One is more apt to be remembering oneself if one
is trying to separate from suffering. This is not
pleasant information, and it is one of the primary
reasons for the system's lack of popularity.
Suffering is useless without self-remembering
because it is not suffering we seek, but the
transformation of suffering.
We have a wrong attitude toward suffering. We
think suffering is useless, and we don't know how
to use it properly. When situations are difficult,
one becomes negative, but one must remember oneself
in order to transform suffering. Our machines think
words will dispel suffering, but no words can
relieve one of some types of friction. Only
acceptance can minimize severe suffering.
Unnecessary suffering stems from a lazy mind;
it's much easier to suffer unnecessarily than to
As one witnesses the months and years pass, one
realizes that one's greatest suffering is,
ironically, one's unnecessary suffering. One is
susceptible to unnecessary suffering because it is
so difficult to remember oneself. By creating
turmoil, or imaginary problems, one takes many
events seriously that in no way warrant concern. If
a man releases his unnecessary suffering, he sees
that his pursuits are hollow and that he does not
exist. One must fill this void with
Mr. Gurdjieff said one must use voluntary
suffering to awaken. One thing I have used for many
years now is to keep my feet under the table flat
and together. I don't turn or roll them from side
to side. When I find them in the wrong place it
sends a message to me to come to the present.
Voluntary suffering should be inconspicuous-other
people should not know one is doing it. You can try
not drinking tea or coffee for a week, not having
vegetables or meat-keep irritating the machine.
Your soul is the pearl of great price and, like any
pearl, it must be created by transforming
irritation. When driving a car by yourself, sit to
the right or left or far back on the seat, or sit
on a cassette. Play a station you don't like; play
it loudly. Do not defeat your will-use voluntary
suffering for fifteen minutes and then find
something else. There is a way out but you have to
be creative to find it.
Is voluntary suffering an artificial
pressure, or is it legitimate? - It is both
artificial and legitimate; it is an artificial
pressure that produces a real result.
Voluntary suffering contains an element of will,
and yet such efforts should constitute only a
fragment of one's day. It may be useful to avoid
extreme efforts to suffer voluntarily because false
personality will establish impossible aims in order
to hinder one's progress and make awakening seem
Recently I watched a film about Africa. There
were lines of people who had a disease that causes
blindness. It didn't seem like things could get
worse than that. Not only were they blind, but they
were holding sticks, each holding onto the other,
following each other, walking to nowhere. There was
nowhere to go in that desolate place. It is a
complex universe. Why is there the suffering that
there is? Perhaps it is the nature of the materials
that create suffering. God had to suffer
unspeakably to create his astral body, and man was
made in the image of God.
Students must learn to separate from a teacher's
suffering just as a teacher must separate from his
students' trials. Nevertheless, we will continue to
be sympathetic to one another. One's self and
suffering must often wend a lonely, mystical path,
and I make no attempt to conceal the reality that
they are melancholy companions. There is, however,
light at the end of the tunnel.
One of the most useful `I's to promote in the
midst of friction is, "How can I work with this
suffering differently than a person without the
We think we should not experience pain because
our mothers, to the best of their abilities,
relieved us from suffering. This is a dimension of
feminine dominance. We were conditioned to avoid
pain and cultivate a biological existence composed
of smooth sleep. Awakening is a divine gift, and
higher forces use altogether different rules than
our mothers. They do, however, love us consciously.
The gods are our parents and we are their children
and they are making us, like them, immortal.
Epictetus said: "I would never desert my true
parents, the Gods." Nor would they desert him;
indeed, he is one of them now.
Suffering gives us life. Aeschylus said, "It is
wisdom's everlasting law that truth can only be
learned by suffering it." Transforming suffering
There is nothing we can do about suffering
except transform it and be present which, after
all, is everything. The negative aspects within us
produce suffering, which, if transformed, in turn
produces higher centers. The best way to work with
suffering is to accept it, not ward it off, but let
it run its course. Perhaps the most painful aspect
of suffering is wishing it to end, because by
accepting suffering, one rises above it. Life has
many unpleasant moments that one must endure, with
or without the system. It takes a long time to
learn not to run from suffering, to accept what
higher forces give one. Obviously, doubling one's
suffering by trying to run away from it is folly.
