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Gurdjieff’s stop exercise

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran

I was reading PD Ouspensky’s book In Search of the Miraculous, and I came across this section on the “stop exercise”, which is intended to help break the automatisms of the body. Gurdjieff explained that the people of each epoch had a unique experience of the world through the somatic experiencing of the body’s positions and movements, and that implementing a command to suddenly stop would help reveal this through the examination of new postures.

Soon after that G. began to put "stop," as we called this exercise, into practice in the most varied circumstances.
G. first of all showed us how to "stand stock-still" immediately at the command "stop," and to try not to move, not to look aside no matter what was happening, not to reply if anyone spoke, for instance if one were asked something or even unjustly accused of something.
"The 'stop' exercise is considered sacred in schools," he said. "Nobody except the principal teacher or the person he commissions has the right to command a 'stop.' 'Stop' cannot be the subject of play or exercise among the pupils. You never know the position a man can find himself in. If you cannot feel for him, you do not know what muscles are tensed or how much. Meanwhile if a difficult tension is continued it can cause the rupture of some important vessel and in some cases it can even cause im­ mediate death. Therefore only he who is quite certain in himself that he knows what he is doing can allow himself to command a 'stop.'
"At the same time 'stop' demands unconditional obedience, without any hesitations or doubts.”

It seems to me an interesting exercise, it could reveal something new about the relationship with the body.

Comments

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    A while back I was listening to a podcast. In it one of the people talked about being overwhelmed with frustration in her life and that a helpful strategy to deal with the mental suffering of it was to do something productive with her body. I think she talked about gardening, but it could be something like cleaning house or building a bookshelf. Something that tells the body's nervous system that accomplishing things is possible.

    I guess basically the sorts of actions you take with your body influences your mental outlook.

    JeroenKotishkaFleaMarketlobster
  • @Jeroen I like stopping sometimes. There was a clip of Thich Nhat Hanh exemplifying a similar method. He was walking walking walking thinking thinking thinking with mala beads in his hand moving moving moving and then STOP! and he drops the beads to the floor making a noise, stopping in the moment to simply be. It was a fragment of a longer youtube I can't find at the moment but I liked his example as well and feel it is similar in nature to your explanation of Gurdjieff's stop exercise. Attempting to bring about the same style of momentary cessation of thought or remind us of the automated identity.

    Now that I think about it, maybe similar to the bell alarm on the Plum Village app? I set mine for every hour 9AM-9PM and I have noticed it usually goes off at a moment where I needed to return to awareness. You know what frekin' is always waiting for me when that bell goes off? A lesson. I want to increase the bell to 15 minutes but that may be more desire and pleasure-based.

    @person I find those techniques helpful as well when I allow myself to implement them. I may be in a circular depressive loop when it comes to gardening at the moment which is more to the point that I would get benefit from doing some. It is remarkable how intuitive yet difficult this information is to act on.

    Since discovering this forum and applying some of the techniques mentioned, I have had many fewer anxiety attacks and depressive episodes (at first it might have increased a bit O.o ). It's sort of an "all roads lead to Rome" in here which is quite fantastic for spiritual growth and a testament to those who support this place with commentary and other methods.

    I find a lot of personal success in thinking my way out of thought. It works every time but does not last. I guess that is the result of strengthening the mind-tool to overcome the mind-tool. One of my recent thought experiments is to bring awareness to my perceived walls or blockages and visualize a home-grown corn field maze. I can walk the maze if I really want or if I don't realize any better, or I can just cut through the corn. The need to travel the maze comes in many forms but ultimately I play as long as I allow myself to play. I can drop the mental play any time I want...so long as I remember and am willing to do so. So long as I remember and am willing to do so.

    It's all seems very similar, just expressed differently and interpreted differently by our unique points of view. Sometimes I gate myself on my responses seeing the information has already been covered but maybe it's like a bouquet of imperfect flowers vs a single pristine rose. Not everyone likes roses but in a bouquet there may be something for everyone.

    JeroenpersonKotishka
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @FleaMarket said:
    Since discovering this forum and applying some of the techniques mentioned, I have had many fewer anxiety attacks and depressive episodes (at first it might have increased a bit O.o ). It's sort of an "all roads lead to Rome" in here which is quite fantastic for spiritual growth and a testament to those who support this place with commentary and other methods.

    Thats really good to hear @fleamarket. My experience is also that buddhism is a stabilising influence, the quality of equanimity come to the fore.

    I find a lot of personal success in thinking my way out of thought. It works every time but does not last. I guess that is the result of strengthening the mind-tool to overcome the mind-tool.

    This works to a certain extent. Later you could graduate to looking at the no-mind.

    It all seems very similar, just expressed differently and interpreted differently by our unique points of view.

    It is said that within any one true teaching of the Buddha you could see the rest of the teachings reflected, if you looked deeply enough. Sometimes I have been lucky enough to see one teaching inside of another, and it reaffirms my thought that perhaps I am not entirely without insight.

    FleaMarketperson
  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Veteran
    edited April 22

    @Jeroen said:
    This works to a certain extent. Later you could graduate to looking at the no-mind.

    Great phrasing! Your arrangement of words with my current mental state caused something to click in my understanding. The root purpose of my reminders. Time to shave some fat from my practice! Thank you.

    Throws away power point transitions, corn fields, hitting my face with inflatable exercise equipment...

    Now to practice remembering to use it!
    Maybe I will get the practice down before I throw out my other techniques..

    It is said that within any one true teaching of the Buddha you could see the rest of the teachings reflected, if you looked deeply enough. Sometimes I have been lucky enough to see one teaching inside of another, and it reaffirms my thought that perhaps I am not entirely without insight.

    Just as your observations reaffirm mine. It reminds me of revising my posts. Every time I look over the content I am responding to and my response to it, more is revealed. My response is refined, a piece is understood more clearly, rinse and repeat. Sometimes I delete the response all together finding all words simply lacking and even the me formulating the response is lacking. Sometimes I smash the send button before even re-reading the post. There is an acknowledgement that something must be said to be built upon though, as it is in the shared experience of others before me that I find some understanding. Finding those words and phrasing to say to help contribute meaningfully to that endeavor is not yet my strong suit.

    personKotishka
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