Nature fluctuates. In one season it gives little and in another it bestows much. If this were not so, then mankind could live in nature as Adam and Eve lived in Paradise, feasting freely on its fruits. “There was not a man to till the ground, but there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground,” says the Book of Genesis, describing a self-sustained garden of abundance. Nature would do all the work and mankind would live unconcerned, eating, drinking, and making merry all year round. But nature’s uneven bestowal forces a need for preparing during times of feast for times of famine. Nature forces mankind to farm.

In the northern hemisphere, nature swings into its brightest and warmest extreme in June. June 20th will mark the summer solstice, the longest day and the beginning of summer. Till now, the farmer permitted his livestock to graze freely in fields of grass (see horse in the May Labor), but from now on he will have to store that grass to provide for his livestock through winter. The same holds true for every crop: its surplus will have to be preserved for future use, a process that begins with harvest.

The Chartres sequence of labors features three types of harvest: hay, wheat, and grape. Hay is harvested in June, wheat in July, and grape in September. Hay sustains livestock, wheat and grape sustain man. Indeed, any medieval farm in Europe would have had to harvest much more than this — or at least obtain much more through bartering with other farms — but these three harvests were chosen by the Chartres artists to represent the three archetypal forms of sustenance for the micro-cosmos man. Hay represents sustenance for the body (which the micro-cosmos man shares with the animal world); bread represents sustenance for the mind; and wine represents sustenance for the heart. These three make for a complete diet, “affecting simultaneously every side of man's being,” as George Gurdjieff explained when he distinguished the fourth way from the other three, in the way it brought harmony to the micro-cosmos.

The micro-cosmos man, too, fluctuates, perpetually swinging from light to darkness, from detachment to identification, from certainty to doubt — on a faster timescale than the macro-cosmos nature. “Our understanding is always moving up and down,” says Peter Ouspensky. “At one moment we understand more, and at another moment we understand less. If we notice these differences... we shall be able to realize that there is a possibility of keeping those higher levels of understanding.”

How to preserve my understandings? I must first consider my fluctuations. Sipping my morning coffee, I have greater relativity towards the challenges of the day than later on, when my boss forces me to work extra hours. Walking my dog through town, I have greater inner calm than later on, when I return home to find my children quarreling. If I don’t work during the calm of one season I shouldn’t expect to be able to work during the storms of another. I must work when I can so that I can work when I must. Each time I make an effort to Be, I justify all my preceding labors by applying my entire being in this present moment. I preserve the harvest of my understanding by perpetually putting it into practice, now.

June invites us to review our understandings around the physical body and preserve them, lest they rot and ruin. Since formulating an aim in January this year (or since you joined this work), what have you understood about the physical body and its relation to your aim? If you do not factor what you’ve learned into your present efforts, then you are neglecting your harvest. What have you learned about haste, about being present while dining, or about working through physical fatigue?

Responses

  1. Asaf Braverman Post author

    My January aim was to clean my house from petty negative emotions. Since then, I’ve verified that it’s impossible to catch subtle negative emotions without keeping one’s fingers on the pulse of all the other centers.

    The moving center gets carried away with ‘doing.’ Technology augments this tendency by facilitating multitasking. I’ve found that limiting the time it takes me to complete a task brings work discipline to that task. For example, if I decide that between 6am to 7am I will only write, then setting that limit will help me Be, because the invitations to deviate will have to be resisted and will serve as reminders to Be. Otherwise, multitasking becomes too hard to resist. I begin writing, deviate into checking email, and from there into a host of lateral octaves. Thus distracted, subtle negativity expresses itself freely.

    1. Vatsal Desai

      Yes,I have experienced this however still the distractions are so many so sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail with this time bound aim/attitude.It is like sometimes it is very easy to Be and sometimes lot of resistance.

  2. Hannah K

    June Music

    The music for this month of June focuses on the still, peaceful atmosphere of hot summer days. The first movement of Vivaldi’s”Summer” from “The Four Seasons” contrasts this languid laziness with the violence of a summer storm.

    Allegro non molto
    Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat
    men and flocks are sweltering,
    pines are scorched.
    We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard.
    Soft breezes stir the air….but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.

