The branches we clip when pruning vines aren’t fundamentally bad. They’re only counterproductive from the point of view of our aim to produce robust grape. If we scale back the natural growth of a vine at this time of year, we redirect the energy it would normally spend on excessive growth and channel it toward flower and fruit. This is the purpose behind pruning; this is the March Labor.

The same discipline must be applied to the micro-cosmos: if we hope to increase its production of consciousness, we must redirect its natural allocation of energy. “We can ‘remember ourselves’ only if we have in us the energy for ‘self-remembering,’” says George Gurdjieff. “Energy is spent chiefly on unnecessary and unpleasant emotions, on the expectation of unpleasant things, possible and impossible, on bad moods, on unnecessary haste, nervousness, irritability, imagination, daydreaming, and so on.” If we didn’t have an aim to remember ourselves — if we didn’t aim to produce robust wine — then we could freely indulge in negativity and daydreaming. The vines of our psychology could be permitted to twirl around in eccentric, whimsical, and even grotesque directions without consequence. But having formulated the aim to Be in a personal and meaningful way — as we did during the January Labor — we are now obliged to become more discriminate with the allocation of our resources.

“Energy is wasted on the wrong work of centers,” continues Gurdjieff; “On unnecessary tension of the muscles out of all proportion to the work produced; on perpetual chatter which absorbs an enormous amount of energy; on the ‘interest’ continually taken in things happening around us or to other people and having in fact no interest whatever; on the constant waste of the force of ‘attention;’ and so on, and so on.”

Viewing our habits as energy leaks places them in a more impersonal light. I become irritable, not because I’m a bad person, but because I have too much unused energy. I harbor concerns, not because I’m an anxious person, but because I have too much unused energy. I indulge in daydreaming, not because I’m an impractical person, but because I have too much unused energy. To remember myself more — more frequently, for longer, and more deeply — these leaks will have to be plugged. And because I begin my day with replenished accumulators, they must especially be observed and plugged at the beginning of my day. If I conquer my morning, I’ll make a strong start and set a better standard for the rest of my day.

Let us, then, enter the March Labor by conquering the beginning of our day. Observe the first hour of your day. What are the leaks through which your refreshed accumulators are habitually depleted? What happens if you make a concentrated effort to plug them? Share your observations below.

Responses

  1. Giia Weigel

    It seems I heard this message several months ago and have began my plugging efforts already… At one point I removed the phone from my bedside, silenced the notification tones and allocated only certain hours in a day to my computer and all other data-bearing gadgets. The days have begun now with glass of water – page from Rumi – jog/walk or yoga while listening to M.N. commentaries – shower – coffee and only THEN do I allow the world in. 🙂 The usual stress that overtook me almost the moment I opened my eyes and looked at all the panicky things happening in my phone (most clients are in Europe and have had time to pour their worries over by my morning) is there no more. And after almost two hours spent on Work no problem seems so overwhelming as it did when it hit me first thing. Which does not mean, of course, that I am safe from leaks all day long, but I have given the day a better foundation, even though it means my waking up around 6 o’clock.

    Looking at the later hours in my days I can see that the biggest energy leak comes from my attempts to multitask. I do my best to keep away from it, but some days don’t allow me the opportunity, and I get sucked into the “it must be done, and it must be done yesterday” world of translators. After such days I feel like a wet rag… The leaks are owing to my fear of losing control and the only conscious way of plugging this hole seems to be slowing down. Yup. We are back to my January goal. 🙂

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      This is very good. As you say, you’ve given your day a better foundation. Now we can build. So let’s focus on exploring what can be built on this foundation you’ve cleared. In today’s workshop we’ll set certain aims that should give you a general direction.

  2. Diane Porter

    During the work week, the first hour of my day is taken up with feeding our two cats, making coffee and readying myself for the office. After that, there is a 20 minute period driving to work before entering into an 8 hour distraction from myself. Leaking like a sieve I imagine!

    On weekends I repeat the first two things but then have a tendency to check my emails and Facebook account, which often takes me on unplanned, although sometimes interesting, paths. This can easily become a time waster and can leak a great deal of energy.

    As a result I see that I am simply drifting through my days with no attention to what is most important – achieving goals for becoming a more complete and happier person.
    Having settled on two aims for myself, I am not giving them my attention at the start of my day. If I set my alarm a bit earlier on week days, will I be able to remain awake and use that extra few minutes to centre my thoughts and affirm my aims? On week ends, perhaps a walk in the early morning would better prepare me for my own work, rather than watch what the rest of the world is doing.

