Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the Week of December 27, 2021


(Fourth Way Practice: 7)

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Everything moves, everything changes. The most massive and apparently immovable mountain is bound to the Earth and thereby rotates on the planet's axis, orbits the sun, hurtles through interstellar space with the Solar System, and wanders through intergalactic space with the Milky Way. And as for changes, we humans and the entire universe are continually pushed along the lines of time, from birth to death, from the Big Bang to the unfolding now. Everything moves, everything changes.

In the midst of all this movement, is there a still point beyond all change, beyond time and space? The spiritual path can lead us to that still point at the core of our soul, at the core of presence. Among the most powerful practices for that, for presence in motion, are the Fourth Way movements, also known as Gurdjieff movements, as sacred dance, and simply as movements.

The body of movements left behind by Gurdjieff is massive and varied, comprising hundreds of dances, each with a detailed choreography and its own music, typically played on piano. Gurdjieff reportedly collected movements during his travels across Central Asia and elsewhere, and apparently created many others whole cloth.

In each movement, the choreography and the music work hand in glove to create an experience of body, mind, and heart as one whole, and of the group of participants as one being. Generally, the movements are complex and make strong demands on our attention to manage our arms, legs, and head moving in precise ways and to different rhythms and counts within the music, in sync with the other people in the movements group, while maintaining the correct spacing relative to them. The challenge itself is one main thrust of movements work: to sharpen and expand our attention. Not to worry though, because there is no failure in movements. They are a spiritual practice to help us grow our soul.

Once we come to some familiarity with the physical aspects of a movement, we can turn to opening our emotions in accord with the tone of the music and the quality of the gestures. Just as each movement is unique, the emotions elicited are unique. And beyond that, there may be specific inner work as part of the movement. Throughout it all, there is the need to be and stay present. In the end, the efforts of attention during the movements session enormously enhance our presence. More importantly, this gives us a taste of presence beyond our usual capacity.

Just as religious rituals can open the way toward the sacred, some of the movements open us toward the sacred, though without the religious context. Those movements have the character of ritual, with gestures of prayer and opening, emptying and giving. They can bring us into the missing state of awe before the ineffable reality in which we live and to which we aspire. We move with heart. We move within the sacred.

Other movements reawaken us to the simple joy of living and moving. Children live that way, and so can we.

As with any true spiritual practice, words, these words, cannot represent the essence of movements. Even watching them cannot approach the remarkable experience of direct participation. Movements work trains us to be present and whole in midst of complexity and difficulty. It trains us for presence in motion, presence in the dance of life.


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