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Our work during the month of January was to set aims. This forced us to observe ourselves and led us to explore our chief features. What remains for the labor of January is to name the feature we observed in a personal way, one that characterizes it without judgement. Naming separate the mind from identification, opening the door for a deeper separation. Here are a few instructive quotations:

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Gurdjieff was very ingenious in the definition of features. I realized on this occasion that not everyone's chief feature could be defined. With some people this feature can be so hidden beneath different formal manifestations as to be almost impossible to find.

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Those around him see a man's chief feature however hidden it may be. Of course they cannot always define it. But their definitions are often very good and very near. Take nicknames. Nicknames sometimes define chief features very well.

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One very common feature, described in many places in the New Testament, is when we see other people's faults but not our own. Then certain kinds of self-pity are very common. And there are also curious combinations for which it is sometimes difficult to find a psychological definition.

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Responses

  1. Melissa Sweet

    Since Asaf introduced chief feature to our Work, I have attempted to
    Identify mine. Sometimes I believe it to be vanity, other times greed
    or naïveté. Given that vanity can be an element in the others I find it difficult to isolate this as chief. This morning, however, it does seem to stand out as dominant. So how does it look and what shall I name it?
    The nearest I can come is:
    “The Need to Please Melissa”
    She is overly concerned with how she looks, how she makes others feel.
    She is very distressed when others don’t understand her point of view.
    She smiles even when she doesn’t feel like it. She hates coldness. She ingraciates and flatters. She fears rejection. Appearance is important.
    Maintaining this can be exhausting. So much effort is required that, at the
    end of the day she is exhausted. The exhaustion is my wake up call.
    It seems that this “I” has been with me as long as I can remember. Of course, she receives a lot of praise and the praise feeds the vanity. I believe that the image Asaf showed us of the tenderness in the eyes of the one looking down at his demon will help to tame mine. Tenderness and Patience must be present as I observe.

    1. Orazio Sorgonà

      Vanity is however big feature anyone.

      WHile trying to detect chief feature of mine, if I recognise some feature, however, I am glad and try to work with that. Anyway we have all features and shall work with all of them, all the time.

      This may seem mpossible, yet it’s very specifical, for you try to deal with what you have in the moment.

    2. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Yes, this sounds like a dimension of vanity feature. Curious how prevalent it is, and how all people are in need of similar reassurance, are concerned with how they look, distressed when when misunderstood. Making the effort to feel this in others in itself renders us a little more separate from it in ourselves. It tames our feature, as you describe. Below is the relevant image:

      St-George-(15th-c.-Icon)

  2. Orazio Sorgonà

    In these days I’m working with this ‘devil-triad’: dominion, greed and fear; because I had observed a way they associate.

    I try to keep my watch on those, and in a certain sense, as “working with a feature is working with all features”, I’m reconducting all mechanicalness to those (it’s my stand-point of watch)

    Other times, for instance, the center of gravity of my look on the machine had been to photograph the ‘headquarters’ of sleep as the Q of Clubs, J f Diamonds, Q of Hearts and of course the head-head, it is the K of Clubs.
    If you gain some mass in being through an approach, then you will have to find another.
    They are not substituted but added.

  3. Jack

    Asaf, the combination of naming our chief feature, seeing the beast on a lease nipping at the heel of the Saints is really helping helping my work. As I observe myself and see jack’s way in action, I visualize I am holding it on a lease, pulling the lease saying this is not who I am, requiring it to heal. I may wear out a lot of leases, but at least I have started. I feel the real Work has just began. My schoolmates are also helping me with their observations.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      I feel the same, that we’ve stepped up into a new level of work, less flattering, more sincere, and consequently, more rewarding. It would not be possible without witnessing the observations of others. Seeing how others share the same challenges as we do places our own challenges in the proper perspective.

      Keep up the good work!

  4. Jack

    I had a good lesson this morning, I was feeling so good about my work progress.I left home turned right off my street and a car was illegally parked in the 2 lane road with trunk open and a man was fishing in the lake. I touted my horn once and put up my arms to indicate what’s going on.Got to 1st stop light and arrow was green for right turn, person in front of me just sat there for about 8-10 seconds before I blew the horn. Got to 3rd light taking a left and lady in front of me sat there looking down at her cell phone until after truck in front had cleared light and I blew my horn louder this time. It was only then that I woke up and laughed at myself. I clearly saw I had been identified with Jack, his irritations, judgements and impatience and he was driving the carriage. I reminded myself I need to be more on guard and expect 2nd force to arise. On a second look Jack’s vanity was trying to add the work success to him, thus I was shown in succession who was in control. I don’t think that it was a coincidence that these 3 events occurred almost back to back in just a few minutes. I also see that Jack’s expression of these negative emotions weren’t as quick or strong as usual. I feel grateful that these events showed me what I needed to see.

