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“I am Lufthansa flight attendant Hans Schupfer and this is my crew manager Claudia Becker. We are very sorry to inform you that you cannot board this flight.”

“What? Why not?”

“If we let you on the plane, the Russian’s will not let you off.”

“What do you mean, won’t let us off?”

“See here in your passport: your Russian visa is only valid from the 19th. Today is the 16th. For the next three days, you have not a valid visa to enter Russia.”

“Then why did the Italians let us board this flight in the first place?”

“According to airline protocol, crew must check visa status of final destination prior to boarding. Italian crew in Rome should not have let you on board. But, you see, they are Italian…”

“So what are we going to do here in Frankfurt for three days?”

“Sir, that is your decision. We are very sorry…”

Our airport pickup arrangements in Moscow rush through my mind, our hotel reservations and travel itinerary bug me as we head downstairs to reclaim our luggage. These must all be promptly cancelled. We hadn’t planned to be here now; we weren’t supposed to be here now. We walk downcast, like a funeral party leading a member of their travel group to his final resting place: the interment of our foreseeable future.

______________

“Do you have a car available?”

“Sie sind glücklich; we have one car available for renting.”

“How far is Munich from here?”

“Hmm, eins, zwei… five hours drive.”

“How far is Berlin?”

“Six hours.”

“And Strasbourg?”

“Good autobahn; keine speed limit. Less than two hours.”

A grove and vineyard rush past us, a village and church-spire speed by as we head unbridled to an unplanned destination. How heavy lay the yoke of expectation on our shoulders! How liberating does its removal prove to be! The mourning of our loss is now replaced by the thrill of plunging into the unforeseeable present.

______________

Two months ago, we conducted an experiment on beperiod of living as if the minutest detail of our day was predetermined (read about this experiment here: Is All the World a Stage?) This coming week, let’s reverse the experiment and pass our day as if we were unable to foresee its unfolding.

In which ways would you be different if you lived in the unforeseeable present?

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Responses

  1. Tim

    False personality is fascinated with how it is treated. I can measure my level of being by how much insult I feel when the day’s events start to flow, good or bad. Get rid of clock time, consider each moment as an event to expand in to or not.

    Today I sit at my desk and listen to the radio in the background. A silly, stupid and annoying commercial comes on the air and I say to myself how stupid that commercial is. My being is low. So easily influenced by currents emanating from the machines around me. I am stunned at how petty this is in hind sight.

      1. philippe bitton

        why knock it off?
        Shall it not be seen for what it is?
        A “I” reaction, and certainly not the only one of this kind. Yes, to express it at the moment of sensation, or thought, might not be the best option. But while reviewing it, and categorizing it, can it not be viewed for what it is?

        Thanks
        Thank you

  2. Hannah K

    I found this exercise very powerful. At first it was difficult to persuade my mind that it didn’t know what was going to happen next; after all,one of its favourite occupations is scheduling my activities for the day and working out how I am going to go about them so of course it knows what’s going to happen next – it just planned it didn’t it!
    When I eventually succeeded in making it let go of its plans, I came face to face with a sense of nothingness or emptiness that frightened my machine. It made me suspect that this emptiness is what all my mind’s planning is a buffer against. Facing this nothingness brought my attention very strongly into the present as there was nothing else for it to do. I had convinced it of the obvious fact that it doesn’t know what is going to happen next and therefore all that is left is to watch the present. And of course the Present is positively teeming with Somethingness, it’s just that that Somethingness is beyond the ability of the machine to name and categorise.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Hannah, this observation is key:

      I came face to face with a sense of nothingness or emptiness that frightened my machine.

      The machine is nothing. It is a collection of ‘I’s that rise and fall due to stimulus. That you could take this exercise deep enough so that these illusory layers would be removed and the nothingness exposed, is wonderful. Each time you experience higher states of consciousness, you can expect this fear to reappear. Learning to prolong consciousness must go hand in hand with learning to observe and separate from this fear.

      1. Hannah K

        That’s a revelation; the machine is nothing. Of course it is! I can see this clearly now. It’s just very good at creating the illusion that it is something. It kind of usurps the real with all it’s chatter. This exercise and this comment of yours has just helped me to see this very clearly. Thank you Asaf. I feel as if a brick in my prison has just been loosened!

  3. John

    Yes, I’ll give it a try. It will be very interesting because I am one who relies on a todo list and not consulting it for a day will be a challenge. There are habitual things that I do that I’ll still do, but I won’t be consulting my list for a day. That will be difficult for me. Then I’ll let you know what happened. I suppose I could start now, 3:45 PM on Tuesday 11/15. A tout a l’heure.

