Some 20 years ago, during a visit to Russia, I was invited by the head of a team of consciousness researchers, scientists, medical doctors, and alternative healers at the Russian Medico-Military Academy in Saint Petersburg to speak on my understanding of the Gurdjieff Work and give a demonstration of Chi Nei Tsang, a Taoist healing modality involving internal organ chi massage and breathing, which I had learned in the Healing Tao and practiced in a well-known acupuncture clinic in San Francisco, even working on people with AIDS. The person I worked on with my hands and conscious intention gave his impressions in Russian to the rest of the group as he lay on the massage table.
At the end of my three-hour presentation to the 10 people who were there, the leader, a big bear of a man, gave me an enormous hug, intentionally readjusting my spine as he did so (I was tired, and he noticed and wanted to help). When he finished hugging me, he said–with a huge, engaging smile–something like: “here in Russia we are not parochial; we go beyond our training and specialities; we welcome and integrate all approaches and understanding.”
We then continued to talk (his wife spoke good English and functioned as the interpreter, as she had for the presentation), while one of the team, an energy healer, sent me energy from across the room using all sorts of novel (for me) movements and gestures. Here was a group of people who were open to influences other than their own, a rare occurrence in today’s world. And they really seemed to listen, not just to my words, but to my very emanations.
I think of these researchers often when I see the ways in which we in America treat our own frequently narrow, reductionistic approaches to knowledge and understanding as somehow sacrosanct. We have paid a heavy price in many areas of life for this reductionism. Though I have spoken to numerous people and groups over the years, the great openness I felt among these Russian researchers was both rare and inspiring. We had a vital exchange on many levels.