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Identification: Teachings from the Gurdjieff Work

February 8, 2010

Dennis at Esalen

Dennis at Esalen in 2009

Many years ago I asked my teacher a question, which I think was about how to recognize and get what I really want. Though I’m not absolutely sure of the exact words I used, I remember well his response, since it has helped me understand the crucial role of attention and identification in my life.

“It’s as though you go out one day from your apartment to a drugstore to buy some toothpaste,” my teacher replied. “Of course, you know that your real motivation for going out is that you wish to meet the woman of your dreams, and you have the feeling that you might meet her today. Keeping your eyes open for the woman of your dreams, you head over to the toothpaste display and become engrossed in deciding which of the many brands you should buy—checking prices and so on, and deciding which one would be the best for your teeth. In the meantime, God has sent the woman of your dreams into the store and she is standing near the cash register at that very moment. But you are so engrossed in deciding which toothpaste to buy that you don’t even look up. By the time you’ve decided on which brand to buy, she’s left the store and you never even noticed.”

It is clear to me today how much of my life takes place like this–in narrow, unconscious identification with the contents of my awareness, however seemingly consequential or inconsequential they might be. And, yet, that too is part of waking up to what actually is. For in those moments of seeing this process of identification in action, I experience a new appreciation for the statement that “the truth shall set us free.” And this enables me to relax into the immense freedom of the unknown, where the direct experience of I Am is more real than the thought of I am this or that.

Copyright 2008-2010 by Dennis Lewis. Taken from “In-Sights” on my website The Center for Harmonious Awakening.

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