Posted by: Mircea | December 1, 2011

The STOP exercise from Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff would tell his disciples to be engaged in all kinds of activities: somebody is digging in the garden, somebody is cutting wood, somebody is preparing food, somebody is cleaning the floor. All kinds of activities are going on, with the one condition that when he says “Stop!” then wherever you are, in whatsoever posture you are, you stop dead. You are not to be cunning, because then the whole point of the exercise is lost.

For example, if your mouth is open and you see that Gurdjieff is not there to notice, and you just close your mouth and rest, you have missed the point. One of your legs was up ― you were just moving ― and one leg was down; now suddenly the “Stop!” call comes. You have to stop, knowing perfectly well that soon you will fall down; you cannot stand on one foot for long. But that is the whole point of the exercise: whatever the consequence you simply stop as you are, you just become a statue.

You will be surprised that such a simple exercise gives you so much release of awareness. Neither Buddha, nor Patanjali, nor Mahavira was aware of it, that such a simple exercise…it is not complex at all. When you become just a statue, you are not even allowed to blink an eye; you stay exactly as you are at the moment you hear the word “Stop!” It simply means stop and nothing else.

You will be surprised that you suddenly become a frozen statue ― and in that state you can see yourself transparently. You are constantly engaged in activity ― and with the activity of the body, the mind’s activity is associated. You cannot separate them, so when the body completely stops, of course, immediately the mind also stops then and there.

You can see the body, frozen, as if it is somebody else’s body; you can see the mind, suddenly unmoving, because it has lost its association with the body in movement. It is a simple psychological law of association that was discovered by another Russian, Pavlov. Gurdjieff knew it long before Pavlov, but he was not interested in psychology so he never worked it out that way.

For a moment there is a complete silence; and even a single moment of complete silence is enough to give you the taste of meditation. Gurdjieff had developed dances, and during those dances suddenly he would say “Stop!” Now, while dancing you never know in what posture you are going to be. People would simply fall on the floor. But even if you fall, the exercise continues.

If your hand is in an uncomfortable position under your body, you are not to make it comfortable because that means you have not given a chance for the mind to stop. You are still listening to the mind. The mind says, “It is uncomfortable, make it comfortable.” No, you are not to do anything.

In New York when he was giving his demonstration of the dance, Gurdjieff chose a very strange situation. All the dancers were standing in a line, and at a certain stage in the dance when they came dancing forwards and were just standing in a queue with the first person just at the edge of the stage, Gurdjieff said “Stop!” The first person fell, the second fell, the third fell ― the whole line fell on each other. But there was dead silence, no movement.

One man in the audience just seeing this got his first experience of meditation. He was not doing it, he was just seeing it. But seeing so many people suddenly stop and then fall, but falling as if frozen, with no effort on their own to change their position or anything…. It was as if suddenly they had all become paralyzed. The man was just sitting in the front row, and without knowing he just stopped, froze in the position he was in: his eyes stopped blinking, his breath had stopped.

(Excerpt from …)

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