Post written by Brant S.

Just as one gazes out through a window on a February’s day by a fire, we look out on to our landscape we have watched all winter. As the time of spring draws forth one starts to envision how it will look in the future and what potential harvests we want to reap, which calls for the need for pruning, or a redirecting of growth to ensure a more profitable harvest. Whether that is grapes or our aims, our observations over these past months and a vision of the future, will lead to an intelligent effort of today, of how we decide to prune our grapes or refine our aims to come to the result that we sincerely desire.

In January, we began our aims, February we quietly observed by the fire and now with march we are ready to prune back the old and to direct the new growth, as nature around us comes out of dormancy, so shall we too come into an active state. I started January with the aim of following through with tasks more thoroughly. I have noticed that I tend to put off the task because almost immediately I am confronted with a pause, for some reason my machine needs to use my mind to contemplate the task at hand. This can eventually grow into a whole mess of bad imaginings and soon instead of just doing it I am awash in a sea of imagination losing track of my initial aim. This hesitation I realized is usually the source of my inability to carry out tasks timely and efficiently. Yet as I observed myself and started to understand more through my verifications through time, it became clear certain aspects of my aim that needed more work. When one observes, oneself going through a process we inevitably see many unnecessary steps that from experience we can avoid in the future, and luckily, we can learn from others as well.

In February, we learned about chief features, or the main obstacle in ourselves that will hold us back from reaping what we sow. That at the root our chief feature could not be removed with the chief feature. In other words, the intention of our aim, does not work if it is to remove fundamental human traits such as vanity and fear. So instead of wholly removing my hesitation, that stems from my vanity which I cannot do, I can prune out or decrease its manifestations. Vanity and fear are necessary to some degrees, without them we might not strive to achieve anything or foolishly approach a mother bear and her cubs. So in regards to setting our aim we must keep in mind there are certain aspects of ourselves that we cannot remove entirely.

Like Dean mentioned in mid–February’s post, “That without it and all its quirks, one is not able to play the role others, especially those close to us, are accustomed to seeing.” I can reduce or prune my manifestations of my chief feature but I cannot eliminate it. This March, having been through January and February, with my aim in mind I have decide to prune it to reducing the manifestations of hesitation. My aim to carry out tasks more efficiently, stemmed from my Dominance and that from my Vanity and Fear which are at the root of most of our features. Just as one has experienced pulling up a root there is no certainty it will not come back, and one could even hurt their back in the process. Rodney Collins however, reminds us that our weakness can become our benefit, “Weakness is also an individual’s opportunity, his way of understanding. At the service of personality, it is that which constantly leads him into the same troubles and difficulties; but at the service of aim it is his gift, his way, his justification for being in the world.”

Just as a farmer season after season learns his crops, we too learn how we progress through our aims from sincere observations. The farmer starts to understand how to deal with their crop in certain situations, such as drought, frost, pests, while maintaining their system and always directing action towards harvest. New circumstances arise and change our position and in the spirit of the farmer we must adapt, maintain and prune our aims in a timely matter that will reap us a plentiful harvest for tomorrow.

Have we gained new knowledge that have shifted our desired harvest of our aims, do our aims still reflect what we initially desired or do they need to be readjusted to present a more intelligent angle in relation to our self-knowledge that we have accumulated.? How we decide to prune is much like the way we decide to direct our aims after we have decided to start them. Do we leave them alone? Do we observe their growth and act accordingly? Do we forget about them, or act to late or too early? These and more will affect a season harvest or a direction of an aim. In the former, whether one eats or starves, in the latter whether one accomplishes their aims or runs around in circles. In both subjects, there is a sense of renewal, a force that will refresh our efforts and bring a new hope in regards to our aim. This period of March, the beginning of spring, symbolizes a renewal for inner and outer worlds. Noticeably we see nature start to bloom as well as people start to become more active outside. This is a time that instills a presence in us, it reminds us that the efforts of today affect the results of tomorrow, today is like the bud of a growing branch is it growing wildly or is it maintained by the diligent farmer.

The idea that drew me to becoming a farmer is that we can actually make nature more efficient, rather than just letting it grow wild. We can direct its resources to make a much more abundant harvest. There are two different levels of being here: an unkempt system and an intelligently orchestrated one. What is more beneficial to man?


  1. Evgueni Z

    A few hours before the last workshop on Consciousness and Functions (, I was observing my imagination. At that point, I was “constructing” in my head an upcoming conference call with one of the clients. My first reaction was – here it is happening again, but then I realized that this was a somewhat useful manifestation of my imagination – I wasn’t replaying a past event, and I wasn’t indulging myself in some “vanity play” of the future. I was just going through the discussion items in my head, refining agenda, and thinking about any possible questions. I felt like my imagination has “useful” and “wasteful” manifestations. With such thoughts, I came to the workshop.

