Friday, July 18, 2014

In the Moment: Some Impressions on the Gurdjieff Movements Presented on Sunday Evening , July 13, 2014 and the Bigger Picture

Practitioners in the Dzogchen Community come from many different Teaching lineages, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist where there is a huge wealth of wisdom about the human condition found  within the deep currents of many traditions.  We honor all our previous Teachers by including them in our personal Guru Yoga.  In Tibetan culture,  it is considered really poor form to disparages one’s previous teachers. In fact there are many colorful stories of Masters rejecting a disciple based on their behavior towards a previous Teacher. That extends to disparaging the Teachers of others.

In general, the Gurdjieff Teachings hold a prominent place in the  introduction of Tibetan Buddhism into the West. James George, a senior disciple of Gurdjieff is beloved by all the Tibetan Lineage holders for assisting Tibetans as they fled Tibet while he was Canadian ambassador to Nepal. In his research into Gurdjieff’s secret years in Tibet Mr. George surmised that the location of the monastery Gurdjieff spent time in was the seat of the Trungpas ----Surmong.  Many of the early students of Tibetan masters coming to the  West were in the "The Work,” as it is called. In particular we owe a great debt to Mr. Anderson who first invited Chogyal Namkhai Norbu to teach here in 1982. As such, in honor of our 30th Anniversary we celebrate our Community’s origins. ---Jacqueline Gens

Mary Gilliland and Peter Fortunato, long time students of Choegyal Namkhai Norbu would like to share a few impressions about the de Hartmann music and the Gurdjieff Sacred Dances that were presented as part of the Thirty Year anniversary Celebrations for Tsegyalgar: 

         We had been involved with the Work through Mr. Gurdjieff's student and secretary Louise March*, founder of the Rochester Folk Art Guild.  Through Mrs. March in the 1980's, we were introduced to the Movements and their accompanying music, practicing the preliminaries with a group of more experienced students.  The presentation at the Mohawk School is among the best we have ever seen.
         The music, solo piano, evokes East European and Central Asian folk melodies – unadorned, pensive, resonant – and creates an atmosphere for contemplation. The Movements and Dances, like the music, are not easy to describe.  As with many of Gurdjieff's exercises, they seem designed to disrupt expectations – in this case, one's ordinary expectations for how a corps of dancers interact with rhythmic, sometimes martial sounding, sometimes tender, melodies. 
         The members of the Movements Project were costumed in light tunics and loose trousers, evoking something of the cultural context from which Gurdjieff drew inspiration.  Moreover, they offered a magnificent display of individual attention and group coordination – very important in the Work, as it is in the collaboration of the Dzogchen Community.  Characteristic of the Movements and Sacred Dances are the abrupt, hieratic gestures executed with arms and hands that seem to evoke such postures as might be seen on ancient relief sculptures from the Middle East or Egypt.  The effect of these gestures  can be disturbing to one's ordinary ideas about flowing dance movements and transitions in response to music.  It seems this effect is part of their mystery, however, and the concentrated intensity of the Movements Project in motion was finally irresistible and emotional in a very subtle way.   
         Besides our personal associations and reminiscences while we watched both of us felt our hearts opening to the dancers in appreciation of their sustained effort, not only throughout a long and complex program on the stage that night, but also because of their disciplined preparation and devotion to the Way they are practicing. 
         G. I. Gurdjieff characterized humans as "three brained beings."  To explain the workings of our three centers he used the analogy of a cart for the body, a horse for the feeling center, and a driver for the mind.  All three must function in harmony for a person to experience "Being," or awakening.  It seems that this tradition of dance is designed to help bring the three centers into harmony, first by disturbing habitual patterns of behavior and then by introducing new "impressions" within both the dancers and audience. --Peter Fortunato and Mary Gilliland

The following video was prepared by Margit Martinu, a member of the International Dzogchen Community, authorized as both a Gurdjieff movement instructor and a Vajra Dance teacher. Many thanks to the practitioners of the Gurdjieff movements who traveled so far to attend the 30th Anniversary of Tsegyalgar. 

[Reprinted from Suzi Smith of Namgyalgar FB PAGE of Gurdjieff movements

at the July 13 performance in Mohawk High School Auditorium

For more information about Gurdjieff work in Western Massachussetts contact

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