    Allegro non molto
    “Sotto dura Staggion dal Sole accesa
    Langue l’ huom, langue ‘l gregge, ed arde il Pino;
    Scioglie il Cucco la Voce, e tosto intesa
    Canta la Tortorella e ‘l gardelino.
    Zeffiro dolce Spira, mà contesa
    Muove Borea improviso al Suo vicino;
    E piange il Pastorel, perche sospesa
    Teme fiera borasca, e ‘l suo destino;”

    Here is the YouTube link for you to listen to:
    https://youtu.be/e0eljruR8Lk

    Meanwhile Tchaikovsky chooses a Barcarolle which is a boating song for his June piece from”The Seasons”.
    Here is the YouTube link:
    https://youtu.be/3xLQW5rm92s

  3. brant smith

    My aim in January was to become less distracted completing tasks. In living out my aim I have verified that Mans time is much like the soil in nature, an open day is a bare field, inviting potential to actualize in intentional or unintentional ways. In gardening I have learned that weeds are inevitable just like inevitable deviations occurring on your path through life. You may get lucky and the deviation or weed my turn out to be useful, yet gambling all the time does not guarantee an abundant harvest. You have to put effort forth to carryout your aims or maintain your crops. I feel like I have reconciled my self to a degree that there will be distractions, so I should not criticize my self so harshly, and approach my actions more with understanding. It seems that Understanding starts with habits, which then become observed. In those observations verifications are made and many verifications develop into an understanding. Now since I have set my goal, the effort behinds what it takes becomes real, and moves from what began as an goal from the mind to using my body to materialize it.

  4. Jim Vander Noot

    Focus on the body has helped me to keep my awareness in the present moment. For example, when I need to go somewhere in the car, the machine has an automatic tendency to register the impulse “go to the car” and, once it’s set the body on its path, lapse into mental associations about whatever impression has snagged the machine’s attention. If I focus on the movements of the body as it goes from place to place, I can prolong my perception of the moment and see how the machine’s fixation on the destination blocks out perception of things that happen on the way.

    Other manifestations of the body have been useful as triggers for self-remembering. Little physical habits or tics, when perceived, have become wake-up alarms.

    I’ve also noticed that when I’m struggling to be conscious and observe, sometimes I will tense my body and tend to hold my breath. I’m still working to understand this – I suspect it occurs when the machine is tightly identified with the “I” that is currently in control. When I sense this situation, I switch focus to breathing, but there is more work to be done here.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks for sharing this useful observation, Jim. I’ve also observed a direct relation of the mind to the body. In the division of centers into mechanical, emotional, and intellectual parts (as described in this tutorial: Four Lower Centers (Part 2)), each part stimulates another. This means that being in the mechanical part of the moving center (“go to the car”) stimulates the mechanical part of the intellectual center (“lapsing into mental associations”).

      The reverse is also true: buy introducing intentional movement, we lift up our thinking. Hence the importance of harvesting and preserving disciplines around the moving/instinctive center.

  5. Hannah K

    My aim for January was to observe and pull against haste while setting up my room in the morning at the clinic where I work. Now most of the time I manage to set up in a calm state of presence keeping my movements slow and conscious such that it has become a habit. I then set myself the aim of bringing this physical feeling of calm focused movements to the task of preparing meals. This was more difficult until I had the idea of acting as if I were performing a ritual similar to the way a priest would prepare the bread and wine for holy communion. This attitude helped to bring more presence to my actions of preparing food which previously I always did in a rush.
    Now I am working on bringing that same feeling to my morning exercises and as long as I can bring in that feeling of calm focused actions to my body while I’m doing them then it is easier to stay present. So I guess it is this feeling that is my harvest in that I have been able to “preserve” it enough to be able to transfer it from one activity to another.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      The idea of turning routine into ritual is very practical. There are so many repetitive moments during our day – getting ready in the morning, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, driving to and from work, buying groceries, etc. Ritual or routine are the only two attitudes we have by which to perform these recurring actions, and when expressed in this way, the choice is obvious.

