven’t heard of Ablutions? You get up in the morning and you throw cold water on your ‘private’ area!
All students: [Laughter]
Russell: What is that for?
Jerry: No, I never heard of Ablutions.
Russell: Wow. When I was researching publishers for Cosmic Secrets, I visited a Fourth Way school in Oregon where they did Ablutions, so I assumed it was a Gudjieff thing and that every Gurdjieff group did, afterall the teacher there studied with him.
Strange practice. I tried it, but, oh, my God!
Okay, moving on. My topic was how to remind yourself to do the work.
I suppose the predicate to that is you must first want to do the work, which comes before the need of reminding yourself to do it. But, once you decide you want to do it, it is very important to set up reminding factors, because we are so engaged in life, we forget.
Of course, if you are in a group you have help, because you are under the influence of second line work. Or if you are in a school, you may be doing something for the school and are under third line work.
To do it apart from that, when you are just on your own, how do you remember to do it? Well, again, first of all, you have to want to do the work; if you don’t want to do it, you are not going to do anything. But if you want to do the work, it is simple just a matter of setting up reminding factors.
For me, it was post-it notes. I could put up post-it notes around the house, around the place where I lived, so that when I opened the cupboard door I would find a post-it note that said, “Remember yourself,” … oh, my God, thank you, thank you, thank you, I had forgotten. Or, “Pick a center!” Oh, yeah, that’s right, let me do that.
So all I had to do was buy some post-it notes and run around the house and stick them up everywhere, you know, 20 or so of them, and that didn’t take me much time at all. And, afterwards, I was inundated with a plethora of reminding factors.
I had a student in Dallas say, “That sounds great Russ, what else can I do when I am out and about in life and I don’t have my post-it notes?” I said, “Well, do you wear a watch?” He said, “Yeah.” So I said, “Okay, take your watch off and put it on your other arm. Then, every time you go to look at the time, on the arm you normally wear it on, and not find your watch, you will remember why it is on the other arm! You put it there as a reminding factor.” He said, “What a great idea.” So he took his watch off and put it on his other arm. And I said, “But now you have another problem. Tonight, when you get ready to go to bed and take your watch off, you are going to put it where you always put it, and then tomorrow, when you put it on, you are going to put it on the arm where you always put it, and you will no longer have a reminding factor. So when you get home, you are going to have to run into your bedroom and go to the place where you normally put your watch, and put a post-it note in the place where you normally put it that says, “Don’t put your watch here!” So, you will remember to put it somewhere else. Then tomorrow, when you go to put on your watch and it is not where you normally put it, you will remember why you put it somewhere else … and then you will be reminded to put it on the wrong arm.
But how are you going to remember, when you get home, to run into the bedroom and affix the post-it note?
Then, I went through several examples of how if he doesn’t make reminders to remind himself to do what he is supposed to do which reminds himself to do it, it won’t get done.
We had a hoot of a laugh talking about all the things that he would have to do to remind himself to do the next thing that he has to do.
So, we need to have reminders. It is easy to set up reminding factors. Just put up post-it notes all around the house. It takes only a few seconds. Or you can do other things. It can be as simple as just moving your coffee and sugar containers to different places, swap them out, put them the other way around, so that when you see them that way, you will be reminded. Do whatever you can.
What is in front of you right now? What is on your desk in front of your computer screen which is always there, put it somewhere else, change something, move something, adjust something; so when you go to grab it, and it is not where you usually have it, you will remember why it isn’t. At least I hope you will, and you will go, oh, that’s right, I moved it over there because I wanted to have a reminder.
Because all we need are reminders.
The difficulty is not in remembering yourself, the difficulty is in remembering to remember yourself, and to do that, you need to have reminding factors.
So, that was my topic.
Jerry: One of the best reminding factors for me is my wife! She never puts things back where I think they belong!
Russell: And normally, does that miff you a little bit?
Jerry: Oh yes, absolutely.
Russell: Well now you can say, “Oh, thank God, I have a built-in creator of reminding factors!”
