GurdJieff, Rolfing, and the natural expression of the ORGANISM

When we are going through a Rolfing series, we are not just working with muscles and connective tissue, we are working with an innervated being, with tissues, bones, joints, and general structure under the command of a central brain, and that partially influenced by the mind. Gurdjieff, a modern mystic who brought a system of conscious development from his travels in the east back to the west, referred to his own mind-body complex as his “organism”. He defined man as consisting of a body, emotions, and intellect, each of which is a separate system or brain. This definition of the self as an organism is probably the best way to view the individual because it includes the body and the mind, everything together as an autonomous functioning being. We usually refer to our body as a separate vehicle that belongs to us, but is not our true self. Many westerners would define the self as the mind, but Gurdjieff’s system defines the mind as a function of the self, not the self.

This can be compared the psychology of man defined by ancient Indian philosophy, and therefore common to both Hinduism, and Buddhism. In this philosophy, Samkhya philosophy, from which most Indian philosophy derives, the mind (manas) belongs to the body, in fact the only part of an individual that does not, is pure consciousness. The individual’s mind is subject to one’s body type and is a reflection of that. This is how the traditional medical systems of ancient India and Tibet approached diagnosing and treating people, according to their type, treating the entire individual as a complete organism. Body and mind, really all one thing.

Gurdjieff, during his travels, had met up with teachings and teachers that advised against breathing exercises, being told that they can do more harm than good when taught by anyone who does not have a very exact knowledge of the body. The idea is that the body demands very specific volumes of air for its purposes, and we can not understand those needs with our ordinary minds. If there is a problem with breathing, it is because there are other problems present. Change everything or change nothing was the basic concept. But as far as Rolfing/Structural Integration is concerned, just as we do not know how to breath with our ordinary minds, we also to not know how to walk, how to stand, or how to sit. Such things can not be controlled from the top down, any attempts to do so are in reality, crude and unsophisticated. If there is a problem, it is dependent on other problems, real change occurs by addressing the entire organism as a complete being, one that has its own wisdom and it’s own eloquent way of expressing it’s self, it just might need some help doing so. We encourage the healthy expression of the body/mind complex, and trust that the expression of its way of approaching life is the best way. When viewed from this standpoint, the question arises, “what is up to me then?” When working toward change, there is always one thing I can safely do, let go. If I find myself holding onto something unnaturally, I can let go. If I perceive unnecessary muscle tension, I can try to let go of it. If I find myself breathing shallow or hold my breath, I can try to let go of that and see if a more natural pattern of breathing will take place. Also, if I find myself holding onto thoughts and emotions, I can likewise try to let go of those things too. The process of letting go, or “allowing” a more natural way of being is not easy, but it is something that is immediately available to me. How can I be more natural. Rolfing assists in restoring, or evoking a more natural way of being and way of moving, but in reality the practice of “allowing” is a lifelong process. A process of becoming one’s self, of coming into being.

John WilsonComment