  4. john robert reilly passmore

    Perhaps i conform the denying force to suit my outlook, perhaps I suit the activating force to its needs… but from the artifice of my being…

    I know… “I I I”

    Every Asaf Braverman email seems to confront me with an inexplicable personal sensibility! Even if I’m hopelessly identified… it is a gift for which I say “thanks”

  5. Jill M.

    Thank you, Asaf, yes, I will try this!

    I can think of some instances in my life when circumstances have conspired to give me this exercise:

    1. I was living in New Orleans, driving to work one morning in a rainstorm only to find that the waters were not receding and my car was filling with water. At first there was a lot of panic, and “this can’t be happening” but then came an acceptance. Just acceptance and a kind of joy.

    2. I work from home on the computer, and last Fall an ice-storm took out the electricity for a few days. I couldn’t work and it was quite a sweet vacation! Somehow there was no inner-considering, because the reason I couldn’t work was completely out of my hands.

    Reflecting on these experiences has me see how much my day/life passes in identification and in the illusion of control – and that there was a feeling of joy when forced to let these go.

    I will try this experiment! I can feel there will be much ‘extra work’ involved in letting go ‘within’, in the lack of some external event.

  6. Jill M.

    Adding a little more to what I wrote: I grew up with watching my mother have negative, fearful or angry reactions whenever anything did not go according to her plans: flat tire, heavy traffic, etc. I suspect that I internalized her ‘catastrophizing’ at unforeseen events, along with the need to control, and the nearly-constant dread of something happening. Also I remember having the feeling that I was (somehow) responsible for her negativity, so along with the nearly-constant dread was also a nearly-constant guilt.

    But working with the ideas of Fourth Way has helped me give up a lot of this unnecessary suffering.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Yes, Jill, this exercise is directly related to negativity (as you observe in your second comment). Negativity is based on an underlying sense that the present should be different than it is, and that we have every right to demand that it be so.

      This also means that whenever we catch ourselves negative, we are one right effort away from accepting the present on its own terms, as this exercise invites us to do.

  7. Jack

    I viewed the 1st assignment as gaining knowledge of my Being through self-observation. This assignment still requires self-observation, but now I can use the knowledge I have gained from self-observation to resist life events and i’s that seek me to identify, internally consider, judge others and express negative emotions. I am learning that my Observing i must be supported by work i’s that love and value The Work. My Aim is to remember that every life event can be turned into a Work event, if I can remember myself and why I am here. My smaller aim is to remember that one event at a time and if not remember it when I do become conscious. The more effort and valuation I put into this process, the more my Understanding increases. I am by no means far down this path, but most days I make effort to get back on it. This is how I would be different in the unforeseeable present.

    1. Jack

      I am seeing more clearly how often I react to life’s events mechanically before I realize it. If anything that has accelerated since I set my aim. I also see where false personality was involved in trying to control some life events. On one level I know I cannot control life events, but ego and false personality keep trying to take control. At times when I feel like I am moving forward in The Work, I am shown I need to take 3 steps backward.

      1. Asaf Braverman Post author

        At times it does seem so. I think Gurdjieff said that in this work we move two steps forward, one step back. At the same time, by employing exercises we see things that formerly escaped us. So it is useful to apply relativity to our sense of regressing in the work, and realize that it might just as well result from our seeing more, our being less ignorant of our sleep.

  8. John

    It is now a day later and being free of the todo list had a surprising result. Instead of being tied down to tasks, I did the necessary and still found time with my wife to take a ride through the countryside to see my old friend, Jack, a horse I often rode until earlier this year. The key to the day was accomplishing the necessary without the reminders of the minutia.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      I had the same verification, John. Letting go of the agenda didn’t make me less efficient. It only reduced identification. In trying to observe a little deeper, I discovered that my ‘to-do’ list is dynamic: if things get crossed off on it at a good pace, other things are automatically added, so that my day remains crammed with obligations any which way. In other words, part of us wishes to be stressed, over-obligated, identified.

  9. Hicham B.

    This post is relevant to me in the sense that most of my present is unforeseeable.
    Curiously and fortunately for the aim of this exercise, my day went with unpredictable events: no buses, university on strike, a woman I started dating decided to break up with giving any reason.
    I’m supposed not to be disappointed because I did not expect anything for this day. I didn’t expect the buses to be there or not to be there because it was the future. No buses fine, let me walk.
    It gives a certain feeling of freedom and fear at the same time!The machine feels like a rudderless ship.

