Recent Workshops

We’re midway through our session of Summer Sundays. The theme of the session is “Body, Mind, Soul”. To guide our inquiry, we’re working with excellent material from JG Bennett both in written and audio form. In either media, Bennett has the remarkable ability to coalesce one’s own thinking and feeling on matters of deep interest. His own experience comes through so clearly that one finds space and time enough to really hear something with the inner faculty.

In the morning session we work to ground ourselves in the body with an inner exercise from the Bennett/Gurdjieff lineage. The exercises at this time are aimed at directing conscious relaxation, sensing and feeling. These inner exercises are functionally direct though rich in being-based dimension. Some of the troupe members who are familiar with visualization-style exercises have noticed the distinctiveness of this approach to basic inner work. In my experience the exercises that come out of this tradition place particular emphasis on making contact with the essence in way that moves beneath/around/through what Gurdjieff called the associative word- and picture-making of what he called the formatory apparatus. Visualization is a powerful aid to inner work when the essence-energies of sensing and feeling are coherent and when the visualization has the force of feeling and the weight of sensing to support it.

The morning continues, generally speaking, with singing and rhythmic work after the inner exercise or with forms of improvisational acting that we are developing. This is proving to be  a rich source of material for self-observation as we move into a study of types through improv technique. There is generally a reading from a  masterwork of transformative spiritual-psychology and, as mentioned, we are working through some of JG Bennett’s material. The reading is sometimes accompanied by live piano music from the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann repertoire of sacred music. As well, there is the opportunity to provide an aesthetic response in terms of some form of visual art-making accompanied by a brief performance element. The clip below is a recording of Elan Sicroff with whom we have worked on several occasions.

In morning we are also working with the sacred gymnastics of GI Gurdjieff. As a form of art, the “movements” are extra-ordinary and at one level are an excellent means of allowing the dancer to enter into a fresh space within themselves where more conscious energy becomes available for inner work.

The preparation of food is also a key aspect of the workshop. I recently posted something on the importance of food that gives some material on why we would make food preparation and eating together a key part of the workshop.

After lunch, our aim is to actualize some the observations and insights that the theme reading and the Gurdjieff movements may have provided. To allow a space where something immediate and more essential to arise is the basis of this work. We have looked some of Rumi’s stories from the Mathnawi as well as the teaching stories of Mulla Nasruddin, the ancient and incomparable sage of Sufi wisdom. Improvisational acting is again the vehicle we are working with. Members of the troupe are not necessarily trained “actors”, but this technique allows us to explore the stories in a way that is not simply analytical or coming from one’s habitual place of response. We are finding some excellent material through this process.

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