The Chartres November window presents the labor of fattening boar with acorn for imminent slaughter. However, other tasks derive from the symbols featured here, preparations that must also occur as our farmer approaches the barren period of the year. Fattening the boar suggests gathering fodder for livestock. The axe suggests hewing logs for firewood. And acorns suggest seeds for sowing. These are all labors that are featured in other medieval representations of November. We studied the symbolic meaning of fodder during hay harvest in June. We studied the symbolic meaning of firewood during February. Let us focus our November labor on the aspect that is yet to be addressed, the labor of sowing.

Now would be the time to sow wheat for a June harvest. Wheat sown now will push root before the ground freezes, lay dormant through winter, and mature after warmth returns in spring. This calculated dormancy is one of the main features of a seed. It can synchronize its germination with the optimal conditions to survive the cold months of winter. Moreover, most seeds are endowed with a much longer viability period than a single winter. If they encounter even years of drought or cold, they can wait patiently till the next optimal conditions present themselves. A seed of wheat can last for hundreds of years without losing its viability. It encapsulates the essence of its parent into a small and durable abbreviation that can withstand the unexpected.

So how do we encapsulate our inner harvests into small and durable abbreviations that can withstand the unexpected?

The first step is to review those harvests. What were our most important verifications around movement and physical sensations during the May and June labors? What were our most important verifications around thought patterns during the July and August labors? And what were our most important verifications around emotions during the September and October labors? How much better would we govern ourselves if we could recall those verifications to mind by snapping our fingers at the moment of trial! How much better could we resist the urge to hurry if we had our verifications around haste at the tip of our fingers, or curb the urge to daydream if we had our verifications around imagination at our hand’s reach, or struggle with negativity if we had our verifications around emotions up our sleeve!

“If you want to have your intention wrapped and enfolded in one word, so that you can hold onto it better, take only a short word of one syllable,” advises the author of a medieval work titled The Cloud of Unknowing. “This is better than a word of two syllables, for the shorter it is, the better it agrees with the work of the spirit… This word is to be your shield and spear, whether you ride in peace or in war.”

Our habits always manifest unexpectedly and in the immediacy of the moment. Negativity slams our door open unannounced, It doesn’t leave us time to run to our library, find The Fourth Way on the bookshelf, look up Negative Emotions in its index, and read up on the methods of non-expression. We must act now, rush to the other side of the tug rope and pull against the sense of injustice, the conviction of entitlement, the illusion of being right — or whatever else permits our urge to vent anger. If we could recall — whilst in the eye of the storm — everything we’ve ever verified and suffered about negativity, these recollections would infuse our efforts with invaluable instruction and inspiration. So after reviewing our verifications around this year’s harvests, the second step of the November labor is to formulate a set of commands that abbreviates them — monosyllabic commands, if we’re to follow the advice of The Cloud of Unknowing. These syllables will will be the seeds of our harvest.

The effectiveness of a new command is not immediate. Just like learning any new word, patient repetition lends it gradual weight. “A man thinks of what 'being' means,” says George Gurdjieff. “It is possible 'to be' in different ways. He wants 'to be' not merely in the sense of existence but in the sense of greatness of power. The words 'to be' acquire weight, a new meaning for him.” In this spirit, the third and last step of the November labor is to lend weight to our chosen commands, which can only be achieved by repeatedly and patiently applying them in the moment of trial. Repetition will gradually assign them their designated meaning.

If you are new to this teaching, focus exclusively on assigning the word ‘Be’ to your efforts to self-remember. Each time you try to remember yourself, silently intone the command ‘Be’ in an attempt to marry this name with its corresponding state. At first, this might seem unnecessarily intellectual, but through time and repetition you will witness this monosyllabic word becoming “your shield and spear, in peace or in war.” If you have experience with this teaching and have applied this technique before, practice assigning monosyllabic commands to each of the three primary harvests of this year: one command for working with physical habits, another for working with intellectual habits, and a third for working with emotional habits. Restrict yourself to three; too many commands will drown your work in thought and miss the purpose of the November labor.

Share your commands, and your attempts to apply them, in the commentary below.

