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.