  5. Hannah K

    From observing the features in action in myself it seems to me that they actually fight against and contradict each other. They are like a three headed dog, each head barking and snapping at each other. I have realised that, if I had no fear, I’d actually be a really bossy, dominating person. In my head I am constantly telling people what they are doing wrong and how to do it better but in real life my fear of invoking anger or criticism from others stops me from so much as raising a polite complaint. Vanity makes me believe that I can do everything better than others but vanity also stops me from being bold enough to step forward and take control when it would actually be appropriate and helpful to do so. This impasse then makes me prone to complain about people to others, behind their backs (at least it did in the days of expressing negative emotions) for which I then hate myself afterwards. This self hatred also comes from vanity and fear, fear that the criticised person will find out that I’ve been saying things about them, fear that my confidant will think that I’m a weak person for not being able to speak or act directly, and disappointment at myself for being a weak, unkind, judgemental person. No wonder that I find it so difficult to make decisions when I’m trying to accommodate all these contradictory forces in myself. And they seem to be all pervading; every thought, every action, every conversation seems to have one of these features behind them. Watching them is like watching a horror movie where no matter where I turn, there’s the monster. Even writing this comment I’m wondering if my motive is vanity!

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      “You will be astonished when you realize what a multitude of these Ivans and Nicholases live in one man. If you learn to observe them there is no need to go to a cinema.” – George Gurdjieff

      Well done, Hannah; you’ve drawn a step closer to seeing the inconvenient truth about yourself (and all of us, really). The next step requires a distancing of our identity from these many personalities, otherwise we will go crazy. This will be the labor of February.

  6. Leonardo Greco

    “The Little Match Girl” – my feature and my pet, with some irony

    I call my chief feature “the little match girl” – like the character of Andersen’s fairy tale – because I move begging for appreciation for what I’ve done, accomplished or created just like the little match girl went moaning “Matches? Who wants my matches?” – even though the way I ask for it may look proud and self-confident.
    The people I ask this appreciation to are usually those whom I attribute authority to. I recognize authority to the people I find as being superior to me in what I would like to stand out: that seem more self-confident, more in control, more aware… more of all those things I think I’m lacking of.
    The most common example is at the office, when the boss doesn’t see how outstanding my job was and don’t shake my hand in the middle of the canteen while the whole staff is having lunch…
    This need of being taken into consideration and awarded, thus receiving an EXTERNAL positive support – pure VANITY – turns into a sense of injustice and frustration when the confirmation doesn’t arrive, which brings to the refusal of the relationship and the inability to see the “positive” impulse of the critique, the impulse that helps you grow.

    I brought this behavior to the extreme when it came to a personal, intimate, involving level: my song writing activity many years ago, which I never shared with anybody to avoid finding my self in front of a negative judgement. A negative judgement with which I would have probably disagreed but that I probably couldn’t stand.
    This FEAR has been so strong that I never gave myself the chance to understand whether this lifetime passion could become also the lifetime job.

    My pet: a little matchbox, reminding me that I’m not the work I’ve done, I’m not the judgement I receive, and a smile while thinking “He didn’t like my matches”

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Poetic formulation, Leonardo. An image of a beggar is apt, because all forms of vanity beg for attention. One step in beginning to distance yourself from this feature will be to observe, not only what happens when it is disappointed (which you mention above), but also when it gets what it begs for.

      What happens when your ‘little match-girl’ receives positive reinforcement from your boss?

      1. Leonardo Greco

        Dear Asaf,
        thanks for this further input. It actually happened few days after my post, and I got an unexpected, unprecedented positive feedback. It obviously made me happy and satisfied, as it should… literally walk one meter from the ground. Immediately after though, I realized I got myself totally identified with this positive feeling, and the satisfaction and joy was still the joy of the “little match girl” who finally sold her matches (or Vanity indulged). As well as with frustration of receiving a negative feedback, the satisfaction coming from a positive one is again an “I” not to identify with. The feedback remains a positive support for next projects at work, but I need to force myself in staying equidistant from the poles, the positive one as well as the negative one.

        1. Asaf Braverman Post author

          I am glad you made the connection between both poles. We are naturally inclined to observe our feature when it is disappointed, less so when it is fed. What you say reminds me of a citation from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:

          These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
          But they are not the Me myself.
          Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am…

          A poetic description of the churning caused by observing chief feature.