Russell: A disturber of the domain, which will cause me to remember myself. How wonderful is that!
Jerry: It’s absolutely wonderful. And it happens all the time. All the time. In that regard we are sort of like Jack Sprat who could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean, and so between them both, you see, they licked the platter clean.
She messes things up, and I tidy things up, and everybody is happy!
Russell: Terrific. If you have a neighbor who has dandelions in his yard, you might be upset that those dandelions will migrate into your yard. But then you would not have that reminding factor hit you in the face every time you walked out the front door.
I say, “Let your irritations be your reminders.”
Bob: That’s a good one.
Bill: That could be a DOGTALE.
Jerry: Okay, who’s next?
Bill: I can do my topic. I chose to explicate a DOGTALE. I found the one I wanted to talk about in the weekly podcasts, so it came with an explanation. Lucky me!
It is, “Understanding trumps knowledge.” My first observation is, I think somewhere in our books there is a definition of understanding, which is having knowledge about the same subject in more than just one center.
That made a bit of sense to me, but then I wanted to go further. So my thoughts about it are, in my experience, knowledge comes in chunks, it doesn’t come in one consolidated piece. So, chunks of knowledge about things that are not connected evoke understanding ... if you find a way to connect those chunks, that is, weld them together, at least partially.
I have a practical example: in my business, we often replace heating boilers. The success in replacing a heating boiler depends on you having a little knowledge about the system that you are installing it in, because systems are different and you have to do it a different way according to what’s already existing there.
In a recent boiler replacement job, my employee was having a heck of a time getting the system to work, so I went out to help - the old pro is going to go out there and show him how to do it.
I found it interesting that I considered myself to be the old pro, but I haven’t been actively out there doing it for 15 years; and, over that time, everything has changed. Well, not everything, but, inevitably, I have to relearn things when I go out to do something.
On this particular job, the old system had been modified several times, and the individual components that they used, which now had to mesh with the new components that we were installing, befuddled me. I could not quite see how they would fit together. So, I had these chunks of knowledge, these parts that I understood. And the thing was to figure out how to make them work together, and I couldn’t do it. I spent about 2 hours trying to work it all out. I put one of the chunks in my brain and then tried to add another chunk, but I couldn’t hold them both at the same time. So I went home and I thought about it. When I came back the next day, the same thing happened, I couldn’t get a mental model of the complete system. So I found an excuse, went home again, and thought about it some more. Then, the next day when I came back, it went boom, boom, boom, and all went together nicely.
I figured that there wasn’t enough time for me to grow new neurons, so instead, I had to train the existing neurons to come together and figure it out. As such, I thought I would characterize this retraining of neurons as a stage of being. I think it has to be, and it goes back to “understanding trumps knowledge,” where you can have knowledge of something and then add new knowledge but it doesn’t necessarily change your being; but, getting understanding does.
So, that is my understanding of why “understanding trumps knowledge.”
Russell: Terrific. Certainly, a fascinating study and I think you nailed it on the head with your example. Knowledge is the truth you have, and understanding is its integration.
Bob: My topic was the Five Obligolnian-Strivings.
But I cheated. I cheated all week. I asked about them at every meeting I attended. I wanted some insights, and got bunches of responses. So, my work was done for me by you guys! Thank you. You know Russell’s DOGTALE, “Only a fool doesn’t take advantage of help that’s available?” Well, I took advantage of that. So, anyway, those gatherings brought up so many wonderful observations on the purpose, the function, and the rightness of the strivings, that it made for a great week. I learned a lot, even though I thought I knew what I was doing with those. It was really good.
Let’s see if I can pick something out. Oh, you know the other thing it did for me was get me reading Beelzebubs, which I have sitting next to my bed. But since I am down in Seaside and didn’t have the book, I had to reference an online version.