  3. Sebastian L.

    The morning determines the remaining day’s direction in the same way that each moment of the day determines the remainder of the day. Getting derailed early during the day has greater consequences simply because there is more or less an entire day at stake.

    In my experience, internal derailment follows external derailment. Once derailed, I find it very hard to get back on track, so the later the derailment happens, the better (especially from an external point of view).

    It seems a bit unfair we are basically given only one chance to achieve our aims for the day (internally & externally). On the other hand, once this condition has been accepted, it is a great motivation to try one’s best to stay on track internally even if one’s plans have been derailed externally by not giving in to the urge of expressing frustration but rather using this emotional energy to feed consciousness.

  4. Paolo Meoli

    Thanks Asaf for the article, i share with all of you my first observations:

    I observe that my frequents leaks of energy are connected to a certain way of doing things (speaking, walking, working at computer, ecc..) in which the focus of my attention is on the external aim, such as complete with haste an email for the fear to not respecting a deadline. In this state of identification i can only react in order to get what i want, becoming angry for what i cannot obtain. In this state i cannot accumulate energy, it seems to me that all the action from these state are directed toward an elimination of energy, no matter if the action give me a pleasent or unpleasent feelings. So what i have to do in order to accumulate energy? It seems to me that i start to accumulate energy when i stop to react and i start to observe. This doesn’t mean that i’m not reacting anymore, but observing my reaction, in that case my fear, let my “Observing I” accumulate energy. When i start to observe my reaction seems to me that my emotions, fear for example, change. For example when i start to observe fear, it become not so strong like when i wasn’t able to observe it. Does have sense that when our emotions are unconsciuos (like in the example) they pull unconscious action toward a wasting of energy?

  5. David Thompson

    Upon waking this morning the first thing that came to mind was a deluge of plans and to dos that would need to be addressed today. Checking in with my body, it was a bit stiff and sore in the usual places. The stiffness and soreness I identify upon waking usually directs how I will stretch a bit later in the morning after I’ve had some coffee and done some reading. I made a point to count the first leak as my habitual planning, and refrained from indulging in it. I made my morning coffee, and instead of reading as I usually do, I began stretching instead and made an effort to avoid indulging in planning. My body felt light and loose, and I was able to more easily focus on subtle changes in relaxations and tensions of various postures, and had I clearer understanding of how I needed to move and adjust. Perhaps this occurred because I was not carrying the weight of my plans? Afterward, as the day has progressed, I have accomplished what I’ve needed to.
    I am interested to observe what another day’s cycle will bring, because I certainly see that catching the first leak has allowed me the identify others as the day progresses.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Well done, David.

      It does seem to consistently be the case that when we abandon our planning we get things done anyway. The planning is a leak, not a need. That said, I’d suspect that if you plugged this leak – as a result of your initial experience with this exercise – another will subtly replace it. You will discover that the work of conquering the first hour of the day is more challenging that might at first seem.

      Let me know either here on in person whether this proves to be the case.

  6. Kalev K

    Today I managed control almost whole first hour. The most biggest usual leaks – angriness from rushing – were under control, it truly was like “when house burns, run, but do not rush”.
    This does not mean, that I just dawdled around, I did the same things as usual, but the attitude was different.
    And now, when the first hour is far over, the same control arises moment – to moment.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      This is key: now that the first hour is over (having successfully minimized energy leaks), the same control continues. It shows that we have a wrong relation to time. We tend to think, “I need to make efforts in self-remembering all day,” and by thinking in this way we defeat our will. If, instead, we focus on making efforts in this coming hour – or better yet, this present minute – then we build a momentum that lasts much longer than our initial scope. Aesop said, “Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.”

    2. Marlene

      I’ve been working on my “leaks” for a while. And have had marginal results. What I have noticed is I am much happier creating then I am worrying about “this or that”. Honestly I have not stopped the chatter in my head. But when it happens I usually pick up my fabric (I’m a quilter) and redirect that energy. At work I have been working on mindfulness. I’m a janitor. Working on directing the Engery into finding the ‘best “ way to accomplish a task. Through education and personal experience. “Being there”.
      In the end directing that energy towards something means I’m not directing that energy to things which are out of my control. Or in all truthfulness I don’t want to be involved with in the first place.

