March has been overly busy in an all too familiar sort of way. The porch was completed, and the hall redecorated all of which took up time and energy even though I wasn’t doing any of the work. And of particular note for guests was the arrival of the new swing seat in the garden.
I am delighted with the seat, it fits perfectly into a space above the topiary and rose “celtic spiral” with views down the garden towards the Dartington Estate. It is fun to have a gentle swing on, lovely to sit and sip tea on, and I can vouch for the restful lying down position too! Deciding on an inscription took a little more time. I wrote to a few friends for inspiration, and what came back was an avalanche of stunning quotations. There was a thread to many of them, and I ended up with an extract from a Rumi poem called “The Edge of the Roof”. The full sentence, (I learned after I decided upon it) is, “Sit, be still, and listen, because you’re drunk and we’re at the edge of the roof.”
Not really having a clue what this meant I Googled the quote and according to one interpreter, “ We seem to be filled with our own thoughts and agendas, yet they drive us. They are mechanical and we act them out like a machine or sleepwalker.
As I reflect on the month there are two clear strands. One is my familiar mechanical preoccupations with “stuff” to do with the house and garden which drive me on incessantly. The other almost opposite strand was being immersed in two e-courses based on the teachings of G I Gurdjieff. Cynthia Bourgeault describes him as “an enigmatic Armenian born spiritual teacher… Growing up in a melting pot of Christian, Islamic and Shamanic influences, he early on became convinced that human beings had fallen into a collective kind of amnesia, forgetting both their purpose and their responsibilities in the greater web of planetary life. He also became convinced that there were ancient schools of Wisdom still in existence that preserved the true roadmap.” You could link “collective amnesia” easily to being “at the edge of the roof”.
The first course takes extracts from a commentary by Maurice Nicoll on Gurdjieff’s teachings on self-observation. He says, “Essence is what you’re born with, personality is what you acquire….. personality must gradually become passive to let essence develop.” Another word for essence could be “True Self”: that part of us that was there before we were conceived, and the overlay of our parents’ personalities and subsequently our own learnt behaviour built up to create the person we think we are. But Gurdjieff teaches that we need to separate ourselves from this personality, the one who has such fixed ideas and opinions, aversions and desires, in order that our true essence can emerge.
As I’ve started to work with this material (and I’m not really doing it justice by dipping the tip of a toe-nail into it), I have caught a glimpse of my personality as she repeats over and again habitual patterns in a drunken amnesiac sort of way. And it’s the “collision” of the two monthly activities that has brought this into sharp focus for me. As the commentator on the quote goes on to say, “Rumi is suggesting that we might want to wake up and that we might want to do it before we “fall of the roof”.
I interpret the idea that we are drunk and at the edge of the roof as that state of unawakened-ness, where we can do so much damage not only to ourselves but to others around us, aswell as to the planetary web of life. Now more than ever we are conscious as Cynthia says in the second course more oriented towards our global responsibility, “the causal links between cutting of the rain forests, unrestrained fossil fuel consumption, the rising of sea levels, the warming of the ocean, the death of species. We understand that our planet is not simply a passive backdrop for our ambitious schemes….”
As I’ve immersed myself in these two courses I am catching glimpses of the gap between my own acquired personality and the “drunken” attachments that go with it and the greater calling to which I am drawn.
If you’re interested in learning more about Gurdjieff Cynthia Bourgeault offers two course through Spirituality & Practice www.spiritualityandpractice.com