Gurdjieff Movements: The Radiance of Presence

Amiyo shares the story about one of her biggest love affairs

How did your love affair with the Movements start?

Back in 1989 Osho asked me to watch the last ten minutes of the movie “Meetings with Remarkable Men” (by Peter Brook and Mme Jeanne De Salzmann) and find the keys hidden behind the Gurdjieff Movements. Little did I know that I was engaging into what would become a major part of my outer and inner life.
The vision of these movements electrified my skin and I spent almost three days non-stop watching the strange movements, concisely edited in the movie, and trying to decipher the choreographies.
This was the start, nourished by my master who sent me wholeheartedly into the discovery of the secrets hidden behind those movements and, to this day, the journey continues.
Three months later, when Osho left his body I felt that his offer was such a beautiful farewell gift from him….
What did you like about the Movements most?
What caught my attention beyond the beauty of the Movements, was the feeling that what mattered here was the inner state, a stable presence, which showed in the stillness of the dancers’ faces and in the relaxed precision of their gestures. Behind the dance there is an absolute unmoving state of consciousness. And there is a unique pulsation within the group…
You are a dancer, dance therapist and choreographer and have spent your earlier years exploring many dance techniques and visions; what made the Gurdjieff Movements so special for you?
At first it was the energy aspect. We are energy in movement. When I move or stand still, I can feel this energy being inwardly moved in such a way that my whole body is a vortex of freely flowing energy.
We have to remember that for Gurdjieff the Movements were a science, not an art. He was never too happy with people enthusiastically pointing out the beauty of the Movements. He gradually created the Movements (about 250 of them), correcting them, changing some aspects, day after day, scientifically searching for a certain effect, a certain archetype that he wished to see manifested through the movements, individually and also at the group level.
It is said that when he entered the Salle Pleyel in Paris, where a group of pupils were practicing, he used to close his eyes and make some changes here and there, eyes closed! Who has ever heard of a choreographer create his dances with eyes closed, just through being sensitive to the vibrations present in the room?

How do the Movements work?

The Movements have a double action: while maintaining a certain quality of attention on different parts of the body in a succession of attitudes, rhythms and displacements, they disconnect the old structure of ‘automatic movement’ they connect new neurological patterns, opening us up to a totally new way of movement, but also thinking and feeling. New bridges are created between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Also, when the body is relaxed, the mind quiet and the heart at peace, we can become antennae for a higher, finer quality of energy. It is not that we create these energies: the universe is full of them but they start passing through us. Each movement inside and outside is a passage of energy.
The Gurdjieff Movements are attracting energies that are of a higher level, not usually felt in our daily activities. But they can also become more and more present in our lives, once we had a taste and understood what is required for this to happen. And the Movements can show us how to be in life. How to experience presence, and to take some distance from conditioned reactions.
This state of collected attention happens when mind, heart and body are engaged in the same activity or going in the same direction, always under the eye of the watcher. The sensations in the body, the thinking and the feeling have a common tempo; they are in an accord. They do not diverge and disconnect from each other.

But in our daily lives things are quite different!
Yes, most of the time our attention is scattered: “I still have five e-mails to answer before going out…I think while brushing my teeth with one hand, cleaning the sink with the other… listening to the news on the radio, and trying to put on my shoes…. “Then we wonder why we are so tired at night!
In this multi-tasking society, to remember Gurdjieff’s statement seems more appropriate than ever:
“When you do a thing, do it with the whole self. One thing at a time.”
We are usually blindly immersed in each and every event in our lives, whether family, professional or social. And mostly our attention is directed outwardly towards an aim. We forget that there is also a movement that does not project itself outwards but returns to the source.
How can the Movements helps us change this?
During the practice of the Movements we see that a movement does not start as a movement. The outer form of the movement is a small visible portion of some unseen happening. It is the end product. It begins as an impulse, stimulated by an atmosphere, and inhabited by an energy force. Conscious practice makes us aware of these four layers:

  • Atmosphere / Archetype
  • Impulse
  • Energy
  • Outer Form

We do not simply throw our arms or legs about. We are carefully living the whole manifestation, watching the sensations in the body, watching the feeling which is born out of each movement, while the mind remains focused on the body.
What do you like so much about teaching the Gurdjieff Movements? You have now done it for over twenty years!
Just imagine to enter a group room and watch this scene: a few people are sitting with their eyes closed, resting quietly inside. Others are lying on the floor, relaxing the bodymind. A few are working as a little group on a sequence of the Movements, helping each other or comparing notes. At this very moment, there is an atmosphere in the room of collected attention, friendship, inner discipline and relaxation, silence, care, effort and non-effort. I feel utterly at home…
Why is it so important to work in a group?
To work by ourselves can be very arduous. For me, a group is the beginning of everything, a group of people seeking to live in a more conscious way, and – most importantly – sincere but not serious! Humor can do miracles on this path!
What is the first thing you teach?
We never start with the Movements immediately. First we prepare ourselves through exercises, visualisations and meditations to develop awareness and relaxation.
We are so used to always strive for results and live in stress and tension. We become rigid in our demands and expectations and this would contaminate and sabotage our search. Therefore we first need to learn how to learn!
Before starting with the Movements we first learn to position the body precisely in what we call the ‘zero position’. The zero position allows to establish a field of energy in a body that feels at ease, stable and grounded, in a bodymind that lets go of all kinds of agitation. We learn to feel the body on the ground, sensing its weight, mass, and more importantly, sensing that there is a force inside, an energy. Through this sensing, I am in communion with my body.
When the movement starts, I learn to see how I move rather than what I do.
In our society which is tuned to efficiency, what matters most are results. Here we learn to see that the dance is not a succession of postures. Usually, while taking one position our mind would already be busy looking for the next. Our attention goes: dot… dot…dot…, position after position, without being able to follow the movement itself, but always looking for the outcome.
What we want to learn is to be aware of the ‘how’, how I move: How do I transit from one position to the next? What is my movement filled with? Excitement? Fear? Agitation? Quietness? Care?
The movement, at first done in a clumsy way, becomes by and by smooth, free and fluid. This brings joy and a feeling of completion and harmony. It opens the door to a deeper inquiry.
It is said that Gurdjieff’s path is based on will. Does this create a problem?
Yes, there is a danger. Gurdjieff’s path is indeed based on will. Hence, if we are not alert, the practice of the Movements could bring more rigidity in someone who has already this tendency, and could attract people who are thirsty for power.
Trying to focus the mind in a certain way, we create friction; we fight with our own mind and certain feeling of power is created. Power is dangerous and will reinforce the ego. Gurdjieff’s path has often been presented in a very masculine and willful way, a path of effort and effort and more effort.
In my understanding, effort is needed, of course, but we have to emphasize the right balance between right tension, effort and relaxation. I find myself wanting to bring in a more feminine approach, inspired by Osho’s vision and also by Mme De Salzmann’s (often forgotten). Before his death, Gurdjieff gave the responsibility of passing on his teaching to Mme De Salzmann, in particular the transmission of the Movements – which she did with extraordinary intelligence and love.
She also added a more feminine touch to the active aspect of the Work:
Next to effort: letting go, receptivity, acceptance of what is.
And Osho’s insight:
“Meditation is not concentration. In concentration there is a self concentrating and there is an object being concentrated upon. There is duality. In meditation there is nobody inside and nothing outside. It is not concentration. Concentration has a center in you. Concentration has a self in you. In fact the man who concentrates very much starts gathering a very strong self. He starts becoming more and more powerful…
[…] The power that comes out of peace, non-friction, non-fight, non-manipulation, is the power of a rose flower, the power of a small lamp, the power of a child smiling, the power of a woman weeping, the power that is in tears and in the dewdrops. It is immense but not heavy; it is infinite but not violent.
Concentration will make you a man of will. Meditation will make you an emptiness.”
Osho, The Heart Sutra, Ch 7
Your challenge is to bring Osho and Gurdjieff under one roof, it seems.
I often wonder about this fate of mine: to find a meeting point in my teaching, in my life between Osho and Gurdjieff.
Chetan and I are traveling around the world –Europe, the States and India, all year long. We lead weekends, intensives and Movements instructor trainings. We love it! And especially to teach and practice in Dharamsala, where we are now. It is the capital of Tibet in exile, where the entire spiritual Tibetan culture is being nurtured. This way, it is easy to bring ourselves back to one of the main sources from where Gurdjieff learned the movements: Tibet.
Here we imbibe the incredible gentleness, courage and grace of the Tibetan people. The quietness of nature, the superb Himalayan peaks are calling us in, and up. And so are the Movements…

Amiyo Devienne learned to become a dance teacher, choreographer and dance therapist in France and became a sannyasin in 1978. She was teaching dance in the communes and on the Ranch. In 1989 she started teaching Gurdjieff Movements and for the past 15 years she has been travelling worldwide to give courses and Movement instructor trainings, as well as public demonstrations.
Chetan Greenberg has been involved, since 1997, in the practice and teaching of the Movements together with Amiyo: seminars, trainings and public performances. He is a sannyasin since 1997. Chetan is an accomplished musician who studied professionally the violin and became an opera singer. He now uses his skills for a deeper understanding of music, rhythms and the science of vibrations.