Responses

  1. Hannah K

    NOVEMBER MUSIC

    The Chartres stained glass window for November shows our farmer killing a pig fattened on acorns. Similarly, the third movement of ‘Autumn’ from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ deals with the killing of animals to feed off through the winter,but he instead chooses hunting for wild prey, maybe deer. We could say that what wine is to grapes, the fattened animal is to hay, (the harvest of May and June). The hay is taken into the animal’s body and through the alchemy of digestion and metabolism, is turned into muscle that we then eat as meat. As the old year ripens and the new year approaches, all our hard work over the course of the year must be transformed into something that can sustain us through the darker, leaner times. Here is the YouTube link for Vivaldi’s music and the text that he wrote to accompany it.

    ‘Autumn’ (3rd movement) by Vivaldi
    https://youtu.be/Zkg8nlQ-Ip0
    Allegro
The hunters emerge at dawn,
ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.
Their quarry flees while they give chase.
Terrified and wounded, the prey struggles on,
but, harried, dies.

    Tchaikovsky chose to depict a ‘Troika’ for his November piece from his collection of piano pieces entitled ‘The Seasons’. A troika is a sleigh which is pulled by horses through the snow in Russia. Do you have snow yet Olga?! Tchaikovsky’s is a rather gentle, slow sleigh ride so I have chosen an orchestral version of this piece to add some colour. I will post Prokofiev’s faster, more exhilarating sleigh ride for December!

    “November” by Tchaikovsky
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqdhifthxEg

    I felt that neither of these pieces were composed to evoke higher emotions in the listener but are more earthy and fun. So to help us with our labour this month of marrying the heart and mind to inspire us with more noble states, I have included a piece by Schubert. It is a Litany for All Souls’ Day which is celebrated in the Christian church on November 1st with a service to remember the souls of those who have died. It is said that the veil between the lower and the higher world is thinner on this day and so the higher realms are more easily reached. I hope this proves true for you all.

    Litany for All Soul’s Day by Schubert

    1. Jack

      Hannah, thanks for sharing the 3 pieces, they are all lovely. The piece by Schubert was also more emotional for me. I think I had heard it before but did not know the piece nor anything about it. That helped make it more emotional for me as I thought of my passed mother’s Soul.

    2. Olga

      Hannah, we do have snowfalls in Russia in November. This year, the first snowfall in Moscow happened on October 21. Most probably, by the end of November the ground would be well covered with snow and ready for a sleigh ride.

  2. Paolo Meoli

    I have observed a tendency in my istinctive moving center to walk when i’m at the phone Call.
    This tendency put myself in a state of reaction. In this state inner considering is the rule in human relations.
    So i took inspiration from a song named “Be Still” suggested by Mayra, and so Now i’m starting to say “Be Still” or simply still in order to start to control my emotional centre inderictly. In this way, Being still, is much more possible starting to transform inner considering in external considering, or in another way stop to interupt the other and start to hear the other.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      ‘Still’ is likely a good command for many moving-centered habits, as the moving center will tend to manifest unnecessarily. The challenge is always to accompany that command with an emotion, a sincere desire to pull against unnecessary movement. I am curious to hear in a little while, Paolo, how successful you find yourself with this task. Let me know.

      I include a related thought from Gurdjieff below, that explains the connection between movement, emotion, and thought.

    2. George Gurdjieff

      “The three principal centers, the thinking, the emotional, and the moving, are connected together and, in a normal man, they are always working in unison. This unison is what presents the chief difficulty in work on oneself. What is meant by this unison? It means that a definite work of the thinking center is connected with a definite work of the emotional and moving centers—that is to say, that a certain kind of thought is inevitably connected with a certain kind of emotion (or mental state) and with a cer­tain kind of movement (or posture); and one evokes the other, that is, a certain kind of emotion (or mental state) evokes certain movements or postures and certain thoughts, and a certain kind of movement or posture evokes certain emotions or mental states, and so forth. Everything is connected and one thing cannot exist without another thing.” – George Gurdjieff (In Search of the Miraculous)

      1. Tim

        Asaf,
        Thank you for posting this quote from Gurdjieff. Reading him can be like drinking from a fire hose. Just when I thought I had a working grasp of his teaching, I realize “not yet.” And he goes on to say, paraphrasing: think what you feel and feel what you think…

        For the intellectual center I like to use the word “build” or sometimes “inspire”. I think of the Gothic cathedrals or the soaring chamber music of Eric Whitacre and, firstly, cease my base thinking and try to deliberately build thoughts up and away from mediocrity. It’s a challenge. But when it is done right I can feel a dilation of something.