I had jotted down some page numbers when I read the book at home, which had some pertinent information, but of course, in the online version, those weren’t the right pages. So I skimmed, I don’t know, half of the book, and went, huh, there is a lot of good stuff in here. So part of my research was digging around for the stuff I had been reading, and, as I did, I found a lot of other good stuff; you know, like we have all experienced when going back over things. So much more which lights up the brain.
Before, when I read Beelzebub’s, I would get caught in all the funny words. Now, it’s like, oh, that’s good, that’s really good; so, anyways, that was absolutely fabulous.
The one thing I came up with that I really liked, which was late in the book, was, “The highest aim and sense of human life is the striving to attain the welfare of one’s neighbor, and that this is possible exclusively only by the conscious renunciation of one’s own,” which seemed to pretty much summarize the strivings.
Bruce: Are you saying that covers all 5 strivings?
Bob: No, certainly not all of them, probably not the first three, maybe two & a-half? But yeah, yeah, if you are having strivings, and if this is the highest aim and sense of human life, then the strivings would be pointing to this, I think, or the other way around, that this would be pointing to the strivings.
Anyway, it was a great week: the men’s group, the Friday group, the Wednesday group; everybody had informative stuff to say. So, thank you all, it was a great exercise for me.
One thing I particularly liked was when Rick referred to Russell’s food diagram as a model of paying for one’s arising and individuality. I really liked that a lot. That gave me something concrete to aim for.
The other one was when we discussed the second striving, and asked, “Where do we get the constant and unflagging need for self-perfection from,” and Russell mentioned that it was probably from the difficulties we faced when we were growing up, or the realization that we are not what we imagine ourselves to be; and as such, we get the idea that we need to change something. I suppose, not everybody gets that, but that was a good one for me.
I guess the only striving we didn’t hit too hard was the fifth striving, but that one makes a lot of sense to me on its own. I guess it was when one of the students was talking about octopuses and how smart they are. Maybe they or another species will be the one that we can help wake up and acquire reason. I like that idea. Well, that’s it. I don’t have anything else, really, which struck me as being reportable.
Russell: That was great.
Bob: It was my pleasure, believe me.
Jerry: After last week, I chose to do some more on identification, and I sat down to make some notes, and a voice popped off in my head saying, you’ve got some things to say about assisting octaves, so why don’t you speak about assisting octaves instead.
So, I am going to speak about assisting octaves, and I didn’t write anything down, so this is going to be interesting. One of my dreams, when I first encountered the Fourth Way, was, I fell in love with the symbol of the Enneagram, and it was my dream to one day understand that symbol, it just struck me as being incredibly beautiful.
A little funny sidenote, when I encountered Russ’ diatonic Enneagram, it wasn’t as symmetrical and it wasn’t as beautiful and I was ready to dump the whole thing, but fortunately I had my climbing buddy Rick around, who talked me out of it.
Okay, so we have this idea from Cosmic Secrets of how a process goes from its beginning to its completion. And when we use the language completion, it occurred to me that we were talking about a scale-zero octave and not about a scale-1 octave that doubles and halves, so I am actually going to start with the third assisting octave and the Ti-Do interval, the intentionally-actualized-Mdnel-In, where the top Do reaches down to Ti and pulls it to completion.
This is something I have been noticing a lot lately. One of the things I started doing on a regular basis is making the bed, which I have seldom done, and I find it to be a joyful activity; and, one of the things I have become present to is that the cycle of the bed is completed when I make it in the morning. In the past, those kinds of daily chores would just be ‘chores,’ but I now recognize that making the bed, restoring it to its beginning state, completes the cycle.
The other activity I have been engaged in where I notice this assisting octave is doing the cooking, and afterwards, cleaning the kitchen, which I also seldom ever did, in which, I now find a tremendous amount of satisfaction. That is, after preparing a meal, I am able to restore the kitchen back to the place where it started.
We will talk about the other two assisting octaves next, but I wanted to bring up the third assisting octave first, and discuss how restoration fills the interval between Ti and Do.
That ends this question-and-answer session.
Thank you for listening.
Tune in next week to hear more of their discussions.
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Goodbye until next time.