  7. Goran Djukleski

    In the morning after waking up, first I am for at least one hour in a state between sleep and waking sleep (the first and second state). For a few moments I am awake, then I am dreaming, then wake again. My many I’s are active all the time and they are mostly negative with strong imagination. My observer is not present, he is still sleeping, and I only know about the activity of my many I’s by memory afterwards. When my Observer “wakes up” I have already lost a lot of energy and I am in a negative state. I have lost this morning battle even before entering the battlefield.
    How can I place my Observer in the first moment of waking sleep state, is my struggle.

    1. Tim

      Hi Goran I just read your description of your first hour of the day and it resonated with me. Your honesty is your key. Because I am observing your statements from the outside, but they also apply to me, by offering my observations perhaps I will help myself and you?

      What is lacking in this first hour is a more established sense of separation from these I’s, which is the first and last line of defense of the hermetic seal. Perhaps we still take them as one “I”. But we know afterwards to call them separate I’s because that is the right thing to do and we are trying to be sincere in our efforts. But surprise, G once told O that sincerity is a formula for lying. As machines we can’t look at the whole machine in the mirror of our minds and see anything but our machine-selves, vaguely – we need to spot actual gears and levers and separate them out as NOT US.

      One way to increase the importance and valuation of this effort is to look at it from the point of view of energy lost. This may disturb you once you realize how much energy is spinning out of your/our forehead. Its helpful for me here to visualize a balloon losing pressure. Now add the cartoon sound associated with a balloon fizzle and the farce is complete.

      But for me it comes down to a fear of losing my identity by losing these i’s; the solution would be to simply let go of them and let them fall away. Let us take a leap of faith here and declare: “we have nothing to lose”. Let us name the I’s as they manifest chronologically in this hour. Just name them.

  8. Hicham B.

    My initial aim was to work on energy leaks. After a week or so, I observed a very important leak: “internal angry discussions”.
    As an example, before I go to an administration for some paper work, I start an imaginary discussion with the officer.
    When Asaf asked us to observe the first hour of our day, I didn’t observe my angry discussions at first. Then gradually they appeared.
    I generally open my laptop, check my LinkedIn news feed then see some people with high positions in industry making spelling mistakes.
    This triggers negative discussions in my mind.
    No matter how much I struggled against them, they seem to find a way to be expressed!
    Why do these discussions start at all? Why do I care if someone is doing his job properly or not? Why do “I” care if someone presumably “educated” is making spelling mistakes or not?
    It seems indeed, as Asaf explained above, this energy wants to leak.

    1. Marlene

      OMG I call it the demon at work. I have been working on this for a long time! Unfortunately no one else has been. The problem with the ‘demon’ is people act and react to the monsters in their head. Often time collectively. The conversation about let’s say “the spelling of the individual “ becomes a collective judgment about a person or situation that is much bigger then the original problem. Running in many directions.
      In regards to the idea of leaks you have nailed it. I wish it was simple because even if I stop the process, I have to act and react around those to whom are constant leaks.

  9. Diane Porter

    My first hour in the morning on week days is pretty automated; feeding pets and getting ready for work. I turn on the local morning show because I can hear from another room the time announced regularly, which keeps me on schedule to get out the door. The news is interspersed with traffic and weather reports, plus some human interest segments. It’s a show I enjoy for the most part, and any world news is something I like to know about.
    It’s later in the day when I seem to observe the “I”s arise, although I didn’t use much time last week to identify them. They sneaked into my awareness at times during my workday, and then just the knowledge that I had felt these things gave me even more negative feelings – like anger with myself. I need to take the time today to read what Asaf had suggested again. I will comment after I have a better understanding.

  10. Tim

    This is a wonderful exercise, thank you for the opportunity. I observed a deep connection to the moving/instinctive center. After the alarm clock goes off, I initially get angry because the night’s sleep wasn’t restful enough. I stand up to head to the shower, my knees protest, bone on bone. I have left the comfort of my bed, it was warm and soft, and this causes more anger. Maybe it’s not anger per se, but a deep-rooted sense of indignation, that “things are not right”.

    The warm shower water returns some of the comfort and helps temporarily. My mind begins to resume, negatively, about my job, about being underpaid, about being silently jealous of how much my bosses pay themselves. As the day proceeds the physical protests recede but the mental phonograph plays on. “Things are not right” bleeds through and affects my personal relationships. All ensuing aspects of my day are looked at from this point of view, “things are not right”. I am fully identified, i.e. I have allowed myself to be identical to these emotions. I never caught this before.

