There is a technique that can be a great help in practicing body awareness: A practitioner pays attention to the sensations in a bodily part while his body remains passive. One of the exercises Gurdjieff recommended to his followers was to become aware of all of the sensations in three fingers of the right hand. I want to say straightforwardly that I, too, recommend beginning with simple tasks. In principle, you can choose to work with any part of your body in this practice; it is simply that Gurdjieff’s approach was based upon the rationale that fingers, as tools used frequently, have enhanced tactile sensitivity that makes it easier to perform the exercise.

You can begin by practicing awareness of one arm and once you can do that, take it to the next level: As you become connected fully with all of the sensations in your right arm, bring your attention to the left arm and try to achieve the same result. The entire exercise is as follows: Focus your awareness on the physical sensations in your right arm (for five to ten minutes), then move to your left arm and observe the sensations for the same amount of time, then go down to the left leg, then the right one. Then, place your attention on the sensations in your trunk and head. Finally, try to expand your awareness throughout your entire body.

The primary difficulty encountered during this exercise (aside from “falling asleep”) is to not confuse awareness with concentration. The mind is trained to concentrate and can start focusing on sensations in a limb during observation, that creating pressure in the area. This can lead to sensations of heaviness and discomfort in that body part. Concentration emerges because of a strong desire to achieve the goal. Concentration is an incorrect approach to use and won’t help you reach your goal because it narrows your attention, which is the opposite of awareness.

Comment. When we concentrate, the attention channel narrows and the pressure of the energy of our consciousness directed at the body part increases. Doing so evokes various secondary sensations, such as heaviness, tingling, etc. This is not body awareness; this is charging the body with a large dose of the energy of consciousness, which generates sensations that were not there originally. The practice of body awareness implies that we simply bring attention to a body part to get a better sensation of it and observe whatever is there. This is the difference between concentration and awareness and a strong desire to practice the latter often steers one into engaging in concentration rather than awareness.

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The correct approach is to try to open up to all of the sensations in the body part observed that can be experienced at the moment. Let’s put it another way: You want to the body part to which you subject thorough awareness become exposed to your attention and allow the sensations elicited to occupy it entirely. There is yet another way to rephrase it: Once we begin to feel sensations in the body part, we need to enter and become submerged in them, so that they can manifest themselves and be realized fully.

With respect to experiences and sensations, not everything can be expressed in words. Using different words to explain the same inner action can make it clearer to some people. Sometimes, just one reworded sentence becomes a key to the insight and breakthrough in understanding for someone who has already studied numerous books on the subject.