By the Apprentice Leader

This was first written in 2008. It seems appropriate to re-issue it now in part because I’ve been invited back to Denmark to do another haiku workshop in January. It does quite usefully, I hope, record a way of using the ‘bits of paper’ exercises’ and the accompanying spiel and the way the subject learns to take off for itself, rendering the leader/tutor superfluous which is always my objective in teaching.

Writing Haiku and Dancing Round the Centres!

(a haiku is a little three-line Japanese poem which I think of as an encapsulation of a moment of Self-remembering)

On Sunday 13th January 2008 I worked with a group of people in Denmark I’d never met before. I’d been invited to run a day-long haiku workshop.

On the day before the Workshop, I went round the Copenhagen train system travelling the length of every line—this was one haiku glimpse on the journey…

meeting from the train;
hug above a winter sea—
the warmth of her lips

At the workshop, without revealing anything about what I was doing, one of the exercises I thought I’d try was about getting to the No Self / No-I place (call it Meta-I maybe) where I assert haiku are best written from, as opposed to what happens when I write something like this where I’m tapping into stuff from Thinking Centre—remembering things, putting things into logical order, being in a Committed-to-a-particular-line-I.

I said, “Let’s say you want to write a haiku about a TREE. Stand on this bit of paper that has the word TREE written on it…” I demonstrated the process with a volunteer. “Think of a tree that you feel affection for…” As soon as my volunteer stood on the bit of paper, without any prompting from me, he closed his eyes and began swaying. He revealed afterwards that he immediately became so identified (he didn’t use that word) with his tree that he started feeling the effect of the wind on it…

I’d put three other bits of paper on the floor around the word TREE labelled THINKING, FEELING and MOVING. My volunteer was to step on each of these separately and do/say whatever seemed appropriate.

THINKING: “What great apples the tree has… I can’t sit under it because the grass is always so long… I need to cut the grass…”

“That’s an action! Stand on MOVING and observe yourself cutting the grass…”

“I’m cutting the grass now and I’m thinking about pruning the tree…”

“Back to THINKING then… Think about pruning the tree…”

“Now stand on MOVING and actually prune the tree…”

“That makes me feel great… A tree I can sit under and know that it’ll produce even better apples next year…”

“Stand on FEELING and get into a sense of satisfaction—is that what you’d call it?”

“Yes, and I can feel the wind in my hair as I look at it…”

“Maybe that’s because you’re in the feeling part of your brain already… Step back into THINKING and really get the idea of what your pruning has accomplished…”

And so on for about 15 minutes by which time as my volunteer talked about his experience he was making decisions for himself about which bit of paper to stand on, making very fine discriminations about which part of his brain he seemed to be in. He finished up in FEELING because, as he was talking, the neighbour’s cat had been rubbing itself round his leg.

In my terms he was moving from Centre to Centre and becoming more and more aware of doing so. When I finally got him to move to standing on the bit of paper with NO SELF written on it and taking it away from the other four bits of paper he simply spoke a haiku.  QED!

Then the rest of the group practised the exercise while he helped them.

One of the other members of the group reported that as he moved more and more quickly between the bits of paper it was as though NO SELF could make what happened in between them more and more unified. Paradoxically, maybe, the more we practise just moving physically between Centres or ‘I’s the more we can become aware of both what happens when we separate them out and when we join the together again. It’s the Pendulum effect.

In my terms, Divided Attention + awareness of self in personal experience leads to the place where Third Force happens at the bottom of the Pendulum and whatever you want to do (write a haiku or whatever) just happens, just like that…

These people, knowing nothing about Gurdjieff or NLP, were elegantly moving between ‘I’s—Thinking-I, Feeling-I, Action-I and beginning to understand the shifts for themselves…

If you’ve ever written a haiku, you’ll know how completely impossible it is to do when you’re stuck in Thinking-I—or at least the result of being in Thinking Centre is hardly classifiable as a true haiku. Doing a painting or leading a discussion or writing a story or preparing a course—what’s the role of Thinking-I? How does it get in the way? What when you can cycle quickly through Feeling-I & Action-I as well?

What might happen if you got yourself into No-I or Meta-I (or whatever one might call it) when teaching or counselling, coaching or even in a meeting of some kind? Or is that the place we’ve always gone to without realising it?

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