    The other day I listened to Nicoll and Ourspensky on youtube talk about how we transfer from the first state, physical sleep, to the second state, waking sleep. They go on to say that this initial state, physical sleep, doesn’t go away when we enter the next state, waking sleep. It stays with us throughout the day and the ensuing states build upon the ones preceding it. Paraphrasing: ‘it’s like the stars, so clear at night, but then forgotten during the day. They are still there, just out-shown by the sun.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up with my mind already running.

    I am further along in the work now thanks to this exercise.

    1. Tim

      I’d like to add that much of my first hour has to do with comfort, or more precisely, leaving comfort. The comfort of my warm and soft bed, the comfort of my sleep, the comfort of not making efforts, the comfort of my negativity, etc. It’s really a comfort spectrum and I sense that though out the day I may be trying to rediscover that sense of comfort.

      This is in direct contrast to Gurdjieff’s morning ritual as taught to him by his father – cold water over his head every morning upon waking, no matter what.

      1. Asaf Braverman Post author

        Thanks for sincerely sharing your internal state in the mornings, Tim, and I’m very glad to hear that focusing on that first hour of the day has yielded results for you.

        The thing I find useful (in the context of this labor, of ‘pruning’) is to view these ‘I’s as leaks. This point of view catapults us into a larger scale so that its no longer about ‘being underpaid’ or ‘our bosses being greedy’ or ‘things being wrong,’ but about our machines expelling the energies they accumulated at night. We are so often kept asleep because of calling things by their wrong names. Changing this viewpoint has corrected that error, and in so doing, invited the work into the beginning of our days.

        1. Tim

          So through correct valuation, demote those I’s to what they are… expect them in the morning but have an intellectual valuation waiting for them ahead of time. Eventually this could also help keep those I’s emotionally smaller and therefore easier to let go of, not just intellectually held lower. Valuation as a tool for more tools- thank you, Asaf. Peace.

  11. Jeff

    I have found that there are some things I can do the evening before to promote a restful sleep so that I am feeling refreshed when I wake up in the morning. Once I wake up, I meditate for a period of about 30 minutes before I begin the day’s activities. Having this period of meditation gives me a better chance to establish a foundation upon which to build a constructive day.

      1. Jeff

        Tim, one thing I have found helpful (not a cure-all, but definitely helpful) is to review in my mind the events of the day, and especially to note situations where I felt “disturbed”, “agitated”, or “heavily identified” in some way. For example, I might have felt impatience with a particular person who was holding up a line, or I might have felt offended by something someone said to me, or I might have spoken awkwardly with another person because I was uncomfortable being silent with them. I try to do this observation (or re-observation) from a fourth way perspective. I then do a brief “meditation” to thank anyone from that day who triggered these reactions within me, and thus helped me to learn about my personality. This helps me bring a kind of closure to these experiences and to look at them in a more positive way, so that overnight while I’m sleeping and into the next morning when I wake up I am not carrying them with me as psychological baggage. They are not echoing or resonating as strongly within me or at all, and I can start the new day fresh, or fresher.

        1. David

          Interesting. I have actually done that, review a list, actually typing it out on my computer, but I have done it in the morning, or when beginning my day, or when about to go somewhere regarding POTENTIAL disturbances. I’ve seen this nature many times, so I’m aware of ‘its’ triggers, and what may cause it to potentially flare, so I will write out, what can trigger this nature strong reactions , and what it will point at and blame, taking my attention on the external thing, instead of seeing the consciousness that is upset etc. Lost in that I’s dream. For example, if I have to go to the STORE which I walk to, I write all the potential triggers for this nature that may cause strong reactions. 1. Weather (complaining on how cold/hot it may be) 2. Homeless person on the street one has to pass (feeling unsafe/judgmental/annoyed/compassionate) 3. How crowded the store may be. 4. If someone is standing too close when picking produce (lol) 5. Will the right item be in stock? 6. Will the self checkout be a long line? 7. Calculating to make sure you have enough money. 8. How heavy the bag is one has to carry to walk home.

          All of these things have causes strong reactions in the past. So it sounds like a long process to write, but merely takes a few minutes to just jot down this list. Does it stop any strong reactions from happening? No not at all. But it helps to create a space where one can let go of the reaction, let it move through and watch a lil easier. So I will try to aim to do this at night, as the book end for my days.