August 2021 Lessons – A Student’s Perspective

One of the very first propositions I came across when starting to read the literature of the Fourth Way was that our behavior is driven on a daily basis by the instinctive and moving centers, rather than the intellectual or emotional centers. I understood the instinctive drive but could never wrap my head around what it might mean that the moving center dictated my behavior, not until about two weeks ago when I set myself an exercise to observe the difference between sensations and emotions.

The first few days were very difficult. I found that, apart from a tactile feeling on my skin, such as a touch or wearing a piece of clothing, it was almost impossible to discern between a sensation and emotion with respect to internal experiences. Everything was mixed all in the same indiscernible experience. The only difference I could perceive was doubtful thoughts that maybe this was a sensation or that was an emotion, but I was never clear about it.

After a few days of persisting with it, I slowly began to separate them and realized how true the aforementioned proposition was.

Most of my daily automatic decisions and behaviors are dictated, more than anything else, by the desire to feel a sensation. I constantly scroll through social media, have idle conversations, watch funny videos or series or movies because they generate a pleasurable sensation in my body and not because they stimulate my emotional or intellectual centers. It was shocking to perceive how little of my emotional center I actually experience every day. Where before I thought that a particular impression was stimulating emotions, it slowly became clearer and clearer that they were mostly stimulating sensation.

There is a difference in flavor. Sensations always look to satisfy themselves on an immediate scale, taking the pleasure offered now rather than a deeper experience that could be had later. Emotions, on the other hand, seek to make a connection with something more meaningful, and in turn, require more effort to stimulate. A sensation will hunger desperately for the pleasure it seeks, and will as quickly hunger for something else as soon as it gets what it wants. Its desire is unconcerned of the consequences to its satisfactions. Emotions, on the other hand, touch something deeper, something which takes longer to nurture, but which can last with us for the hour, for the day, for a few days, making us more receptive to more meaningful experiences.

Understanding this difference in flavor is indispensable for being able to experience a deeper meaning, not only of the work we are doing, but also of ourselves in a world that seems utterly meaningless.

The organic body obeys its laws. It only wishes to satisfy its needs—eating, sleeping, sex. It knows nothing else… One must feel it as an animal. One must feel it as a stranger. One must subdue it, train it and make it obey, instead of obeying it.
Gurdjieff