The mind is like a two forked animal. At one side it protects the ego from traumatic experiences. At the other side it hinders personal growth. Many Eastern traditions focus on the negative side of the mind: the influence of the mind needs to be as small as possible. Western mystery traditions are more mind focused as they train the mind for energetic visualization purposes. The Gurdjieff Movements also use the mind as a tool to be in the here and now by means of techniques like for example divided attention and circular counting.
In this article I will explain how difficult it is to be in the here and now. That sometimes it is useful that the mind takes us somewhere else. But also that being too much somewhere else with your mind results in fantasy and a disconnection of reality. As our being is ultimately in reality this can be a problem. The trick is to be aware of your mind and to see when it takes you somewhere else. Then one can investigate why the mind wandered away.
The mind is great in the sense that when there are things with which you cannot cope, your fuses will blow and you will not be aware of certain, potentially, traumatic experiences. I saw an interesting example of this process by an eagle pushing a mountain goat from a cliff.
When the mind of the goat sees that the goat will fall to its death, it pulls the plug and shuts out. During the fall you see the goat become a lifeless puppet. In this case the mind protected the ego and the soul of the animal from great trauma.
In this truly traumatic example the mind has a positive role. But in our daily life the mind attributes the same principle for non-traumatic experiences as well. When you look at your life there are many things which you might not want to do. Your mind ‘helps’ you by finding excuses for not doing them and even when you do them your mind ‘helps’ you to wander off and ‘multitask’. In this case the mind is badly trained. Its protecting capacities are utilized for you to remain in the comfort zone of your ego. As a result the spiritual growth of your soul is effectively put to a standstill by your mind.
The Gurdjieff Movements recognize the function of the mind and it is designed to gradually tame it so it can work for you to realize your essence.
For example, I was dancing a difficult movement and I got the direct experience of how the mind supports the ego by avoiding the essence of the soul to appear. I did the practice for several minutes and I noticed my mind thinking about how long the exercise would still last. Next, I was thinking about some notes which I still had to make. Making contact with your essence is scary for your ego and mind. It is a new thing, it is change, outside of the box and exciting. Also, when the soul appears, the ego will disappear. When the change is too great the fuses of the mind will blow and progress is halted.
One first great thing of the Gurdjieff Movements is that it is physical and rooted in matter. As soon as the mind wanders off for just a second, the movement is corrupted. You know when your mind wanders off. It allows you to investigate why your mind was wandering off. Often it has to do the difficulty of the Movement and you remaining in your comfort zone. But it can also have to do with an experience in the past where your mind foresaw a traumatic experience and helped you by escaping the here and now. The Gurdjieff Movements will find these patterns and put them in the light for you to clean them. The result is that you will become more conscious and free.
A second great thing is that the Movements will gradually help you in this process. You start easy and simple with only one element. Later you will build up the Movement with more elements. The confronting power of the Movements will scare your ego and call your mind to interfere and help. But the mind will recognize that the Movements are no cliff jumping traumatic experiences. It is easy to say you your mind: ‘Hey! It is just a dance. Relax. Your defense mechanism does not need to kick in.’ When you have mastered one element, you can add a second element. Again the ego will revolt, but the mind will not block. In a step by step approach, the Gurdjieff Movements allow you to gradually remove your ego to the bare minimum and allow you to integrate your mind in your being.
The Gurdjieff Movements allow to master the mind and to remove the barriers of the ego. Instead of dropping the ego from a cliff to its doom, using the mind to escape reality, and as a result crippling oneself from functioning in reality, the Gurdjieff Movements gradually tame the mind and use it to make a safe stairway for the ego to come down to earth. With the proper management of the mind in the Gurdjieff Movements the mind becomes an integrated tool for spiritual development instead of a blocking factor.