The first thing that amazed me in Ouspensky’s book was Gurdjieff’s claim that all people are machines. All of my conditionality rose up against this, and to this day I recall how severely outraged I was for several hours in a row. When I finally calmed down, the truth of Gurdjieff’s words were suddenly revealed to me, and I seemed to see myself from the side – a young man, living under the power of habits and neurotic reactions, inclined to be offended over any excuse and dependent on the most diverse external influences. I understood that Gurdjieff described my situation quite accurately, in which I had been a prisoner of my mechanical reactions, and therefore I could quite well be called a machine. This discovery sobered me a great deal, and next I began to read with doubled interest and diligence. Undoubtedly, Ouspensky’s book contained numerous revelations, but the second strong impression (and extremely useful information) was for me the place where the practice of self-awareness is described. The image of the double-edged arrow, pointed both in and out of oneself simultaneously helped me to understand how to really began to be aware of myself. Before that, I had read of awareness in Osho, but from what was read, I could not understand at all how to practice it. Ouspensky’s book helped me a lot in this, and from that moment, awareness of myself (or self-remembering) became my chief practice.
The difficulty for the majority of seekers trying to practice awareness is like what I once experienced – lack of understanding. For a person who has become accustomed to living in his mind, for whom attention was never a separate force, a separate energy, and always merged with external things or internal states, to understand how to separate and divide attention is rather difficult. It is not enough to receive exact instructions; you must understand how to carry them out in reality. Problems usually arise from this. The separation and holding of attention is a practical skill which once he has mastered it, a person can always use. It is not easy to come out of the habitual identification with the mind, but regular, correctly-performed efforts always yield results. In understanding how to act correctly, Gurdjieff’s words, as expressed by Ouspensky, helped me. The beginning of the self-awareness practice became for me the first step toward embarking on the Way, and toward discovering it at all.