    What struck me during the workshop, was the concept of Choice explained by Asaf. I realized, that by observing my imagination I had a choice of dismissing my thoughts or keeping them. And this very ability of choosing is apparently a characteristic of a higher (than usual) state. In a lower (2nd state) I wouldn’t even have the luxury of choice.
    I’m still trying to comprehend all the consequences of this realization, but I can now detect those moments when I can choose, opening up for a higher state. I think Gurdjieff’s “we are not able to Do” is related to all of this. I cannot Do when I have no choice. But if I observe my functions, at some moments I gain this gift of choice, and by being able to choose – I’m closer to being able to Do.

    My pruned aim therefore, is to observe the manifestations of my imagination (especially during the first hour in the morning), and see the opportunity of Choice, weeding out wasteful thoughts and nourishing the useful ones.

    1. Asaf Braverman

      It is interesting, Evgueni, how we become receptive to areas on which we are currently working. The mention of “Choice” during the workshop was in passing, but was nevertheless meaningful to you because of your earlier experience.

      I agree that “Choice” is key. Upon observing the persistence of our imagination, we are prone to thinking in extremes, that it should be entirely eliminated. But once you consider that there is a separate brain in charge of thinking – the intellectual center – then it is unrealistic to expect to eliminate thought for 24 hours just as it is unrealistic to eliminate physical movement for 24 hours. By extreme effort, one may succeed, but through the way of the fakir, not the way of understanding (the Fourth Way).

      There is need for thought, but selective thought. There is a Sufi saying that goes:

      Think about your thoughts, and correct them.

  2. Dean Whittingham

    I don’t know if others have felt anything similar to this, but since the aha moment of Jan/Feb when I (and others in the group) observed that our chief feature was holding the axe I have felt an overwhelming desire to get back to basics, to go over all of the 4th way books and other literature again with a newer and more knowledgeable perspective to see if I can glean more understanding.

    However, the last couple of workshops has made me realize that this annual teaching is essentially doing the same thing. Asaf is not telling us anything different from what he has told us many times before, it is just that we are understanding more thoroughly, through deeper and more prolonged experiences, what is being said because it is becoming easier to observe it in ourselves.

    For instance, when I posted this
    I did not realize that what I felt as liberation soon became the very temptation which pulled me back to sleep. The aim is not to go looking for habits but rather to use them as they appear in order to observe.

    Another example relates to Myrto’s post wherein she said

    “– There is also an opposite cause-effect: try on purpose to change the speed of the talk, ie force it to get slower. Then “presence” comes as a result.”

    I have also found that when I eat if I purposely slow down my eating I become aware, and as soon as I notice my eating has sped up I know I have drifted off to sleep again – normally coupled with some inner account or considering happening at the same time. The aim is not to slow down my eating, but to Be by slowing down my eating because I know that my machine is going to want to speed it up.

    This, and Hannah’s and Jack’s experiences also reminds me of a moment which I shared around 6 months ago where I was eating breakfast and I forced myself to feel a sense of gratitude for having the means by which to work and at the same time to slow down my eating. What transpired over the next 5 to 10 seconds or so was definitely something I do not remember having experienced before, and to my memory, I had become acutely aware of more sounds and the scenery around me than normal, it was serene and yet very detailed and rich in experience. To this day, I do not think I have experienced a level of awareness as much as that.

    1. Asaf Braverman

      Dean, in this comment you’ve captured the essence of formulating aims:

      The aim is not to slow down my eating, but to Be by slowing down my eating because I know that my machine is going to want to speed it up.

      We start this way, but slowly deviate. Many reasons may contribute to this. Vanity kicks in, comparing my slow eating to my neighbor’s hasty eating. Or my moving center masters the aim and learns to mechanically eat slowly. Whatever the deviation, the March pruning of aim (or Spring Cleaning, as Brant aptly puts it) intends to reestablish the reason behind our aim, to reconnect it with “to Be.”

      Regarding the higher state you describe, and the spontaneous way in which it appeared, it reminds me of the following question and answer to Peter Ouspensky:

      Question: “I can’t, by any effort I make, reach a state at all like the states that come accidentally. Is there any effort that one can make?”
      Ouspensky: “Yes, but you say it comes accidentally. If it is what I mean, it comes as a result of your efforts, previous efforts, only it comes not at that time. But if you hadn’t made efforts it wouldn’t come accidentally. The more efforts you make, the more you have these ‘accidental’ moments of self-remembering, of understanding, of being emotional and things like that. It is all the result of effort. Only we cannot connect cause and effect in this case; but the cause remains and it will produce its effect.”

      1. Dean Whittingham

        A great example of deviation has been that although I have been brushing my teeth regularly with my opposite hand for at least a month if not longer, I observed this morning that other than for the first moment of putting the brush in my mouth for the rest of the time I was brushing I was asleep

  3. jay inglee

    Thank you.


