Balance (as an aspect of Service)

Both Mr Gurdjieff and Abdullah taught us about developing our three brains.

  • We have one centred in the back of our head and spine, which controls movement and instinctive body functions.
  • We have another one centred in our solar plexus that controls our emotions.
  • And we have another one that is centred in our head that controls our intellectual thinking.

Balance is when we get to be strong in all three of these brains or centres. One approach to getting balance is to put extra focus on our weakest brain and try to make it better.

So if you’re good at sport or digging the garden but not good at concentrating on school work, then you try to put more effort into school work and reading – and vice versa. And if you’re reluctant to help out around home then you try to put more effort into remembering to be grateful and considerate.

Recognising our own weaknesses and working against them is a life-long process and Abdullah says that the hard work we put into improving our three brains can also go to help our spiritual part.

He also says that as we become more balanced in our three brains we get better at helping others. We begin to understand people and situations better, so we can give what’s really needed.

The first story is a folk tale told in America.

Years ago a farmer who owned land along the Atlantic seacoast in America had a lot of trouble finding a farm hand to help him run his farm. Some people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic because of the terrible storms that came through every year, damaging buildings and crops and killing animals and sometimes people as well.

Finally, one man seemed keen to take the job. “Are you a good farmhand?” the farmer asked him. “Well, I don’t let storms trouble me,” answered the man.

Although a little puzzled by this answer, the farmer hired him. The man was a hard worker through the harvest season, a good organiser of the fruit pickers, up early every morning and always cheerful. By the time the winter came, the farmhand was almost running the entire farm by himself.

Then late one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters in a panic. He shouted at the farm hand, “Get up! A storm is upon us!” The farm hand rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you when you hired me, I don’t let storms trouble me.”

The farmer was furious, but he had no time to argue with the farmhand, he had had to secure the farm in storms like this before and he knew there was no time to lose. The farmer hurried outside to bring the animals into the barn and then planned to fix the hole in the roof he had been putting off all Autumn. He realised that he would not have time to bring in the farm machinery from the field and he sighed when he thought of the damage the driving wind and rain could do to it.

However, when the farmer got outside he found that the cows were already in the barn, and the chickens already locked in the coops, the barn doors were barred, the shutters were tightly secured and not a single hole remained in the roof. Anything left outside was covered and tied down and the tractor, ploughs, hay rakes and shovels had all been brought into the sheds.

The farmer was puzzled. Then he realised it had all been the earlier work of the farm hand, and this is what he had meant when he said “I don’t let storms trouble me”.

We all have storms in our life from time to time, but if we develop balance like the farmhand then we won’t let them trouble us.

This second story is a short one from Jalal al-din Rumi’s Masnavi.

A mule said to a camel, “How is it that I am always stumbling and falling down, whilst you camel never make a false step?” The camel replied, “My eyes are always directed upwards, and I see a long way before me, while your eyes look down, and you only see what is immediately under your feet.” The mule admitted the truth of the camel’s statement, and asked him to act as his guide in future, and the camel agreed to do so.

Rumi adds that partial reason cannot see beyond the body, but real reason looks further and so steers a better course in this world. And because men have only opinions based on partial reason they ought to follow the guidance of the saints.

Abdullah tells us that all real Sufis like Mr Gurdjieff, Hazrat Inayat Khan and Jalal al-din Rumi teach that we must get balance if we want to escape the rounds of life and death.

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