In preparing these exchanges, I have been reminded of how often Mr Adie made very short comments, doing little more than acknowledging the significance of the observation. In continuing the exchanges at the weekend work of Saturday 12 November 1988, Chas said that a strong “do” had been sounded in the sitting, but that it had all faded away. This reference to a “do” is to the start of an octave, a possible line of development.
Mr Adie’s response took us by surprise: “You see the value of stopping thought? It is something that you cannot do, but if you try and stop thought, it brings the understanding that this inner talk is no Gospel that is proceeding in your head, it isn’t gold, it really can’t be trusted, and so you don’t want to be giving all your attention to that. You have some sort of an impulse to do something. It may be small, but anyway, what is it? Why settle for something trivial and dingy, almost meaningless words proceeding in your head?”
“Then there’s this impulse. I come to change, or try to change, to be helped to shake myself. That is something. After a time, I remember to go inner, and to find some reality. I start, but then I forget that, and forget everything else, and a fresh dream has started up.”
After a short silence, he continued: “We do not know how to receive the gifts which are offered. Everything is a gift, all the time, but I do not know how to receive them. There’s this marvellous picture of a monk, who has been chased by a tiger over the face of a cliff. He catches hold of a branch, but it is gradually giving way, and down below is another tiger, so his chances of a long life are not very good. But he sees a strawberry. He reaches out and plucks it. He eats it: “Ah! It is delicious!” It seems fantastic, but this is really what we are given – just one second to take the strawberry.”
“In reality of course, there were no lions there, and it wasn’t very far to the bottom. Which monk ate the strawberry?”
“A moment of light, a moment of better quality thought gives me something. What that may be is everybody’s own business, because it can’t be experienced by anybody else. We receive a certain assistance through the presence of everyone else. One thinks a little better, a little longer: or rather, one is helped in that direction, whether one does it or not depends.”
“What we have been receiving, in one way or another, has been, in recent years, real dependence upon the quality of our thought. But not thought by itself: thought accompanied by sensation, and a feeling of one’s self. The practice of doing something, remembering oneself.”
“I recall years ago, trying to read a book in the train, remembering myself at the same time. It was tremendously difficult. But I managed it for about three or four lines … it was a colossal effort. How I read in the ordinary way … I still remember trying though. I still remember the battle between the print and myself. And it was different, a different situation from anything I had had before. Clearly I was there, aware of a certain sort of challenge. I must look for challenges, and yet they exist all the time.”
There was another silence, and then: “As you look around, who would you like to work with? Who? I mean really, you’ve got a job going. Who would you choose? Have a good look.”
A pause. “Alright, well there you are. Now you know your attitude, in one respect.”
“Try and respect, respect the work we’ve got. Try and make it real inside. Try and work with good attention and get some work done. Make the stops sharp and clear. Don’t prolong it for more than a minute, a minute and a half. I came across some people setting down for a quiet morning’s chat. It isn’t a break, it’s a privilege to be have the opportunity to work in this way, that after a minute, a minute and a half, I turn and open myself and trust.”
The first question after supper was from James, who had been working on the stone work. One stone was uneven. His partner, E., had chiselled part of the stone, but it was still uneven. E. invited James to try, and then, before James could strike, E. pointed out that where James was going to cut was not the “point of contact” where the stone was unevenly sitting. James continued: “I was going to chisel it. I saw how identified I was with the job. I saw how there is something inside me like a terror of the job, just a panic that it would not sit evenly, and so the thing to do was to get the chisel and hammer and attack it. Not all the afternoon was like that. What shocked me in this case was the panic inside, and the poor quality of the thought.”
“Could it be clearer,” asked Mr Adie, “that the panic is in you? It was just a stone, a kind helper, and the aim. And for once I don’t put it outside. I see there some ancient places for considering. What was the start of it? I don’t see it, perhaps, but it gives me a line to work on. Good.”
Those two exchanges, separated by an afternoon of practical work, are connected by an inner logic: the weakness of our ordinary thought, and the value of the practice of stopping thought to both show us the low quality of that thought, and to help us up to a higher level. Chas had had a powerful moment, facilitated by the morning preparation and the presence of other people, but it had faded. Mr Adie effectively said that it had evaporated because his inner space had been occupied by low quality thought with which he had identified. However, the practice of stopping thought, or even the effort to stop thought, would break the bonds of identification. James experienced something different: he had been in a panic, unable to think, and was going to attack a job without any consideration at all. When his partner pointed out to him that the cut he was going to make was not only useless but worse, counter-productive, he received a shock. The value of the shock is evident: it stops thought, it clears the inner atmosphere.
As Mr Adie said, for once James had not placed the responsibility for his clumsy effort outside: he had seen that the issue was within him, and if he could follow that thread, he would see that it was linked to the way that he considers what other people think about him. At the moment he saw that the problem was within him, he was no longer subjected to this considering. In other words, much of the fear about what people thought of him was a sort of internal dodge to avoid facing his own laziness – a laziness in thought.
Joseph Azize, 12 September 2018