Of the three brains that make up our microcosmos — body, mind, and heart — the body is the one we share in common with the animals. Although different in shape and skill, our body digests food, breathes air, and circulates blood in exactly the same way any as other mammal. The same cannot be said of the mind and heart, that function with much more sophistication in humankind. So since the body is the brain we share in common with the animals, we take hay harvest to symbolize the point in our annual cycle in which to observe our physical bodies.

To facilitate this observation, our bodies are further divided into ‘instinctive’ and ‘moving’ functions. “All instinctive functions are inherent,” explains Peter Ouspensky. “There is no necessity to learn them in order to use them; whereas none of the moving functions are inherent and one has to learn them all as a child learns to walk.” In May, hay grows spontaneously without the need of human intervention. Our farmer is shown leading his horse to feed on green pastures. This can’t truly be called farming; farming will resume only next month, when hay will have to be harvested, bundled, and preserved for the time of the year that it won’t be available. This natural appearance of hay resembles the natural functionality of our instinctive functions at birth. Therefore, during May, we will focus on observing the instinctive part of our bodies: our instinctive centers.

The instinctive center is responsible for preserving our physical body, both on a day-to-day basis and on the scale of our lifetime. On a day-to-day basis, it ensures we eat, drink, breathe, rest, and so forth, to maintain our body’s proper functioning. On this scale, its activity can be observed by photographing ‘I’s of hunger, thirst, fatigue, vigor, etc. However, if these ‘I’s are not promptly appeased, they soon affect the rest of our psychology by generating moodiness, frustration, impatience, etc. These indirect consequences of our instinctive center are more subtle and difficult to observe. Subtlest of all is our instinctive center’s broader sense of preservation by monitoring our energy expenditure, calculating with whom it might be beneficial to associate, and in general, determining how to go about our lives from a survival point of view. Here, it readily encroaches upon the jurisdiction of all the other centers, prompting Ouspensky to conclude that the instinctive center is the “mind behind all the work of the organism, a mind quite different from the intellectual mind.”

In order to Be, I must extend my awareness beyond my immediate instinctive needs. In this respect, the instinctive center poses denying force to self-remembering, not maliciously, but simply by focusing on what it is made to focus: self-preservation. Bearing this in mind, observe your instinctive center. Try to photograph its more obvious traits and then continue to its more subtle ones. Where do you find it challenges your work? How can you skillfully counterbalance these challenges? This is our labor for May. Share your observations in the commentary below.


  1. Giia Weigel

    Observations at month’s start: When my instinctive center has decided I need to rest, it “turns off” my ability to focus and concentrate. The one and only way I have learned to trick it, is to switch between centers, as the instinctive center seems to activate in the most depleted one first, i.e. if I am mentally fatigued physical activity tricks my instinctive center into believing we still have some juice left as the body is not as depleted as mind, and that allows the intellectual center to recover. However, if the body is exhausted or has not had a chance to restore itself (sleepless night or similar), nothing turns on and the instinctual center must be adhered to – there is no tricking it then, and a quiet day must follow. Anything else turns into mindless torture, and as life itself presents enough challenges, I don’t think adding masochistic efforts would do any good as far as Work (or anything else for that matter) is concerned. What does do a world of good though, is a good music – the best healer/restorer/uplifter I can think of. 🙂

  2. András V

    A few months ago a new colleague arrived at our company as a Lean manager. His task in short is to cut down my resources (head count, machinery, budget, etc.) to save money for the company. It is a new approach brought by my boss who is enforcing Lean activities aggressively that has made our new colleague very confident. My emotional center produces a great deal of negative emotions about him for imposing restrictions upon my department. Despite of my dislike, I noticed that I often act supportively towards him, hiding my negativity, and in front of my boss I emphasis on how effectively I can cooperate with him. I believe, this contradiction between my emotions and behavior is caused by my King of Clubs, who knows very well that I need my job for the living and the better I look in my boss’ eye the brighter my perspectives are.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      A good example of the instinctive center dictating emotional behavior. As mentioned in the post, this is right work of the instinctive center, because if you would be emotionally sincere and lose your job, you wouldn’t necessarily be better off. The aim is to be conscious. For this aim, it is necessary to be sincere with yourself and see this behavior for what it is, as you seem to be doing.

  3. Maria

    I’ve noticed that the main dangerious negative feature of my instinctive center is feeling hungry. When I am tired or sick it is only the instinctive center who needs a pause. But when I feel hungry there is no light in this world! My emotional center is falling down, I feel depressed and can’t think clearly – all my thoughts become dark and negative and I have no chance to change my mood.
    Maybe it is a consequence from some of my teenager experiments. I’ve liked to try some “hunger experience” from Kafka novels and eat quite nothing during three months until almost unconscious floating in the air with 37 kg body weight…
    Maybe our instintive center has also the “deepest” memory and save all our experiments with it – and is ready to revenge.

  4. Evgueni Z

    Today I had a chance to observe my instinctive center in a very isolated, almost “laboratory” environment – at the dentist office. Nothing serious, just a regular check-up and cleaning. However, even this “innocent” procedure activated the deep survival mechanisms of the instinctive center. No meaningful thought activity was possible while I sat in the chair, emotions were supressed leaving only some basic nervousness required to stay alert, physical response was also very distinct – tension and changed breath pattern. It’s quite impressive, the level of control my instinctive center can execute over all my functions even in such no-life-threatening situations.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Evgueni, you mention:

      “It’s quite impressive, the level of control my instinctive center can execute over all my functions…”

      What is transpiring from your observation and the ones above is that the instinctive center plays the role of the master in the triad of ‘horse,’ ‘chariot,’ and ‘driver’ (related image below). Or in other words, in the absence of the master, it navigates our cosmos. This falls in line very well with Ouspensky’s comment that it is the “mind behind all the work of the organism, a mind quite different from the intellectual mind.”