        For the physical center I too find the word ‘still’, as in “still yourself”, to be quite fitting. When I find the urge to eat or drink or indulge, remembering stillness is a contrast to whatever is coursing through my veins. This helps, not by resisting or denying, but by letting my grip loosen and calming down, all the while in the same room with its grip. To be with it.

        For the emotional center, well that is a work in progress. For me I think the word should be “pass”, as in “let it pass” or “this too shall pass”. This is because, in my present condition, i.e. low level of being, the only thing I can count on is my emotions to be negative, with the exception of love.

  3. Sebastian L.

    I’ve come to think that “Shame” is a very relevant command for me (and presumably most other people). Not in order to put myself down but to help generate appropriate emotions regarding all the irresponsible things I do all the time: Postponing urgent things, instead watching irrelevant videos on YouTube. Disregarding opportunities, instead opting for a small comfort zone with no challenges to grow far and wide. Making promises that I know I won’t keep. Being superficial, judging people at first sight. And so on and so forth…

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      The realization of our irresponsibility (or lack of unity) is powerful. It can generate a repulsion from sleep, which, I suspect, is what you are highlighting in this comment. John the Baptist as featured in the mosaic of Hagia Sophia expresses this emotion (in Christianity, it is called ‘repentance’).

      In the word ‘shame’ I am missing an uplifting element. It can too easily convert into self-deprecation, self-pity – common negative emotions. Instead, I recommend that you experiment with more neutral commands such as ‘no,’ ‘down,’ or ‘back.’ Try and let me know.

      Deesis, detail of John MR (Haghia Sophia, Istanbul)

      1. Sebastian L.

        Dear Myrto and Asaf,

        I agree that “shame” has a strong flavor of judgment when viewed in the meaning in which it usually is used. However in my experience there are at least two meanings for the word “shame”; one is very judgmental, especially when other people use it on us, while the other is used internally to point out to oneself irresponsible acts that one could have easily avoided if it were not for laziness.

        The second meaning is what I was trying to have in mind when I experimented with the word during the last few days. I will also experiment with the other words suggested to see if they make a difference.

        1. Sebastian L.

          I’ve managed to fight back a few temptations by internally uttering a strong “No” or simply “Be”. For example, while working on something job-related I tend to get distracted after a little while. I enjoy playing the guitar and therefore that guitar on the wall is always a big temptation. Just today was I able to resist the urge to start playing with the help of a command.

  4. Fabrizio Agozzino

    Dear Asaf,

    I went through the different centres and I have chosen for each of them a command in accord with the past months work.

    I would like to share here the one about the emotional centre.

    I have noticed in myself and others as well the wide spread habit of speaking – often not nicely – of people not physically present in the room. This habit is truly a poisonous one. It is not just speaking ill of someone not present, but it brings adversity, hate, division and discord among people and, more important, prevent the Steward from accepting and eventually transforming suffering. As usual we can not be ‘formatory’ about the work but with this ‘leak’ I have to be very careful and merciless.

    I decided to name this habit inspired by Shakespeare’s character, ‘Iago’. With this word I intend to command to my Steward to put and end right away when the manifestation starts or is about to start.

    Thanks,
    Fabrizio

  5. Hannah K

    The habit that most frequently manifests in my moving centre is haste and for this I have been working with the command “calm”. My emotional centre’s favourite habit is panic and for this I have been working with the word “trust” which is proving to be very powerful. The imaginings that my intellectual centre engages in most often are of the future so I’ve been trying out the words “now” and “here” but I still find “be” works the best.