  6. Adriana

    My aims in January were to read something from the work every morning and reflect or apply it during the day; keep up my weekly work with my body (yoga) and make efforts to separate from the negativity of my co-workers every week on our staff meeting. I realized that the last one has been the most difficult, I feel like a lion away from his pride with very little chance to survive, however I see some progress on being creative about how to help myself. I can almost predict how the conversation will evolved, gossip, judgement, taking turns to talk about their children a…therefore I used that as an alarm to come back to the present.

    At the beginning of spring gardening season started, I can go gardening all day to the point of exhaustion and then be in pain the next day, I set the to “listen to my body” and work on saving energy by paying attention to what is in front of me, I often go into imagination about how the garden will look when I am done!! Some moments I am more successful than others.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Adriana, this related to Jim’s observation above, that the mind tends to permit itself to wander when we engage in moving-centered activities. An effort to bring more intentionality to the movements will force the same in the intellectual center.

      I’m glad to hear you spend some time gardening. It should help make the annual cycle we use in this teaching more personal and practical.

  7. Barbara S F Davis

    Not sure this response is appropriate, but it does address the physical body with respect to aims.

    I do yoga. I walk. I work vigorously in the garden. I drink wine at night as a kind of anesthetic. On mornings when I had 2 1/2 instead of 1 1/2 glasses, I vow to refrain for the rest of the day. I keep my word, and I return to regular wine consumption the following day. In past years I’ve had great inner struggle. One way I knew I was out of integrity was having a dream of a road lined with empty bottles. I have no plan or intention to quit drinking.

    At 67 my focus on the body isn’t for being attractive. It’s for retaining the ability to work and move easily. The usual signs of age are present, and I have to exert effort to avoid tripping, falling, or hurting myself or an animal when I dog-sit.

    I put off taking responsibility for the body and brain for decades. The body helps me with my aims (chief of which is equanimity, the upekkha of Buddhism, and refraining from the expression of unpleasant emotion — which task I set myself in 1973!).

  8. Barbara S F Davis

    I have to add one thing. I have come to realize that my most significant, over-arching aim is to avoid the expression of unpleasant emotion. I must not let myself approach another with anything negative. The results of negative statements and emotions are consistently negative themselves.

    Small internal sacrifices of one I or the other must be made, but the price I pay to keep silent is far smaller than the alternative.

    I can always feel when something judgmental or critical is wanting to use my mouth to have its say. Every single time I remain silent I am rewarded, not just immediately but in the long run.

  9. Myrto

    Cancer
    Next to the Labour of June on Chartres Window, the zodiac sign of Cancer is depicted as a beetle or a crab-like creature.
    The zodiac constellation of Cancer (The Crab) lies on the left side of the constellation of Gemini, but it is very difficult to spot it because its stars are very dim.
    See a picture from Bayer’s Uranometria at http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/cnc-b.html , and also its place on the star map at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cancer_IAU.svg
    Ancient Egyptians saw the constellation of Cancer, as a lowly scarab or dung beetle, representing the dawn Sun-god Khephri, a symbol of fertility.
    The species Scarabaeus sacer (often referred to as the sacred scarab), enjoyed a sacred status.
    Popular interpretation in modern academia theorizes the hieroglyphic (the language of Egyptians) image of the beetle represents a triliteral phonetic that Egyptologists translate as “to come into being”, “to become” or “to transform”. There are derivative terms of this phonetic, that are variously translated as “form”, “transformation”, “happening”, “mode of being” or “what has come into being”, depending on the context. It may have existential, fictional, or ontologic significance. The scarab was linked to Khepri (“he who has come into being”), the god of the rising sun.
    The Greeks, however, believed this constellation represented the giant crab which continually nipped at Hercules’ feet, hampering him as he battled with the poisonous, nine-headed monstrous Hydra.
    A nice depiction of the myth, is below (from an ancient jar, now in Louvre museum) http://www.theoi.com/Ther/Karkinos.html.
    According to Chaldaean and Platonist philosophy, Cancer was the ‘Gate of Men’ through which souls descended from heaven into human bodies, or into creation. Its opposite sign Capricorn represents the ‘Gate of the Gods’ where souls of the departed ascended back to heaven.
    (see a similar note on ‘Gemini’, under the post of May)

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks Myrto. I have seen the crab biting on Hercules’ foot while he combats the Hydra before, but never associated it with the constellation.

