One of the central ideas of Gurdjieff's teaching is that human beings are not complete; rather, we are an unfinished creation with enormous potential of which we are unaware. Our development is brought to a certain point by Nature, sufficient for the demands of ordinary life. Further development of our larger possibilities does not, and cannot, occur spontaneously, but depends on our active participation, a work on oneself.
"The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness. And 'consciousness' cannot evolve unconsciously. The evolution of man is the evolution of his will, and 'will' cannot evolve involuntarily. The evolution of man is the evolution of his power of doing, and 'doing' cannot be the result of things which 'happen'."
This Work appears in many traditions in different ways. Gurdjieff spoke of three different approaches: through the body, the emotions and the mind. He proposed a Fourth Way that included all the parts. To that end, the teaching incorporates music, movements, and practical work with the aim of self-observation: a quiet, invisible movement toward oneself that reveals, over time, why and how and what one does -- and, above all, who is the doer.
The Gurdjieff Movements, or sacred dances, offer a unique approach to self-awareness and the development of integrated attention. Classes work on a large repertory of dances and exercises, choreographed by Gurdjieff, primarily on the basis of models witnessed during his years of travel in remote regions.
These Movements have a double aim. By requiring a quality of attention maintained on several parts at the same time, they help us to get out of the narrow circle of our automatism. And through a strict succession of attitudes, they lead us to a new possibility of thinking, feeling and action. If we could truly perceive their meaning and speak their language, the Movements would reveal to us another level of understanding.
Jeanne de Salzmann, The Reality of Being
These exercises open a prospect that is very simple and very accessible. Anyone can approach them, whatever his capacities; and from that point of view, one can say they answer to a lack in today’s world, a need for renewal. These exercises are one of the disciplines one finds today—there are still too few—which point out the necessity of associating the body with an inner, spiritual aspiration. This necessity has been forgotten; the body lives apart, and we don’t feel the inadequacy in that situation, and the limitations which it imposes on every plane of our existence. We are given no taste of the body’s dormant possibilities; we don’t know how to listen to it nor to call it.
But a relation could be established—and not only during the practice of a discipline. Those who participate in the work of the movements will tell you that the understanding which has come to them carries over into other moments, in the most ordinary situations. There is no circumstance in our life which need be cut off from it, not even taking the subway or sitting at one’s desk or walking in the street. So you see, we come back down to the level where we live.
Pauline de Dampierre
The Practical Work:
Initiated in the Russian period and continuing to this day all over the world, are group meetings in which the ideas of the Gurdjieff teaching are thoroughly and deeply explored. Working together, we also sit in silent meditation, work on teams on special projects and tasks, care for a house of work, participate together in arts and crafts, and initiate studies of the teaching which include reading from a wide collection of Gurdjieff literature.