  6. Jatinder Singh Joshi

    I am using word ‘thall’ of my native language means stop. As most of the time I am on default state doing everything mechanically,daydreaming etc etc. The repetition of word thall shows me the whole picture that horses are pulling the carriage according to their self will. This word produces slightly alter of consciousness. But it breaks the second state of consciousness even for 2 seconds.
    The more I repeat this word (consciously) the more higher environment could be create. But I found two problems
    1. How to remind ourselves frequently to do it? i am thinking about using reminders through phone.
    2. It could easily become blind mantra.

    The right use of repetition leads to more frequency,more durable more deeper consciousness.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      True, it can easily become a blind mantra. We will discuss this in more depth during the November online workshops. As a rule of thumb, using a command mechanically also has the power of waking you up, if you observe this happening in action. If you see yourself intoning a command mechanically, that moment can then be deepened into also seeing what is lacking. Where is the fuel? Where is the good earth to nourish this seed? Where is your emotional center?

  7. Myrto

    I gathered on one page, all the past months observations on habits of the centers.
    In front of me, as if in a mirror, I saw the totality of a persona. So far, I have been focusing on details and parts, small pieces of the picture. Now the picture was there in total.
    I have no words to describe the feeling of “looking someone in a mirror who bears my name, and inhabits my internal space”.
    I am now getting emotional, realizing that the monosyllabic words suggested by Asaf, are the very first words of a communication channel (Reins of the carriage), with my false personality.

    1. George Gurdjieff

      “A man must realize that he indeed consists of two men. One is the man he calls ‘I’ and whom others call ‘Ouspensky,’ ‘Zakharov’ or ‘Petrov.’ The other is the real he, the real I, which appears in his life only for very short moments and which can become firm and permanent only after a very lengthy period of work.” – George Gurdjieff

  8. Jack

    I chose Stop for the Moving Center,
    Change for the Intellectual Center,
    and Grow for the the Emotional Center.
    I didn’t see the continuity until after I had picked each one separate, Stop,Change and Grow
    I like the way this requires me to notice each center.
    If I awaken, as example, to the moving Center, I check what my intellectual center is thinking and what am I feeling. Doesn’t happen like that every time, but that is what I am aiming for.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      This is a good method, Jack, for the reason mentioned in the Gurdjieff quotation above. You could say that the definition of a ‘habit’ is a recurring behavioral pattern in which all three centers participate. If this were not so, it would be much easier to break habits. But as it is, we usually focus on the manifestation of a habit in a single center and remain blind to the other two, which presently undermine our effort. So it is wise to use an observation of one center to awaken, and then check on the others.

  9. András V

    I have a passive type with the habit of avoiding new situations that may bring inconveniences. The word ‘move’ helps me step out of this passive state. It is ment to the intellectual center, but also carries a strong emotional element.
    The word ‘up’ seems to be useful when I am walking and catch myself staring downward and in daydreaming. Changing my posture to look up breaks the habit of daydreaming.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      The connection between staring downward and daydreaming is perceptive. By staring downward, the moving center reduces the amount of impressions flowing into our sight, which could otherwise interrupt our mind activity. I’ll be curious to hear in a weeks’ time from you how effective the command ‘up’ turns out to be in changing this posture. Send me a note to let me know.

  10. Alina

    In advance sorry for my bad English. While my communication is only through the translator.

    Now , when I feel that imagination takes me completely from reality and a feeling of haste -“to hurry to get there, where I supposedly will get better.” I’m trying to tell myself “be” and then to reinforce it with the words ” Future is present “,” There is only now “to the word “be” had an automatic in posledstvii the meaning of these terms. And enhances the effect of depth and duration of self-remembering.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      This is a good start, Alina. Phrases like “the future is present” and “there is only now” are convincing to the intellectual center, much less so to the emotional center. Having convinced the weakest and slowest part of our being, we gain a glimpse of consciousness that promptly falls back into identification with the future. But this is how we begin.

      To progress further, you will have to verify how haste is unproductive, how it never lets you ‘arrive’ even when that anticipated future moment comes. You will have to verify how much time you lose in anticipation, and charge your command ‘Be’ with these verifications. Only then will the command have the power to recruit your emotional center.

      Keep up the good work and let me know how it goes.

  11. Jim Vander Noot

    I have found that “Be” works very well to bring me back to the moment and break the flow of thoughts and associations of the intellectual center.