      In your research, did you ever encounter why the scarab (“coming into being”) would be associated with this time of year?

      1. Myrto

        Interesting and difficult question. I will keep it mind. I see a similarity between the “come into being” of the scarab, and the “gate of men” (souls coming down into bodies).This may be a key in the research.

      2. Myrto

        Some scholars, give the following explanations why scarab, has been used by Egyptians as a sacred symbol, linked with the Sun-god Khephri and with the idea of ‘come into being’.
        As you can see in this link (http://museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/Scarabs-for-Kids/cycle.html), scarabs make up dung balls. The rolling of the balls, forth and back, in order to give them shape, resembles the apparent movements of the Sun.
        The dung balls, are used as the nest of their eggs. So, Egyptians have seen young scarabs, coming out of the balls, and connected this metamorphosis with the notion of ‘come into being’.
        I think that all this context, can explain why the scarab is linked with the summer solstice, which is a point of maximum glory of the Sun.

  10. Dean Whittingham

    It may seem simple on the surface, but quite some time ago I started to brush my teeth with my ‘other’ hand as part of my early work in the fourth way. Since then, I now brush predominantly with this ‘other’ hand but what has also occurred now is that brushing my teeth with the other hand has almost become habitual, but yet there is always some residue of the ritual in it, whether it is at the beginning, or sometime in the middle, or near the end. I can understand how it is one thing to do something regular in an ‘irregular’ fashion in order to awaken but that over time its effect most certainly wanes – but even after all this time there is always still ‘something’. It is extremely easy to get carried away with our imaginations and identifications when doing something so medial, but I have also verified that once we do pass a certain point, no matter how much our new activity has become habitual, it is like we stick some stake in the ground from which we can’t go back. Even if I return to my old hand it causes me to awaken a little because it feels different now.

    I could share other examples but this one sticks out because it is an example of how a changed attitude toward such a plain task always brings out some level of increase awareness even if my heart is not in it – brushing me teeth will never be as it was say two years ago and prior

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks for the reminder of this basic principle, as quoted in In Search of the Miraculous:

      “In order to observe himself a man must try to walk not in his habitual way, he must sit in unaccustomed attitudes, he must stand when he is accustomed to sit, he must sit when he is accustomed to stand, and he must make with his left hand the movements he is accustomed to make with his right hand and vice versa. All this will enable him to observe himself and study the habits and associations of the moving center.” – George Gurdjieff

  11. Jim Vander Noot

    A couple months ago I began to focus on meals, particularly breakfast, as a ritual for eating consciously. At times, I find this becoming difficult, with my mind tending to wander through all sorts of idle thoughts. Focusing on the sensation of taste and the physical activities of chewing and swallowing seem to help.

  12. Myrto

    I have 45 minutes drive, to and from work. Usually, I am fused in imagination, replaying in my mind the events of the day. My willingness to turn routines into rituals, gets stronger, the more I verify these convictions:
    -that all these apparently mundane surroundings and tasks, are of value, with a hidden “depth”.
    -that ignoring these and falling into imagination, is useless leak of energy.

    When my imagination carries me away, there are reminders that bring me back. These are the trees and the plants all along the road. Especially if the weather is windy, and the leaves are moving. This is a signal that awakens my instinctive center.
    Holding my attention to what is in front of me while driving, is always rewarding. I notice little grass coming out from the cement of the national road. Clouds with interesting shapes. Beauty emerging out of the ugliness.
    However, the question is not to seek on purpose for something interesting, that would hold my attention. Such a quest, would still be a mechanicality of my intellectual center. I see that the really beautiful things appear, only when I seek nothing and my mind is at rest.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Thanks for sharing this observation, Myrto. In the workshop on Ritual & Routine we will discuss this in more depth. Attention or lack of attention in one center tends to stimulate the same in the others (as Hannah notes below). So if you are indulging in associative thought (mechanical part of the intellectual center) your driving will likewise be inattentive( mechanical part of the moving center). Making effort to be more attentive in one center will invite the same in all other centers.

