Chandrakala, former Osho Multiversity staff member, highlights her personal experiences with Gurdjieff’s major work to awaken consciousness.
I cannot develop you.
I can only create conditions in which you can develop yourselves.
Take the understanding of the East and the energy of the West and search.
Here is my two cents’ worth on the Gurdjieff sacred movements approach – and will share some of my experiences after more than 25 years working with them (although like for any awakening process it is about a direct and very personal experience).
As always, the spiritual masters of the world upset people and provoke all kinds of controversy. As with Osho, so many things have been said about Gurdjieff – from the most negative to the most positive. Not enough known and often misinterpreted, Gurdjieff did not leave anyone indifferent.
Osho often spoke of this remarkable man who created a brilliant revolutionary method to awaken the consciousness that is needed to develop the missing unity in mankind, a method to become free from mechanical behaviors which keep people ignorant, half-asleep, and reduce the potential to be what he used to call ‘a real person’.
A Seeker of Truth
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was born, most likely, in 1866 in Alexandropol (now Gyumri, Armenia) to a Caucasus Greek father and an Armenian mother; he died in France in 1949.
Gurdjieff was first trained as a priest and as a physician but the answers offered by science and religion could not satisfy his deep existential quest. He spent years traveling in Asia and in the Middle East searching for the secret teachings of the ancients. He wanted to understand the meaning of the human condition, the existence of the soul and its relation to the body, the reality of death and life, the place of man in the cosmic order and his potential in this infinite universe.
During Gurdjieff’s journeys, he was initiated into the sacred dances (or sacred movements) in a mystery school – the Sarmoung brotherhood – in some remote mountains of Turkey.
What he discovered was a new body language, a kind of alternative alphabet that puts in relation to each other the three levels of a person – body, emotion and thought – to access the Essence and become available to higher and finer universal forces. Gurdjieff himself later created hundreds of dances based on the same principles, under the light of his observations and findings throughout a constant and passionate work with his followers. The sacred dances held a very important place in Gurdjieff’s teaching.
He used to say that we move and dance the same way we live. In this way, learning the sacred movements puts us in a position to face the reality of who we are as a product of a particular society, of a time, of a certain education and of habits we have contracted throughout our life.
Gurdjieff was also a musician and, together with Thomas de Hartman, created music with the same frequencies as the sacred movements. As with most sacred art, the songs are sober and beautiful; they contain the essence of pure inspiration that is very close to silence.
The goal is the person
The sacred movements are not performance as such. They are rather a set of tools to help the process that is set off by learning and practicing them. It is essentially a method to get to know oneself and eventually become freed from the limits of mechanical habits and unconscious behaviors.
Therefore, the goal is not the movements in themselves; they are the means on the way – the goal is the person.
The dances require a total presence that places directly in front of the dancer the question, ‘Who am I?’ This question is the background for each movement, each instant, and opens new possibilities for totality and harmony. The learning process is a strategy to develop presence and awareness, and to reconnect the mind with the body and the feeling center – in a balanced alignment.
As we know, all emotional and psychological pains of our lives have been crystallized in our body. When this work of re-education happens through the moving center, the walls of the prison in which we have unconsciously locked ourselves, for security and survival, can break down.
By nature, energy moves either up or down, it never stays neutral. If we are unconscious, it takes us down, towards the less evolved: inertia, tensions, rigidity, laziness, fear, etc. This is what Gurdjieff calls our prisons. We have to get out of the fog of unconsciousness and develop our capacity to be centered and totally present in order to become a conscious human being.
The Work – a lifetime process
The sacred movements allow the creation of a field of exploration that is needed to face that which keeps us locked in mediocrity: our beliefs and projections about ourselves and others, our fear of not being good enough, of not being able, of being abandoned; our habits of getting angry as soon as effort is needed; our tensions, our lack of coordination or rhythm, our difficulty to understand, our poor memory, our lack of individual and collective definition, etc.
All this falls into the awakening process. Little by little, solutions appear through constant effort, relaxation sets in and grace is found.
Observation is the key, love is the basic ingredient
The challenge of the process is not so much on a physical level since the movements are rather simple – because of that, no special skills or talents are required to approach them. What is most demanding has to do with presence and centering – and that is what is being developed throughout the process.
We practice ‘divided attention’ – a way of using our mind consciously rather than being dominated by it – which opens new brain capacities.
Attention without tension
As we look for a state of attention without tension, a tight collaboration is necessary between our physical, emotional and intellectual centers so that they support instead of sabotage each other. Sometimes, after an intense effort, a moment of total presence arises that connects us to the whole – a moment of grace that will affect us forever – an experience of the sacred within us. In each movement, in each measure, we invite this moment to come.
The goal is to open up to Presence as a fundamental quality for our daily lives.
To conclude, I can say that the learning process that comes with the practice and teaching of the Gurdjieff sacred movements certainly changed my way of living for the best, as it has for many people I know all over the world.
It allowed me to take a 180º turn from being the victim of life to becoming the creator of my life.
For about twenty years an international group of seekers, to which I also belong, has met annually to continue studying this multidimensional approach; learning new movements, going deeper into the known ones, facing our human behaviors in a conscious way and keeping the work in progress – the inner personal work and the inner work of the group – and open to the great, invisible and sacred work.
When we return to our countries we try to keep its spirit alive and share with those who are ready to answer to the invitation to join the great dance.
This article has been corrected on July 4, 2018: It stated in the introduction that Chandrakala had been part of the Osho Humaniversity team. It should have read: Osho Multiversity team.
Chandrakala has worked in the field of centering and mindfulness since 1983. She was a staff member of the Osho Multiversity for 10 years. Besides facilitating groups and giving sessions, she also coordinated the program for the School for Centering and Zen Martial Arts, supervising the courses and trainings of the school based on Zen, Sufism, Taoism and the Gurdjieff movements. She now facilitates various awareness processes in Canada, where she lives, and in Mexico. chandra-kala.com