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Ouspensky Foundation
updated till: 6-dec-01

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Exercise File


Doing exercises is the only way to experience the teaching. An exercise done with all your attention will bring you into 'here and now'.

G.I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949) described ordinary man as a completely mechanical creature: reacting to a never-ending succession of impulses either from himself or from the environment, having no choice whatsoever. He saw that people consider the phenomenon of 'consciousness' the most desirable in their lives. Gurdjieff called 'consciousness' a possibility for man. In other words, man needs to work for it, it does not happen by itself. For mechanicality, you do not need to do anything: that is a fact.

Consciousness or being awake always conflicts with mechanicality. The struggle can be felt as a resistance in yourself: often you just do not feel like making any kind of conscious effort, unless you really have to. Being awake is attractive and actually very common. It is the feeling that you live consciously, make choices, have your experiences directly and fully in the moment itself, and therefore enjoy yourself. You would say: everybody wants this, who doesn't?

Well..., facts show that from a certain point in their lives, most people slowly but surely fall asleep, live their lives more and more mechanically and only wake up for a short moment in the hour of their death (text: I am [was] alive!). Gradually, life's quality is going downhill. You can see that people are trying to solve problems they experience precisely because they are not awake. This can go on for a long time, experiencing problems constantly, never being able to solve them and so never enjoying yourself. What's more, it is very tiring. Mechanicality is maintained this way: that is a fact.

Actually, we are all of us more or less like this. If you do not want to put up with the low-quality option of not being awake, sensible people (Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, & co.) advise you to make conscious efforts to neutralise your mechanical tendencies. Endless series of highly interesting exercises have been devised for this you never feel like doing. That is a fact. This mainly reveals itself in that you simply forget about them.

The exercises on this web page are quite neutral. Exercises with greater psychological impact or greater spiritual subtlety are not suitable for publication on a website and are therefore passed on orally only.

The exercise used by the Foundation this month can be found on this month's exercise.

- Try to tolerate a characteristic of a person who annoys you immensely.
- Be aware of the fact that those things that you find annoying about other people are the things you are still struggling with yourself. Things you have overcome will only result in compassion.
- Taste the food you are eating with all your attention.
- Listen to the sound of the voice of the person talking to you. Do not try to understand (catch) the words.
- Listen to the silence, the intervals between the words or the notes of the music.
- Direct all your attention at the work surface. The work surface is the surface between the instrument you are using and the object you work on, e.g. the surface between the sandpaper and the windowsill, or the space between the saw and the beam.
- Listen to music and observe where in the body the music is heard. Observe the differences between the physical perceptions of rhythm, of melody and harmony.
- See life as a game in which all roles are equal.
- Observe one of your roles and try to unmask the identification.
- Ban excessive arranging and fixing, and have faith that the right solution is always within reach.
- As soon as you notice a prejudice coming up, let go of it immediately.
- Really close activities by letting go of them / by completely coming to yourself. Practice with telephone calls. Start the next activity with a clean mind.
- Stop unnecessary talking. If you notice the other person is not listening, stop immediately. If you catch yourself singing your standard tune, stop immediately.
- Do not waste energy by excessive exertions: screwing the cap of the toothpaste too tight, ditto for the lid of the jar of peanut butter, slamming the door, a too heavy touch on your keyboard, etc., etc. In short, have a sense of measure!
- Observe the functioning of the three centres in your daily work. What belongs to the head? What belongs to the heart? What belongs to the belly? Observe how each centre functions by seeing it while it happens. Everyone has to discover for himself his own way of functioning and his own falsity, so that this can be purified.
- Watch your movements without intervening. Under an observing eye, which does not intervene, we can discern the right measure, and our movements and actions will become more precise, more correct, and consequently clearer and more distinct. Excessive movement will disappear and so a lack of effort. Start with observing the hands at work, without intervening.
- Observe your thinking and the circling thoughts in your head while they are 'circling'. Remembering this afterwards is not much use or no use at all, because what is done cannot be undone. We have to manage to stop such a stream of thoughts when it is in full swing. Only then something will change, in actual practice in other words. Under this observing eye, circling thoughts will have less chance to go their way. The same applies to associative thinking, inner conversations and imagination.
- Consider: love starts where nothing is demanded in return. Explanation: In your relationship with your partner, or relationship with whomever, see whether you are behaving with love, with this text as a touchstone.
- Practise: give someone what you think you are without. Explanation: sometimes you may feel that someone should pay you attention, listen to you or respect you. When you are stuck in this, switch the situation round and put that which you think you are without at the disposal of the person of whom you expect, demand or are trying to enforce something like this.
- Practise: Take the position of the Objective Observer for 15 minutes. Explanation: This is the easiest exercise in the world, which is the least easy to put into practice. It is the exercise for filling so-called empty moments when waiting for the train, bus or people. The exercise is like this: resolve to just watch, listen, feel, smell and/or taste (these are the sensory functions) for 15 minutes. To optimise this exercise, the advice is to go to a busy environment, such as a park, a train station or busy shopping street. Naturally, you will notice that in no time, your consciousness will be stuck in one or other thought, association or judgement. When you see this, you open your consciousness again as wide as possible, and make sure you do not forget that consciousness is a fact. Every attempt at 'doing things yourself' will not work.
- Observe how we continuously consider our world in opposites. Black-and-white thinking is a cultural pattern and is an invitation to discord.
- Observe where you lose your attention and have fallen asleep.
- Come to yourself regularly by, for instance, listening to the farthest sound. Enjoy the silence.
- Listen to the sound of your own voice without wanting to do anything about this sound (without criticising it either).