One cannot transform imaginary suffering into
self-remembering; one can only transform real
suffering into higher states.
Sadness has its place, but one needs to nip it
in the bud and return to self-remembering. William
Shakespeare said, "[I] trouble deaf heaven with my
bootless cries." The machine will experience
self-pity when it receives friction. Although this
feature is justifiable on one level, we must
refrain from expressing it because of our aim to
awaken. To identify is mechanical; to separate is
divine. Avoiding self-pity is a great way for us to
The only way to transform suffering is to accept
it. If one accepts it, then one escapes it.
Avoiding suffering is suffering itself-it is a
One's attitude toward events, and not events
themselves, determines whether or not one will
suffer. It is best to conceal one's suffering
whenever possible. No words are as touching as
silence in the face of suffering. Even in the face
of terminal illness, one still has the choice of
being present and adding to one's astral body; when
death is near and unavoidable, self-remembering
reveals itself as everything. At this point one
works even more intently on creating a personal
tendency to evolve. One's time is counted, and time
is nearly all one has.
There must always be friction of sufficient
magnitude to produce consciousness. Enduring
friction without identification constitutes the
greater part of awakening. One does not pass
through St. Peter's gates easily.
When one experiences long periods of suffering,
there is nothing one can do but endure and
transform them. Massive suffering forces one to
question the meaning of existence. The greater the
suffering, the greater the questioning; remember,
there are answers.
We have a real life, and we must transform
suffering to understand it. One truly understands
only what one has suffered. Give yourself this
advice: "Suffering is not created for me to
identify with, but to transform."
To seek relief from suffering through others
instead of oneself postpones one's mastery of
Try to alleviate suffering rather than cause it.
When others seem to be losing their work, hold on
to your own, and self-remembering will fall into
It is necessary to accept suffering as a
life-giving principle, and not as an obstacle.
There are eminent models from all ways of life-from
slaves to emperors-to guide one to a profound
existence. Transforming suffering is their common
One can either bend or buckle under pressure.
One must stop waiting for it to end and accept it,
because the only way to transform suffering is to
In Ecclesiastes it is written, "For in much
wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth
knowledge increaseth sorrow." Knowledge and being
cannot diverge. The knowledge we consume is
immortal sustenance designed to produce higher
centers. In order to become the words, we must
suffer, and yet we must not suffer unnecessarily.
We must strive to transform suffering.
We must learn how to use suffering because
negative shocks can create the third state. An
element within us assumes that suffering will occur
to someone else. Yet awakening is not for other
people, it is for you. After transforming
suffering, one must avoid the tendency to slacken
and lapse into sleep.
Transforming and not identifying with suffering
opens up all our possibilities. Yet we know that
suffering is a sweet and sour experience and is
difficult to look forward to. False personality
must die within us for higher centers to be born,
and we experience that death.
Shocks toll us back to the present and remind us
to hold fast to our identity amidst life's temporal
folly. We can't expect to awaken without paying the
price. There can be no victory without a battle, no
virtuous crown without cause. Common sense,
however, holds one together. One reason people
suffer is because they think of themselves too
much; thus they create their own suffering. There
are many little secrets to learn in order to
awaken, and one of them is that one cannot awaken
if one suffers from over self-indulgence. When one
learns to reduce excessive self-indulgence and to
look about one, higher centers begin to emerge.
Higher forces are then assured of having created a
compassionate identity-an identity that will serve,
rather than selfishly abuse, the Ray of Creation.
One must suffer the same trials to achieve the
same spiritual results in any age. Walt Whitman
said, "The same inexorable price must still be paid
for the same great purchase." This refers to
suffering. Each must have the fortune, and the
misfortune, to verify that.
No man can know himself without carrying a heart
that has endured despair. One must strive for what
appears to be inaccessible, for that is where
reality dwells, and only despair can scale the
We are all stunned periodically by shocks that
draw us into reality. Try not to identify with
events that you can't change. Admittedly, receiving
shocks is an odd way to escape, but we are
fortunate that a way exists at all. Eventually, one
accepts shocks not as interruptions in one's life
but, thankfully, as interruptions in one's sleep,
and values them for bringing forth higher centers.
Let us be touched, but not consumed, by
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