Danzas para la Mente

"The dances are for the mind. They give nothing to the soul; the soul does not need anything. A dance has a certain meaning; every movement has a certain content."

-G. I. Gurdjieff-

"One moves the movement and forgets the movement; this is not the movement itself."

This ancient Taoist saying may be a good introduction to understanding the Movements that are an essential part of the teaching of G.I. Gurdjieff. The formal presentation of the Movements, their external action, is an echo of a more powerful internal energy. Through the cyclical repetition of a set of attitudes, such as the repetition of a prayer, attention is sharpened, releasing energy of different qualities and densities, and allowing them to interact with each other in a new way. The outer movement is initiated by an inner impulse, not from the partial mind, but from a watchfulness supported by the body in tune with feeling and under the gaze of the mind: a threefold attention.

Movements are spiritual exercises, not gymnastics or physical therapy, and are not intended to create altered states of consciousness (although this may happen as a result of the work with attention). Their reason for being is to be found in all the ideas that structure Gurdjieff’s teaching. The Movements have been created for experimenting and practicing a knowledge that has, for the most part, been transmitted orally. When they are removed from this connection with ideas, forgery and distortion appear, and the Movements lose much of their meaning.

According to Mme. Salzmann:

"When the movement is correct, it produces a sound; a special influence that can be received by those who listen." It's like a reverberation of vibrations from a higher level of consciousness which can be felt not only by people who perform a given Movement, but also by those who watch it. In this regard, one can say that the Movements are an illustration of the practice of the three lines of work that are characteristic of Gurdjieff’s teaching: work on oneself, work with others and work for work itself.

When we begin to study the Movements, the weakness of our attention becomes obvious very quickly; it has no resistance or defense against an endless stream of associations and is often trapped at the very instant when full concentration could be needed most. The ordinary mind is unstable by itself, oriented toward the future or the past and identifying most of the time with some imaginary object. This mind has no center of gravity. Its level of attention may initiate a movement or direction, but it is unable to focus and participate in the continuation of this movement: "One moves the movement and forgets the movement; this is not the movement itself."

In relation to the body, although it may show a real understanding when confronted with the outside world, is largely under the influence of its own desires, cravings and reactions. In the path of internal search, however, knowledge of the body as a foundation for Work is paramount. At the beginning of the practice of the preliminary exercises, the effort of attention to memorize the different positions seems to be merely formal and mainly dependent on physical ability. But as the exercises become increasingly complex, the difficulty to meet the growing demand for coordination of the different speeds, different tempos and different rhythms associated with complicated movements and "canons", calls for a new attention never experienced before.

At that point of viewing myself confused, absent, the question arises: "Who am I?" Of course, there will not be an immediate answer, but the vision and the acceptance of this lack of relationship within myself evokes nostalgia, a remote reminiscence of a lost authority, a memory. I am committed to attempt to listen as a three-brained-being; in other words, I have to attempt to be present.

What is happening in this way is the awakening of a finer intelligence, a new mind, like a thought coming from the heart. The search for this inner presence requires a sacrifice; it requires letting go of all subjective temptations and all selfish fascinations "to succeed, to do, to get results". This openness to a higher level of consciousness is what we are invited to discover through the practice of Gurdjieff's Movements or "Sacred Dances".