    In the workshop on emotions, I chose “Give” as a cue to push myself towards expressing compassion. In working with that, I’ve discovered that my false personality closely associates “compassion” and “pity.” I can strongly taste the vanity in “pity,” and I see that it will take time to push past that and grasp the true emotion of compassion. “Give” is starting to produce results that I think can be applied to the emotional center in general, as it seems to reverse the flow of emotion from inward sleep to outward presence.

    The word “stop” seemed to be appropriate for the moving center, but I thought “freeze” might have less of a negative connotation. Paolo’s choice of “Still” sounds even better, so I will work with that.

  12. anselmo

    Physical habits: when we worked on the moving center I remember that I tried to slow down my movements in as many moments as possible (typing, speaking, walking). The friction between the desire to hurry up, and the effort to pull against it generated the energy necessary to Be. To encapsulate this understanding, I will use the command: slow.

    Intellectual habits: rationalizing everything and daydreaming is a habit that recurs in my machine. One day, I was walking around a lake near my house, and my consciousness was higher, in that moment the habit of rationalizing everything seemed unattractive, it didn’t make sense. What made sense was looking the beautiful landscape that was in front of me. So, in this case, I decided to use the word: look.

    Emotional habits: inspired by Jack’s comment, I decided to experience more an aversion to sleeping. When I am identified with thoughts, emotions, they have power over me, they enslave me. If I am not identified, I can have the option of choosing one group of “I”s over another. I am more free. For example, if I am identified with the desire of buying a new watch, I will end up buying a watch based on something mechanical (and probably without needing it). So the word I chose is: free.

  13. PUSHPAM SINGH

    Most of the time, when “I” find myself daydreaming, imagining, looking around the surrouonding and then looking at my body and thoughts comes first to me.

    Emotional habits: Whenever ‘I’ found ‘myself’ in new circumstances or facing new difficulties, the first thing which ‘I’ do is ‘I’ weep (internally if they are people around and externally when ‘I’ am alone for example if ‘I’ am alone in a place unknown to ‘me’.)After weeping it realizes that it is safe, that, nothing wrong has happened to it. Some Work – I at that time suggests the uppermost I to look at the surrounding (or problem), that there is no need to weep. So, for emotional habits, the command is LOOK.

    Intellectual habits: Intellectually, ‘I’ feels itself lazy. It doesn’t think. It has to study.The second force comes in the form that it doesn’t take the book in its hand. Or even if it takes, soon it starts reading fourth way books.When it comes to think in these books,too, it doesn’t think. It postpones thinking and goes on reading with attracted attention. This way it gets new impression with less consciousness. Another I feels itself lazy. Another I justifies it by saying that it has read a good book and got something useful, that it has not wasted its time.So, a command is needed for this habit. The I thought of “study” or ” think”, but both the words are used so much that it doesn’t feel that much effective. Here the I needs helps from external sources. So, please help it.

    Physical habits: Physically, the machine is lazy. It is not ready to do on its own. It has heard: “You get something when you do.” in Hindi and this affected it positively.So, the command for it is “do”.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Pushpam, since we’ve been communicating in person, and since you are relatively new to this teaching, I encourage you for now to focus only on using the command ‘Be’. Use it as the name of self-remembering, and see whether naming that effort helps you gain better command on it, make it more frequently.

      Let me know how it goes.

  14. Tim

    I am experimenting with something new for the intellectual center. The word is ‘cross’ but I don’t say it, I think of the symbol. Not a Christian cross per-se, but more like a plus sign. Ouspenksi said we travel through life horizontally, moving from one impression to another but that we need to be vertical. While I don’t fully comprehend what this means, just trying to get a taste, the image of the cross reminds me to first stop my habitual path along the horizontal and go up, which also implies a measure of effort, against the gravity of myself. At the turn, or intersection, I am compelled to slow my thoughts to handle the change of direction and this too is a reminder that the act of thinking is not where we find salvation, the holy ghost, or higher mind.