  10. Marcella Berardi

    I had to work a lot, this topic has made me confused, I did not understand how to apply the exercise. I spent a lot of time to read the comments of the Community searching for help.
    Wanting to reach the top of the Pyramid from the base I have to take many steps, so I do a program of work. How can I not take it into account in the present? If I don’t ask myself a goal, my mind slips away and wanders into chaos, so I could not eliminate the expectation.
    In the fable of the grasshopper and the ant (I assume all of you know it) the role of the ant fits perfectly to me: provident, responsible, diligent, little merciful. Working for about a year on me, I shed light on many aspects of this false personality built since I was a child. The ant builds up because it knows that the winter will be soon, if it could not supposed, it wouldn’t make a program. The grasshopper lives in the present but it cannot get through the winter when it becomes present, because it has failed to accumulate reserves. Me too, I want to climb the Pyramid so I have to equip for climbing.
    And at the end I saw it clearly: I saw the little Marcella who was climbing her mountain, with all the tools that she had been able to obtain and I saw the real I watching her from the top, I add, with a certain tenderness.
    It was the identification with the climber my real boulder. It comes back to me the warning of Asaf: “You are the observer, not what you observe”
    As Hannah has taken away a brick of her prison, I have broken a large rock that blocked me. Thanks to Asaf and to all of you.

  11. Myrto

    From all possible future events, my brain is programmed to expect the event with the highest probability. For example, today, at the end of the day, there is higher probability that I will survive, rather than die. Therefore, my actions are scheduled and performed (or mechanicaly performed) according to the assumption that I will survive.
    I rather managed to do the exercise yesterday, only for 10 minutes. I convinced myself only for 10 minutes, that ALL possible future events, have equal probability.
    In this short interval, I had some thoughts and emotions:
    a) I realized that today I may die. A vast opening in me…..feeling the value of the living moment…
    b) I felt high responsibility of my actions and choices. If everything is possible, then it’s up to me, to decide the possible event I wish (ie all possible events are valid as a working/living hypothesis) and act accordingly in order to make it happen. A question came to my mind: Why am I going to work now? If all choices are valid now, why do I choose to go to work?
    c) I felt the weight of responsibility on me.
    d) if my aim doesn’t happen, I will not get disappointed and accept it, since all outcomes are of equal probability.
    e) It sounds contradictory, but I also felt ‘ no need to control everything’, since no matter my efforts, outcomes are of equal probability. Letting go and Responsibility at the same time!!!!
    d) Since I have nothing to lose (nothing is guaranteed), then I can take more risks, and enjoy the uncertainties.

    All this, in 10 minutes. During the day, I remembered Myself at the moments when something unexpected just had happened. And I accepted it with relief.

  12. Jill M.

    Each Saturday I am scheduled to be at the Adoration Chapel for a certain hour. Last Saturday, when it was time to leave for my hour’s commitment, I delayed getting off the phone with someone with whom I am identified. So I was in haste going out the door, and thus not present while leaving the house.

    On the way to my hour, my mechanism was, belatedly!, going through its checklist, and I realized that I did not remember whether or not I had turned off the burner under a pot on the stove. Should I turn around and go home to check, which would make me late, inconveniencing the person whom I was to relieve?

    But then the memory came that I have been through this ‘agony’ before, and yet my mechanism has been pretty reliable on turning off the stove without ‘presence’. So kept going and when I got to the Adoration Chapel there was still much panic and distress in me to work with: What if my place burned down? What if my cats were all killed? I got a glimpse of how deeply I am entrenched in the trappings of ‘my life’.

    Then I worked to just ‘accept’. Just to accept whatever was going on, whatever was happening. What was interesting is that I felt a certain freedom, and also a realization that I could go anywhere, but that there was nowhere that anything in me was yearning to go.

    On the drive home, I was looking to see if smoke was coming from my side of town… no smoke.. and sure enough, I got home, and the burner was turned off.

  13. Orazio Sorgonà

    The illusion of “knowing what will go” is very radicated in our istinctive center. I knew a person who was indeed proud of this regarded “capability to foresee events” of his: yet the events he “foresaw” were always of the same kind, it is mistakes of others. This says all of which part of ours is haunted by that lie.

    I worked with the exercise and now, not immediately, not directly, but I’m sure in relation with those efforts, I realised that it was an illusion what I regarded, it is that I was ‘stuck’ in a situation (something functional…) and nothing seemed to happen or may, it to change.
    It was indeed all a dream! by my istinctive center.
    What is not related to the present moment is a delusion.