Key Aspects Regarding The Gurdjieff Movements

May 01, 2024

Every year as we prepare for retreat season, I write something about the Gurdjieff Movements which I facilitate daily at our weeklong retreat. They are a part of our practice to intensify attention, awareness, and presence.

The Movements have been integral in my spiritual transformation. They have a unique power. They are a portal into another realm; one where we are taken out of our conditioned behavior and responses, if we can give way to their influences.

The Movements, also known as Sacred Dances, come in many forms from ritual dances, tableaux dances, dervish dances, and women’s dances to exercises, all of which require something more from us. It is not the Movements that transform us and make our attention better. It is we who must bring our full attention and presence in order to access the code, so to speak.

The Movements are portals when we exert the perfect balance of effort in which all of our centers, the moving, the feeling, and the thinking are functioning properly together. Then and only then are we able to do them from our Being where we experience a more full expression of our own essence in connection to the Infinite and the Divine. (For more information on the right work of centers, read my blog).

Solange Claustres who taught the movements and worked closely with Gurdjieff in Paris the last seven years of his life had much to say about how Gurdjieff taught the movements:

“All true masters have a practical approach and in the Movements G.I. Gurdjieff’s inner work of awakening is put into practice. The laws of evolution and human consciousness are encapsulated in these Movements and Dances. The objective of all these movements is a constant: they are all prayers” (quote from S. Claustres found in The Gurdjieff Movements, Wim van Dullemen)

She often quoted Mr. G  saying “They are medicine” and I believe that. I have experienced that. She said “They have nothing to do with ecstasy or illumination. They demand precision and dedication. In brief, a discipline” 

There is something accessible from the Movements that is like nothing else in this ordinary life. There are laws of consciousness present in ways that we can be freed from our conditioning. Through dancing these prayers, we feel our wholeness and we gain a connection to a higher realm of Being. 

In my 30 years of teaching the Movements, I have seen people get tripped up by their own patterns; the same way they do in their regular lives, but the execution of the dances makes it more apparent.

There are three key aspects to doing the movements.

Firstly, there is no place to hide in the Movements as we can in life, so it can be irritating and evoke feelings of inadequacy if one falls prey to those reactions. It is not about being a better dancer or coordinating our bodies. The Movements make our conditioning more evident whereas in life, that conditioning keeps us coping, functioning mechanically, and not thriving. 

Movements become almost impossible when we are filled with emotional reaction, whether that's to the situation, our inabilities, our own mistakes, and imperfection, or how we appear in the class. Some people may not realize they are having that much reaction, and think that it is just their inability to follow the sequence. The reactions are keeping them from following the sequence.

We are so habitually used to swimming in reaction in life that we cannot see that that is the actual hindrance in our ability to execute the sequence. 

To see this in oneself in the present moment in a Movements class is Divine Grace. 

In this way, the Movements reveal much to us. We continue to make the efforts until suddenly we can do them. We take ourselves less seriously. We calm down and coordinate systems. The dance can then become the prayer that it is.

Secondly, the Movements engage our will. We must decide to make the right kind of effort and be willing to see what is before us. I have watched many people with skilled moving centers unable to function well in a class because they are not willing to make a different kind of effort than they are accustomed to. The movements’ asymmetrical patterns demand a relaxed and vigilant attention, even if the body has picked up the pattern.

Thirdly, the Movements are difficult in that they demand precision and exactitude. This comes from a certain standard within us. Through precision, one can streamline a movement and their heart then opens to the energy of that Movement. The connection to unfamiliar gestures, the ritualistic nature of the dance together with the beautiful music liberates us. Our desire, effort, and surrender usher in a deeper experience that far surpasses just getting the dance right.

If this is intriguing to you and calls you to face your habitual inner landscape, please join us this summer. The live music is extremely beautiful and the Movements take us to another dimension where your heart can open. We welcome you.

For more about Molly’s experience with the Movements, read her blog The Power of the Gurdjieff Movements.

For information about our Movements retreats, click here: Summer Retreat


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