Words and Feelings, George Adie, 5 March 1989

I have already posted the morning address from Sunday work with Mr Adie, on 5 March 1989. The theme, taken from the chapter “America” in All and Everything, was “in the beginning was the Word.”

The first question after lunch was from Florence, and related to that theme as words are part of my experience. Interestingly, her first attempt to formulate her questions was this: “Mr Adie, today I knew without doubt that I was in question, and it was the first time that that has happened when I really knew that that was the case.” If you think about it, this is a conclusion, and may well be right, but is it material for an exchange at a weekend work? Hence, Mr Adie said to her: “Say something about it, what you observed, the details if you can. I mean, you saw that you were in question, but with regard to what?”

Then, with this prompting, she explained: “With regard to as a result of the reading, with regard to my communication with the people I was working with, and the things with which I was working. I was setting the table, and the question arose: What is my attitude to the cutlery? What is my attitude to the glasses? How am I? First, what is my attitude to myself? Then to those things, and how am I behaving? How am I manifesting putting things on the table? Is it with care? How am I, what is my attitude when I need to ask something of one of my work mates? Sometimes the answers didn’t come in words, but in impressions. Was I emanating something that would be harmful, or that would be beneficial? And those questions. I was peeling tomatoes. What is my attitude to a tough skin? Do I resent, is there some resentment to having to use extra physical effort? What is the smell? Am I prepared to accept what comes? And those were the sort of questions that … And I planned between the half hour stops for my breathing for my attention to be on my breathing and then beyond that.”

Especially in his last years, Mr Adie suggested that, during the work day, we stop each half hour, collect ourselves, and then turn to exchange with those we were working with, but to exchange only with gaze, for a few brief seconds. It was, of course, confronting. It was meant to be, I mean confronting for us ourselves, not for those we were working with: the instruction was to just be open, not to stare at each other. I left in Florence’s observations because they showed how much internal work was being done with the Adies.

Mr Adie then asked her about her plan to come to her breathing at each stop: “Did that give you something?”

“Yes. First I would take a deepish breath, and feel, became aware of my feeling, and what state that was, and then from inside I could then ask myself what is my state towards what I’m doing. And whenever I had some physical discomfort, a twinge or something like that, I used that to take a deep breath at that time and come to myself. And when I was doing that, a question arose each time: ‘How am I?’”

Mr Adie asked her whether the question came to her in words, or perhaps “at times as a sort of composite idea, rather than the actual words? In a way, you know, the words are too slow, they take too long, so that I can know them without actually formulating the words in the ordinary way which I do. If my impression of my inner life doesn’t go above the moving part of the thinking centre it’s not very helpful.”

“Yes,” replied Florence, “it often came with impressions and then I put words to it afterwards.”

“Ah, that’s the part,” said Mr Adie. “It sounds awkward, but as you say, you ‘put words to it.’ It sounds as if your head was busy. I don’t want my head to be busy for that purpose. It doesn’t have to be, because the higher part of my head can hold any number of impressions simultaneously, and know it. It can happen that I sometimes really seek for a word, but in general like this when you’re trying to observe yourself in practice, in movement, in working, there’s not time for that, quite. See you can have a flash of recollection, and words may appear: ‘Oh I’ve forgotten my body,’ or something, but it’s gone in an instant.”

“So, I am using a concept such as ‘my head’. What do I mean by ‘my head?’ I want to be a bit careful, even “my head” is not always a clear concept. It is useful in a broad sense, for example, when I’m trying to collect myself then it means something. But I can have an internal impulse in a sort of a form of refraining in me. But if I turn my attention to it, it easily becomes formatory. While I feel it, I know. I know. I have the impulse, even an aim, but I have it through feeling. I think some of your experience contained that because you felt a certain factual reality of it. And you want to be wary of the head work when it is not needed.”

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