He who wants knowledge must himself make the initial efforts to find the source of knowledge and to approach it, taking advantage of the help and indications which are given to all, but which people, as a rule, do not want to see or recognize. Knowledge cannot come to people without effort on their own part.

George Gurdjieff

Degrees of Attention

We go through our day in varying degrees of attention. Most of our daily tasks call for minimal attention, such as dressing ourselves, eating or interacting with friends and family. Some tasks require more attention; such as reading a book, drafting an email or attending a job interview.

We can perform the first group of actions while simultaneously performing others: dress ourselves while speaking on the phone, eat while chatting with our friends or interact socially while sending and receiving text messages. However, we cannot perform tasks that require attention alongside other tasks without harming our performance. We cannot read a book while speaking on the phone, draft an email while chatting with our friends, or attend a job interview while texting. We function in varying degrees of attention.

Attention and Will

Our attention is subject to our will. If we desire, we can perform any task more attentively. We can bring attention to dressing, sensing the fabric of our clothes, matching the colors of our shirt to our slacks and shoes, etc. We can dine intentionally, tasting each bite, each sip, etc. But we needn’t be professionals in any field to verify that we can bring more or less attention to the simplest actions, and this demonstrates that: Our attention is subject to our will.

Dressing inattentively is effortless; dressing intentionally requires effort. Eating inattentively is effortless; tasting the food requires effort. Directing attention through will requires effort. This explains why Gurdjieff called his methods of self-development The Work.

Awareness and Consciousness

George GurdjieffPeter OuspenskyDirecting attention is not the end of the Work; it is a means by which, we become conscious. Few teachings make the distinction between consciousness and attention, and this is where the Fourth Way differs from most other systems. The Workis not only about being attentive; it is about being conscious, and consciousness is self-awareness. George Gurdjieff called this self-remembering. Peter Ouspensky called it divided attention. More recently, it has become popularly known as being present.

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