inner exercises


the inner exercises

a brief history G.I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949) and J.G. Bennett (1897-1974), dedicated their lives to the researching of consciousness and the transmitting to others of practical techniques for human development. Bennett, a student of Gurdjieff and a major proponent of his ideas,1 received from Gurdjieff a large corpus of inner exercises by which one can actively participate in his or her own development.

In Paris in 1948-49, during a final outpouring of creativity, Gurdjieff introduced many inner exercises. What Bennett learned from Gurdjieff then, in Paris in 1949, and what he learned in 1924 at Gurdjieff's Institute near Fontainebleau — and what he learned directly and indirectly from the many Gurdjieff students who were his peers and friends, he subsequently practiced, researched, further developed, formalized, and taught to hundreds of his own students up until his death in 1974.

the inner exercises are practiced while sitting, but differ inwardly from many traditional meditative techniques by often requiring a sustained active attention and a clear inner intention to actualize energy transformations in the body. With mindfulness, a practitioner (of the exercises) depending on the aim of the particular exercise, moves her attention into specific corporal areas, systems, parts, or organs. While keeping attention there, she "senses," "feels," and "knows" what is there—that is, she becomes present to the energy inside (the part of the body) as she accepts how she feels about it and "sees"or visualizes it. Then the practitioner changes, manipulates or influences what is there according to the intention of the particular exercise. Sounds complicated? Not really. These exercises are very systematic and are developed progressively over time with regular practice.

In short, the work of the inner exercises begins with what is present in the body, facilitates a possible return to a physiological state of natural being, and prepares us to go on to a creation, a distillation, or an emergence of something that is of our own making or doing and for which we can be responsible. For example, the impulses-of-relaxation exercises and the filling-with-sensation exercises, respectively, aim to enhance an instinctive "letting go" of tensions at the body-system level (to begin with) and to deepen and awaken awareness of one's own life at the feeling energy level.2

unforgotten memories At some moment, often around the age of eleven or twelve, children awaken to the possibility of being in control of their own lives and to participating in their own development. Yet, in our Western culture, little attention is given to these awakenings, few adults understand such moments, and developmental psychologies and educational institutions give no value to them. Consequently, childhood memories of wonder and beauty, of being alive inside a growing body, are most often forever forgotten.3 Nevertheless, our natural ability to restore, return, and re-organize ourselves to our own true good rarely atrophies beyond all possible renewal—and it is therefore not uncommon on the journey of one's life to meet others who have drunk from an underground spring of "forgotten" knowledge.

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1. John Bennett wrote more than thirty books on Gurdjieff and his teachings and most of them are in print. Visit the online storefront with more than two-hundred books, Music CDs, and DVDs on or about Gurdjieff's Teaching. up >>

2. See also, J.G. Bennett. Transformation, Santa Fe: Bennett Books, 2003, p. 7, 19, and 96:
"[Transformation is] the process by which a man can pass beyond the limitations of his own nature ... I shall assume, without attempting to produce the evidence that justifies the assumption, that we all have the urge to seek for this transformation and that it is just this urge that distinguishes man from the brutes."
"We should look upon transformation as something that is happening here and now. It depends on what we do, and this in turn depends upon what moves and directs us."
"... there are seven degrees of relaxation, starting with 'letting go' the tensions in the voluntary muscles and leading through deeper and deeper 'givingway' of nerves, feelings, thoughts, desires ... It is easy to obtain a relaxed state of the body by hard physical work, by skillful massage, sauna baths and similar means. These are all useful, but they do not produce the deep relaxation that we are looking for. For this, we must learn how to make a direct connection between our will [our consciousness] and the part of the body we wish to relax. ... Learning to relax is thus a first step towards the voluntary control over physiological and psychological processes that are usually thought to be outside the power of our will." up >>

3. One unforgotten memory of Elizabeth Bennett, which was recorded in her memoirs, is described by her biographer, Ken Pledge: "One evening in 1924 when Elizabeth was six years old, playing by the bay tree in the garden at bedtime, the nursemaid called her from across the lawn. She stood up and the sun was in her eyes. The nursemaid called again and Elizabeth was filled with power. She was being called, and if she did not answer no one else would! She stood there staring into the golden sunlight, aware of herself for the first time." up >>

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