  15. Hannah K

    This morning I was thinking about yesterday’s workshop on understanding and I realised that I had experienced those birds that came and ate the seeds that fell on the path. The command I was working with for my intellectual centre when it goes into imagination Was the word “here”. Every time I thought the command “here”, a flock of “birds” would swoop down on it and start debating and quarrelling over it. They would say things like “I think ‘now’ would be better”, “I want to just stick with ‘be'”, “I’m a failure because these commands aren’t working and everyone else is doing better than me”, etc, etc., and the poor little command got completely drowned out. In fact it was actually provoking imagination rather than stopping it.
    Then I came up with the word “look”, inspired by Paolo’s angle last night, and bang!, it took root. And it took root I realised because the word ‘look’ tapped into the fruits of the previous labour of the looking exercise which I had practised regularly 6 months ago or so. There was understanding and experience behind it making it a much more forceful command.
    This has been a very powerful confirmation for me of that parable and of how well we are being taught!

  16. Jim Vander Noot

    After Saturday’s workshop, I focused more attention on the moving center. I had not experienced much extraneous movement, and thus had not perceived a need to invoke the command, “still.” My observations have only shown me little things, like tensing of the body and movements of the jaw. When I became aware of this, I went to invoke my command, but it came out “calm.” It seems that “still” did not work for me, and changing my choice to “calm” has a much stronger resonance.

  17. Giia Weigel

    I am entering this discussion at a half way point and was not here when choosing of words was suggested. But, interestingly enough, I have done something quite similar, yet different, and would like to share it here as a reference to “use whatever works” suggestion. The choices are not completely my own, they have found their way to me through the studies, but now, when self-awareness and taming the negative emotions has moved to the forefront, they are proving incredibly helpful. Perhaps they can be of use for someone else here as well. 🙂

    When an emotion overwhelms me, no matter what kind, I tell myself “this body is feeling emotions” time and time again, until the separation happens – part of me comes to understand that another part of me is being busy identifying with something, and once this understanding takes place, the emotion resolves. Sometimes entirely, sometimes partially (depends on the triggers – if I am sitting beside the trigger, it does not work as well, but at least helps to stop me from engaging). Sometimes it does not work, and I will get busy defending/proving/etc, BUT the looking part in me looks on and remembers… I cannot be sure, but I think it may have helped in engaging less.

    The same applies to thought-storms, then I say “this mind is thinking”. For very particular thoughts I recognize as wrong/inappropriate/negative, I have found a slightly different solution that relates to no words at all. I picture the thought together with a thinker (as a small young me) and move her behind my back. As if to say – “Yes, that thought can be thought, perhaps, but now is not the time. Mull it over and if it’s worthy, bring it back to the front.” And they dissolve… How exactly, I really don’t know.

    I don’t really have a tool for the physical me, but I’ve noticed that if I get overly excited or want to rush or hurry, it suffices to call my attention to it by asking, “Now, which one of you is going bananas this time?” None of the mini-mes usually like to step up, and the antics cease.

    Glad to be here. 🙂

  18. Myrto

    Sagittarius
    In the Labour of November on Chartres Window, next to the man with the boar, we see a centaur, half man half beast, holding a bow in one hand, and arrows in the other. This is the symbol of the zodiac sign of Sagittarius (The Archer).
    The zodiac constellation of Sagittarius, is the area of the sky behind the Sun at December end.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/Sagittarius_IAU.svg
    Seen at summer nights in the south sky, points to the center of our galaxy and covers an area of the sky, full of star clusters.
    The Babylonians identified Sagittarius as the god Nergal, a strange centaur-like creature firing an arrow from a bow. Nergal was a solar deity, god of war and of the underworld.
    n Greek mythology, Sagittarius is also identified as a centaur: half human, half horse.
    Centaurs, like the Sphinx of Egypt, are classified as liminal beings, holding two natures. They are featured as very wild, expressing the untamed nature, or conversely as wise teachers, like centaur Chiron.
    See below some wonderful paintings with depictions of Chiron.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiron#/media/File:Chiron_instructs_young_Achilles_-_Ancient_Roman_fresco.jpg
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiron#/media/File:Andr27.jpg
    Another famous centaur, believed to be the zodiac Sagittarius, is Crotus, companion of the Muses (deities of arts). He was a great hunter and musician who invented the hunting bow and the rhythmic beats used to accompany music.