asato mā sadgamaya
tamaso mā jyotirgamaya
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya
From the unreal lead me to the real,
From darkness lead me to light,
From death lead me to immortality.
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Have you ever stopped to wonder just how much of reality you simply don't notice?
Gurdjieff used to talk about "buffers", and how people block out reality in accordance with their own mindset. He termed this semi-aware state "sleep" and insisted that the vast majority of people live out their entire lives as slaves to this condition of automatic self-hypnosis.
He developed what he called the Stop Exercise, which was a method of bringing each practitioner into an awareness of their own state of “sleep”. He devised all sorts of irritating, annoying and seemingly pointless tasks for people to do with the sole intention of jolting them from their unconscious habits.
This wasn’t a new idea, of course. Many monastic orders and religious teachings have used similar methods. Zen koans, for example, were designed to present the person meditating on them with a baffling puzzle which removed their thought patterns into unfamiliar territory. The answers to these verses are said to be flexible, their real purpose being to demonstrate the student’s ability to reach greater levels of awareness.
So what didn’t you notice today?