    Brings to mind a wonderful and concise comment by
    Maurice Nicoll regarding the friction and “cooking” or boiling of a potato.
    That, an “cooked potato is more intelligent than an uncooked potato.”

    Practical and true on the most paradigmatic level for the farmer who does not want to starve and perhaps the fundamental truth and necessary suffering for the seeker of an esoteric “cooking” as it were.
    The latter being perhaps, more nourishing and ultimately “satisfying.”
    My personal verification of this truth at varied scales and relativity awakens and interests “I’s” that want to work –

    Acceptance and Willingness : “I wish to be cooked.”
    Or, in the sentiment of Voltaire, “Tend your garden.”

    Thank you again.Good work

  4. Jack

    I have observed that Jack when criticized or spoken to in any way that it feels attacks it’s pride, vanity or questions his actions, it gets irritated or angry and wants to strike back verbally to defend itself or attack the person.To further refine or prune my Jan. & Feb. aims, I shall focus especially on this form of negative emotion. I know the opportunities will come, especially with this aim, and will seek not to bite the apple but to resist the temptation to respond negatively.
    I also continue my aim to minimize the amount of time I watch news on TV and especially political news. My machine has become identified with one of the 2 political parties. I also set an aim to avoid participating in political conversations.
    I ask for and need help from the Work in these areas.

  5. Tim

    My aim was to use right attitudes (established with intellectual center) to curtail negative emotions. I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, prevent the negative emotions from occurring but I could certainly try this new technique of using right thinking. Specifically, I had personal finances in mind. Any emotions surrounding short-comings would be recognized, not ignored, but then boxed in with a healthier outlook view.

    The efforts paid off but in a different way than expected. I realized that attitude, by itself, wouldn’t change my financial situation. As G once said, we have about as much room as a violin in a violin case to “do” anything.

    What changed was the loss of force, meaning, there was less energy lost to negative self pity. This made me see the rut I had been in (and get in) about these things. There was no heavy emotional lifting here, just good mental habits that I knew to form when I wasn’t in a bad way about it.

    It continues to remind me that much of the work is to not only “clean” the lower centers but to also preserve force.

  6. anselmo

    In the last days, i observed the habit of imagination at work. I become lost in my imagination instead of accomplishing daily tasks.

    There is a part in me that does not want to work, that does not want to make efforts to complete tasks. This part is constantly offering apples so that i become identified. Constantly there are interesting thoughts emerging, so that i enter in a state of imagination. This part wants to make the machine rest in imagination,as it does not require effort.

  7. Dean Whittingham

    The last workshop (“feeding essence”) has no comments section on it, so I hope it is not a problem to post this here.

    I wanted to think long and hard about the question ‘what inspires me to work’, in order to present something that may be unique in some situations from what has already been offered by others, and which I know from verification includes the element of humility.

    I feel inspiration from consuming fourth way materials, and, seeing myself asleep, as offered by others, and these occur more frequently; but there is also a situation which I find myself in from time to time where I become extremely humbled also.

    What happens in these situations is this:

    Something happens externally and I will snap because whatever it was has inconvenienced me. The ‘snap’ will not necessarily be around another or others, and will often happen when I am on my own, but either way, it will be an external expression of negativity. However, not long after, something else will happen where this something else will be positive or beneficial, at least in relation to whatever purpose I am engaged in at the time, and it becomes obvious to me that the original ‘something’, if it had ‘not’ had happened, would not have allowed the later ‘something else’ to have occurred and that the original something not only pales in terms of cost as to the benefit of the later something else, but that it almost feels like it was put there for my benefit but because I was so consumed with the inconvenience it never occurred to me that it may be happening for my benefit. When this happens there is this overwhelming feeling of being humbled by the experience which brings with it a desire and motivation to work – the desire not to let circumstances which come as inconveniences to manifest into negative outbursts.

    This has happened in a variety of situation spanning various times frames, but I can probably best illustrate it with simple situations which often occur during my day job:

    I am driving my truck in a busy area with a delivery to make where finding ‘loading zones’ or suitable parking is extremely difficult and I am also pushed for time. All of sudden a traffic light turns amber and then red or there are road works causing me to react negatively because now i’m being held up. Just as I get passed the road works or red lights, a vehicle which was parked exactly near where I need to deliver all of a sudden pulls out leaving the spot open for me right at the time when I needed them to. If the red light or roadworks had not occurred, not only would I have got there maybe 15 seconds early, I would have had to drive all around the block again hoping it was vacant next time.

  8. Dean Whittingham

    Something else in relation to essence vs personality.

    I have discovered that deep down I do not like confrontation of any sort, and yet, since my teens I have developed a very argumentative and competitive feature which loves confrontation, especially in the field of intellectual discussions.

    I have noticed that I read or see something and am quick to judge and put forward my theory without thinking and yet I am then in a state of wishing I had not because I do not wish for a heated reply.

    I wonder if this is essence vs personality?