  5. Eugene

    Often when I am eating I reflect on and marvel at the amazing biochemical processing facility that digests whatever food is tossed down it without our having the slightest awareness of what is going on. Then there is the equally amazing immune system, and so on. Indeed the instinctive mind is a wonder.

  6. Tim

    When I am in other centers and something catches me its like a hook and away but when instinctive center manifests its more like a pull in. It is rooted in the satisfaction of appetites and makes me feel like if I don’t obey RIGHT NOW something bad will happen. Then I stop functioning as well until satisfied. I’ve noticed I can reintroduce intellectual center sometimes and tell myself how ridiculous this is.

    A simple example: being hungry at dinner and someone introduces the idea of buying pizza. I know I should eat healthier foods but thinking about the pizza stirs internally and the die gets cast and nothing is as good to me right then and there as that pizza (this is modern day self preservation by the way). A good distraction works, like a sudden bit of news or something, but generally speaking IC wins.

    A more complex example would be using the satisfaction from, let’s say, eating pizza and drinking, as a substitute for a satisfaction that ones deems to be lacking or owed in work and in life. With this neat trick I can enter in to a sea of auto-satisfaction.

  7. Hicham B.

    Of all the centers, the instinctive center is the most demanding of all: Feeding at least 3 times a day, cleaning (full body, face, teeth etc), working out to keep a good form, sleeping.
    As mentioned in the above post, failing to satisfy the demands will result in low efficiency of all the system.
    My observation is the days where I satisfy the demands of the instinctive center, I can have more “peace of mind” to focus on whatever task I do.

  8. Samuel Beutler

    In the book “The Fourth Way” Ouspensky says: ” [To] instinctive function belong also ordinary senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, the feeling of cold and warmth, things like that”.

    I can use my senses now to be more awake. False personality is not able to appreciate or to use the huge amount of energy and information that arrives us in every split second by the senses (the emotional part of the instincitve centre).
    I have observed that one characteristic of the second state is, that attention, that is not controlled goes mostly to one of the five senses, whereas the other senses are buffered.
    One aim that helps me a lot to be more intentional and in this way to be closer to the third state (self-remembering) is to intentionally receive impressions from two or three senses at the same time.
    For example while writing these words the machine wants to identify with sight. So I work with the aim to integrate the impressions that come by touch, like the impression of my feet on the ground, sitting on the chair, the touching of the keyboard with my fingers. When this is established it becomes possible to connect these impressions with those that come from sight and also with those that come from hearing like background sounds or the sound of my breathing.
    Being intentionally like that sometimes a work I appears that reminds me that efforts like that must not be in end in itself but could also serve to introduce self-remembering. When I am able to hold the level of intentionality in regard to the use of the senses, observing the jumping of my attention between them, maybe deepen and intensifying it, listening to work Is, then sometimes the emotional understanding is activated that there is something behind the senses, an openess, a receptivity that does not move or change like the impressions that come through the senses. The simplicity and calm of essence becomes perceptible. My emotional centre reacts and remembers the beauty and value of higher states of consciousness. It also remembers that higher states of consciousness cannot be forced but that there can be created a kind of readiness for the miracle. This kind of readiness is able to perceive, value and protect the first flickering of a higher state of consciousness.

    “The Self is the ear of the ear, the eye of the eye,…This Self is none other than you.”
    – Kena Upanishad –

      1. Samuel Beutler

        Thank you Tim. I would like to take this opportunity to share some observations in relation to the effort of formulating ones observations.

        After more than ten years in the work it is still a challenge for me to formulate my observations in work language on a daily basis.
        In order to be able to formulate the previous observations my work personality had to disidentify from different group of ´I´s.
        One group of ´I´s, repeatedly wanted to postpone the effort of translating the observations into work language. They recommended that it would be better not to go late to bed (instinctive topic) and to do the effort early in the morning. But this “good intention” already turned out to be imagination the last days and many times before.

        Another group of ´I´s, that also can be called judgment ´I´s, inconspicuously gave me the feeling that my observation is not worth being formulated. Even now I can observe ´I´s that judge this writing. When confronted with ´I´s of this kind the king of hearts can introduce attitudes that are connected with the understanding of small efforts – every small effort, coming from work personality is valuable. The aim to translate one observation a day into work language also helps me to observe and sometimes neutralize ´I´s like that.

        Another denying force could be that one identifies with ´I´s that think that ones observations are something “special”, that one better should hide one´s “special” weaknesses.
        In relation to other activities, like those done with the moving centre, the effort of the intellectual centre like translating an observation into work language seems to be very slow and seems to bring only little output. You invest maybe two hours and the visible result can be just a few lines of text. So the king of hearts has to have a certain understanding about the value of formulating ones observations.

        Another aspect is that each centre has its genuine demands. False personality does not know those demands. So it pushes unconsciously against them and in this way produces unnecessary suffering and denying forces to the intentional use of the intellectual centre. One has less denying forces in relation to the aim to translate an observation into work language when work personality has fed the demands of the instinctive and the moving centre. If one of the centres is too negative, it is very difficult to produce the fine energy that is necessary to do the mentioned effort.

        To learn to formulate ones observations and to exchange them with others strengthens work personality. By translating ones observations into words one directs ones attention to them and as Goethe said: “What you feed in yourself that grows.” So formulating ones observations can be a payment to make more observations.
        And observing ones four lower centres with divided attention is an aspect of self-remembering.

        “You are the one who watches the game.”
        – Rumi –