The Exercises: Sunday 13 February, Paris Groups 1944, Pt XX)

The meeting of 13 February 1044 shows how critical the exercises were to Gurdjieff’s teaching in his final period, when he had worked out what would make a difference to his students.

Gurdjieff began by saying he was interested to know how the exercise from last Sunday had gone. Unfortunately, we do not have a transcript for 6 February. Rene Zuber said that, in the first part of the exercise, he had worked on the passage, the pouring of the shock in one part of the body. He had only had a taste. In the second part, he may have had the taste of nurturing a sense of “I,” but it could be imagination, and he did not know how to let the “fusion” be. (It is the same word in English and French with the same meaning.) Gurdjieff replied: “I have told you. It’s very simple. You go through the same order, and you suck into the organism. That is what you should do. You are sucking. (Vous sucez.)”

Zuber asked: “On the one hand, let it happen, but on the other, it is necessary to suck?”

Mme de Salzmann answered: “Yes, in the same order.”

Zuber asked: “Suck” is the right word?

Madame: “Yes, it is very precise.”

Gurdjieff: “You consciously suck.”

Zuber: “Making an effort?” (96)

Gurdjieff: “The effort is very important. You need to concentrate better.” (97)

L.L. then said that she found something new in the exercise, an incipient ability to remember herself. Should she try and strengthen that, or should she just work at that exercise? Gurdjieff replied: “It is necessary to do the exercise. Without philosophising. When the moment comes, we will speak about the details, and we can be philosophers. While waiting, work at them (faites), do them, do them. Acquire the practice.” (97)

Gurdjieff and de Salzmann spoke in Russian, and he invited L.L. to join the Friday evening group, of which “A” (Dr Aboulker, I think) is head.

S.R. reported that now, when she said “I wish,” she had a new and true sense of her body. Saying it has become her point of support, and it brings her back to a sense of the body as a frame (armature). Gurdjieff confirmed that she was speaking about “I wish.” (97)

During the exercise, and when she says “I wish,” S.R. said. She then added something quite interesting: “During the exercise, at the moment I (make it) flow, the vibrations continue beyond the duration of one breath, and I am taking the second breath before the vibrations have passed. I would like to ask whether I should continue like that, or stop.” (97-98)

Gurdjieff replied: “There is no need to continue. It is necessary to stop. To be able to continue, one must be able to establish a measure. Everything needs to be in a certain measure (doit acquérir sa mesure) to enter into the general tempo.” (98)

Y.L. asked about a feeling of fullness she had when she worked at the exercise, but of nausea if she had not come to this feeling. After some prodding from Gurdjieff, she formulated her question as how to sense her spinal column and better separate the parts of her body. Perhaps she meant how to better sense the parts. Gurdjieff replied: “Represent to yourself that you have a “me” and an “I.” Allow the “me” to remain in its place. Your “I,” as regards the vertebral column, is elastic, and can stretch to right and to left. It goes to right and to left. Begin by lying on your belly. Represent to yourself that it goes up and goes down. That will help with two things: sensing your spinal column, and sensing your “I.” Before you lie down on your belly, relax all the parts of your body for five or ten minutes, each one separately. Calm your associations, then begin your exercise.” (98)

She then asked about a sensation of having been drawn especially into the head and feet, but otherwise being empty, with nothing inside. Gurdjieff asked: “Drawn?” (tirée). She replied, “Hit, (caught, taken)” (happée) by what is going on in her. He replied: “That means that extremities are filled. When you sense that, then come to your breath, and to a flowing (from the parts which are filled) into those which you sense are empty, so that they may be saturated. That is how you must work.” (99)

The next question was from L., who had difficulty relaxing, finding that the effort put him to sleep. Gurdjieff replied: “When you do the exercise, it is necessary to keep to the following principle: every ten minutes, you must drink (prendre) a small glass of cold water, do just a little physical exercise (un petit peu de gymnastique) and continue. After a certain period, you will need to stand up. Then continue: engage with the relaxation, begin the exercise, then get up, stretch, and if you live on the ground floor and no one can be put out with you, then you can even run.” (99)

Turning to A.E. Deacon, last week you asked me something, and I gave you some advice. Have you constated anything?

Alfred Etievan (also spelt Etievant) said that he had noticed that although he can relax exteriorly, he cannot relax interiorly. If he tries to relax further, he feels that he is letting himself go, and he cannot remember himself. (99-100) Gurdjieff asked if he was falling asleep. Yes, he said, he suffers from a constant physical laziness. Gurdjieff replied that it was necessary for them to speak privately, and that next week, he should come a half hour before the group began.

Then, Jacques, Alfred’s brother, then asked a question about two different states, one where he was dragged out of himself and empty, the other where he desired to work. Gurdjieff established that Jacques had no secrets from his brother, and then told him to come with Alfred, early next week, and he would speak to them together. (100)

Henri Tracol then asked a complex question about being interrupted before the end of the exercise, and feeling a need to go back to the start, and begin breathing again. Gurdjieff replied: “I do not believe it is necessary. Let it be as it happens. Little by little, it will change. If you try and do it intentionally, it may give you a fixed idea. It is possible to habituated yourself to this little thing, and that can become an obsession which spoils the true exercise. You should do the exercise as it has been given (Faites donc l’exercise comme il doit être fait, literally: so do the exercise as it should be done.)”


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