  13. Hannah K

    I have found that since using the idea of ritual to bring me into presence while preparing meals this change of attitude has opened doors into other levels of understanding and awareness. Firstly I have noticed that it immediately takes the action out of the realm of the Jacks and into the Kings. It struck me that In fact the most important things that separates a king from an ordinary man is the ritual and ceremony that surrounds him.
    Furthermore, if I am performing a ritual, then it implies that what I am doing has some kind of sacred or spiritual element. I am preparing sacred food to feed my body, not just to satisfy my hunger but also such that energy can enter into it that I can use to reach higher states. The ritual brings an awareness of this and the stillness that it creates in my inner landscape feels like it is inviting the sacred in.

  14. Adriana

    I am very lucky, my work schedule doesn’t require for me to get up early and rush in the morning. I do get up early anyway, make my coffee, as the coffee is getting ready and now the the weather is warmer I go out to “survey” my garden. I walk around, smell the dew of the morning, noticed what is in blooming and what is on its way. After my walk I get my coffee and sit down to do a short reading, I have some of daily reading books from Rilke, Marcus Aurelius, Whitman. I notices that the instinctive center is the most active at this time, some emotionality rise when looking at the flowers or during my readings, however my instinctive center wants that coffee! Some mornings I am able to be aware of my internal “bargaining” trying to justify rushing into the kitchen to get the coffee, the focus on the flowers and intentionally feeling my body as it walks through the garden helps me “stay” other mornings I “wake up”in the kitchen as I am pouring the coffee in the cup.
    Yesterday I worked on paying attention to my moving center through out the day, it is a very active center in me. I observed that if I don’t make the intentional effort to stop, my moving center will drive this body all day.

  15. Inge Veerkamp

    Dear Adriana, as far as I know Asaf didn’t mention the choice to adopt the last post you shared during last week’s workshop about ‘Ritual & Routine’, but it will be alright I suppose.

    “It was paying attention to your moving center throughout the day. My moving center is also driving this body all day.” And I ‘adopted’ this one and started working on it.

    Thank you so much Adriana!

  16. Inge Veerkamp

    Dear Jason,

    I’m not sure this the right place to post this message, but I can’t find where else to put it and it’s a bit late, but I still want to share a wonderful surprise I got when you made this comment halfway the workshop “Verification” mentioning ‘responsibility’…

    It concerned a book I wrote which I couldn’t finish for quite some time.

    I also knew the reason and still after so many years I’m grateful I got this confirmed through what you mentioned!

    Best regards, Inge

  17. Dakhxesh

    Dear Asaf
    Greetings
    Thanks for your suggestion on dining exercise, yes I did not aside a first bite when I dining with my family but I did when I was alone. That’s I learned from you January 2015, our travels in india. With gratitude. D

    1. Vatsal Desai

      As in the discussion last Saturday,I had anticipated and it happened.I kept aside first bite and my wife noticed it and asked what happened with that part.As a typical Indian wife, she asked why I kept it aside.What was wrong with the food?So instead of getting in to an argument ,I just ate that bite:D

  18. Adriana

    One thing I use when dining is observing the plate and noticing the beauty of what is in it, a rosette of broccoli can be fascinating to look up, of course if one doesn’t get lost in fascination. The intricate “paths” and brightness of the seeds on a tomato slice is a work of art.

  19. Inge Veerkamp

    To me this post is really in the extension of something Hannah wrote: “must I sacrifice it completely and throw it away”?

    I started my first exercise in the morning having breakfast and something funny happened. At least I was surprised.

    I left the first bite on the plate and continued having breakfast. This bite was laying there like it was ‘alive’ and ‘talking’ to me… Asking why I left it there and it even seemed like “this bite” felt insulted or at least ignored… Anyway, I couldn’t really keep my eyes of it, but at the same time I felt more conscious while eating then I ever did before; tasting, chewing and all in a very relaxed way.

    After I finished my breakfast and throwed this first bite in the dustbin, I was more or less feeling quilty as well throwing ‘food’ away.

    I can see how important this exercise is.