Introduction to a Gurdjieffian Priming Exercise and More…

I decided it’s not nice to keep people in suspense, given where the last post ended, so….right on to the priming exercise and the sensing, looking and listening procedure.

Leading through a Gurdjieffian Priming Exercise

Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,

Lecture 3, Part 7 of 13 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: So if you want to do this, stop taking notes. Sit up comfortably in your chair and close your eyes. And just take a few seconds to relax.

Now you’re going to start by gently focusing your attention on your right foot, on just noticing any sensations in your right foot, from the tips of the toes to the back of the heel. And, like doing Vipassana, you just notice with openness and curiosity and equanimity what your right foot feels like.

You might move from one prominent sensation in the foot to another, or you might pick up a pattern of sensations through the whole foot, or one sensation through the whole foot.

Whatever. Just gently rest your mind following the sensation in your right foot.

There’s no right or wrong sensations. Whatever you sense is fine. If what you sense is numbness, that’s fine. Notice exactly what the numbness feels like from moment to moment.

Now if you were doing this on your own, you’d wait until you felt you had pretty good contact with the whole of your foot for at least 5 or 10 seconds, and then move onto the next step. We’ll move together, but you’ll adjust the timing when doing it on your own.

So now gently shift your attention upward into the lower half of your right leg, and let the foot go. Just sense whatever’s happening in the lower half of your right leg, from the ankle up into the knee. Whatever you feel is fine. Just be open to it.

(A half minute of silence)

Now shift your attention upward again to the upper half of your right leg, from the knee on into your hip and sense whatever sensation or sensations are there. If you find you’ve wandered off into thinking about sensations instead of actually sensing them, or to thinking about other things, just gently bring your attention back to sensing whatever the actual sensations are.

(A half minute of silence)

And now shift your attention higher to your right hand, from the tips of the fingers right up into the wrists, and sense whatever sensations or flow of sensations there is there. Remember, there are no right or wrong sensations. Just sense whatever the flow is. Openly. Curiously.

(A half minute of silence)

And now shift your attention to your right forearm. Let the hand go and sense whatever’s in the forearm.

If your mind wanders, gently bring it back.

(A half minute of silence)

And now shift your attention to the upper half of your right arm, from the elbow up into the shoulder, and sense whatever’s there.

(A half minute of silence)

Now shift your attention across your body to the upper half of your left arm, from shoulder down into the elbow, and sense the sensations there. The mind tends to label the sensations and then not really pay attention anymore but keep bringing the mind back to the actual sensations.

(A half minute of silence)

And then shift your attention to your left forearm. Sense whatever’s there.

(A half minute of silence)

And now your left hand, right down through the fingertips. What’s it feel like? (pause) What’s it feel like now? (pause) And now?

(A half minute of silence)

Now shift your attention down to the upper half of your left leg, the hip down into the knee, and notice any sensations or patterns of sensations there.

(A half minute of silence)

And shift your attention to the lower half of your left leg, the knee down into the ankle. Whatever you feel, feel it in a relaxed and open minded manner. (pause) What’s it like?

(A half minute of silence)

And now sense your left foot right down through the toes.

(A half minute of silence)

Now broaden your focus so you sense the sensations from both feet. (pause) And then broaden it a little more, so while continuing to sense both feet, you also sense the lower half of both legs. (pause) And the upper half of both legs, so you’re sensing both feet and both legs altogether now.

Your sensing experience may be less detailed, but it’s broader.

(A half minute of silence)

Now while continuing to sense your feet and legs, broaden the focus to include your hands in there. (pause) And forearms. (pause) And your upper arms. (pause) So now you’re sensing your arms and legs, feet and hands all together. I’ll just call that sensing your arms and legs from now on. It’s not going to be the same all the time, and sometimes one part will be more prominent than another, but let sensing your arms and legs be the focus of your attention.

Now if we stopped at this point, you could take this as a form of body Vipassana. But we’re going to go on and include another element, and that is, while continuing to sense your arms and legs, I want you to openly and more actively listen to any sounds and what the qualities of those sounds are. So if you hear my voice, for instance, sense it, not just the meaning of the words but the tonal qualities of my voice. Any outside noises, any echoes and the quiet spaces between sounds – listen to them.

(A half minute of silence)

Now, while continuing to sense your arms and legs, and listening to the qualities of any sounds, I want you to slowly open your eyes and begin to actively look at things, while continuing to listen to the qualities of sounds and stay in touch with your arms and legs.

Now vision is a pretty dominant sense so it may take up most of your attention. But let’s say you’re going to leave 5 to 15 percent in sensing your arms and legs, 10 to 30 percent in listening to the quality of sounds. Most of the rest is looking, and something is left over to monitor the process.

(A half minute of silence)

I want you to look around in a special way. Don’t park your eyes on anything. Don’t just fix them somewhere and just stare at that spot for a long time. That tends to induce a sleepy, trance-like state. Rather, look at something gently but curiously, like you really want to see it, for a few seconds and then look at something else.

(A half minute of silence)

I like to kid people this is the “shifty eyed technique.”

If you haven’t got your eyes open yet, keep sensing your arms and legs and listening, but start looking now too…… Good.

We’ve moved from the priming exercise into Gurdjieff’s primary exercise for waking up, which we can call sensing, looking and listening, so that you’re now actively taking in your world through your two main senses, seeing and hearing. But you’re keeping some attention in your body, following the sensations in your arms and legs, which helps ground you in the present moment.

Now this takes a fair amount of effort. But you can learn to do it, and like any controlled attention practice (CAP), if you find you’ve drifted off from it, just gently come back to doing it. Don’t bother to try to figure out why you aren’t doing it, just do it. Just kind of sensing, looking, and listening is going to be the primary experiential type of practice we do the rest of the quarter.

It’s not going to be the same every time, as we’re all unique individuals in our unique worlds. But it’s going to be very interesting at times, very relaxing at times, and sometimes it’ll help you get a much clearly insight into what an automaton you’re being at a particular moment, so you’ll be a little wiser.

One comment

  1. This is the stuff that I have been doing, and it does help. At least it helps when I do it. I sometimes find myself slipping into the “self –remembering” mode when I’m out on my afternoon walk. Maybe because I really like how I feel when I’m outside in the park, and I like looking around at the trees, feeling the wind and hearing the birds. It can make you feel like part of the bigger picture and yet still grounded in this world. I like that grounded feeling. I sometimes find it difficult to feel like I belong here and this helps.

    Yesterday wasn’t one of the best days for walking outdoors. It was stormy, cold and very wet. But I needed to get out anyway. I don’t understand what it is about being exhausted. Maybe it is because you have to be open to experiences, and to be open to them you have to stop fighting them. I was so cold and tired on my way back from the park yesterday that I couldn’t have put up much resistance to anything.

    I was sensing/looking/listening as described in this blog. But it went beyond being grounded in this place. I really felt grounded, but I also connected to the light of the NDE place. I can’t explain it very well. On one hand I was cold, wet and tired, but feeling very alive and connected to this world. On the other hand I could see the NDE light and feel how it is connected to the light each of us carries within. I’ve felt homesick for the NDE place for such a long time. But yesterday, just for a moment, I didn’t feel homesick.

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