Sporting a luxurious moustache and smoking a cigar, George Gurdjieff may not be our typical image of an enlightened teacher. Right from the start, his uniqueness invites us to examine our ideas and beliefs. One of his primary teachings is that we are in bondage to the world — ‘in jail’ so to speak, and our mission is to escape.
Gurdjieff says, “One must learn from him who knows” — suggesting that part of our spiritual path may be devoting time to seeking out and learning from an enlightened master. For some seekers, retreats may be a wonderful opportunity to receive wisdom from a variety of such teachers — powerfully packed into a short period of time.
To begin our ‘jailbreak toolkit’ Gurdjieff gives us a focus, ourselves. He says, “Everything in the Universe is one...(and) has equal rights, (so) knowledge can be acquired no matter what the starting point is.” He also encourages us to consider that, “What is nearest to us is man; and you are the nearest of all men to yourself. Begin with the study of yourself; remember the saying, Know thyself.”
His second gift to us are two ‘power tools’ known as body and feelings. These are the real force or do-ers of change. Gurdjieff teaches, “The power of changing oneself lies not in the mind, but in the body and the feelings. Unfortunately, however, our body and our feelings don’t care a jot about anything so long as they are happy. They live for the moment and their memory is short. The mind alone lives for tomorrow. Each has its own merits. The merit of the mind is that it looks ahead. But it is only the other two that can do. ”
A third addition to our ‘toolkit’ to freedom is strength of clarity in the form of sincerity. He tells us that, “there are many I’s” which all want different things but only one real I — and suggests that we can find our real self if we are sincere with ourselves. Sincerity being a key — that can open a door through which we may see our separate parts — and we may see something quite new. He reminds us that, “Each day you put on a mask, & you must take it off little by little.”
Thanks to these insights from this great teacher we have some excellent tools to pry the bars and crack the walls imprisoning our true self — allowing in the awesome light of awakening.