Gloria Cuevas-Barnett Interviewed by Guy Hoffman
GUY: Gloria, thank
you for agreeing to be interviewed by email. My first question is--What is
GroEssence all about?
GLORIA: Guy, GroEssence is the email address for Center for Development of Human Potential, the name my husband Michael Barnett (now deceased) & myself worked under for many years while leading a Work group & additionally teaching classes & workshops on the Enneagram of Personality types. The name GroEssence, in my mind, says what our intention is at the center: to grow one’s essence or more precisely to become in touch with essence. As Mr Gurdjieff said, our work was to "make personality passive and essence active."
GUY: How did you first get in touch with the Gurdjieff Work?
GLORIA: I first met the work in San Francisco, CA in the late sixties, perhaps the end of 1966. You may recall that it was a period of a great deal of unrest externally and certainly unrest in myself about my life specifically and life in general. I did not have a clear idea at that time how to phrase my questions. I was simply aware that the usual fixes were not working. I naively bought the "fall in love, get married, live happily ever after" line and by this time could not figure out why I was not happy with my life. So I divorced, found Michael with whom I had a meeting of the minds. We were asked to an introductory meeting for something "unexplainable" as described by our friend. The meeting was in the Haight Asbury and it was the most exciting night of my life to that point. The questions I could not formulate were spoken to, some even answered at this place filled with people, maybe 150 people all looking for "something". It scared me to death...and also I had a resounding “Yes.”
GUY: Can you recall in your childhood when you first felt there was something wrong with life around you and that you were seeing another reality?
GLORIA: Yes, the most startling example came when I had a great shock at five years of age, when my father was killed in the Second World War. At that time the prevailing method of raising children was something like "children were to be seen and not heard."
I became aware as I watched and perceived all that was happening around me that there were other voices that spoke in me. The voices calmed me; experienced deeply the event and it all happened inside. At that time it did not feel strange, I was alone, and not alone, in later years I began to think the voices meant "I was crazy.”
GUY: Do you have feelings today on how the shock of your father's death influenced your life and did it raise any questions, then and even now?
GLORIA: Oh My God, talk about opening up a can of worms!
The problem here is how to stay succinct, most assuredly the event influenced my life especially in how I related to men in general and specifically.
It took many years of inner work to sort out the portion of my life that was always looking for "the man" to fill that space my father left open. Partially because there was no closure on my father’s death for me, it was a fact I knew, but not one I understood or we as a family talked about. Thus, it was the classical "looking for love in all the wrong places," not that my choices were necessarily bad, however what "it" was seeking was not to be found "out there.” In many ways this only emphasized the search for meaning in my life, which was truly my motivating source, even when not recognized by myself. In that sense I see it as Grace, and it has taken many years of observation of inner states and inquiry to sort it out. I don't mean to imply it is "all done"... a done deal, however now one does feel a measure of peace, increased understanding about death, separation, other worlds etc.
GUY: What was school like and what subjects did you gravitate to?
GLORIA: I want to back up for just a moment regarding the last question, where you asked, "did it raise any questions".
I left out the most important question of all; my father’s death left the question "why?" as a constant in my life. I had a “why” for everything. I always knew there was more to it...whatever it was, I wanted explanations and asking “why,” caused me trouble at home. My step dad (but interestingly enough he never felt like a step dad) would not answer “why” especially when it appeared to be questioning his authority. I felt I could accept it better, if I knew “why” or something. That question “why“ I later felt was part of what brought me to the Work, that question alive in me sustained "something" necessary for my life. I later thanked my dad in my heart for the very thing I resented for so long.
Back to your question:
I loved school! From the beginning and the whole way through, English & History were my mainstays, and in college Psychology & Anthropology were the area I resonated to most.
Have been a reader all my life on a variety of subjects, my big complaint now is not enough time and energy to read, I no longer can stay up all night reading.
GUY: How long have you been actively involved in the Gurdjieff Work and what do you consider to be the three most important things you have learned?
GLORIA: The work has been active in my life since I met the teaching in 1966. Through the Grace of God, Gurdjieff's Work spoke directly to me. Many of the teachers from that time forward have sustained my work and interest. I have been thankful for the others who have transmitted the Work ideas, Ouspensky, Nicoll, Collin, Bennett and many others as well.
I have not attempted to boil it all down to three most important, but here goes:
The multiplicity inside (the world of legion) is not My Self, there is another life, the World of Soul and it is accessible.
Recognition of the difference between the idea of unnecessary suffering and conscious suffering, learning to external consider rather than internal consider, in the moment, makes life my teacher, so long as I remember, there are three lines of work.
My acceptance of the Wish to work, while keeping in mind, "I may die at any moment,” can lighten the load of our common Father.
GUY: As I was impatiently waiting for your reply, I began pacing and then started laughing to myself when I realized the questions I asked you would take a great deal of serious thinking. Your response was worth the wait.
What activities take place at the Center for Development of Human Potential?
GLORIA: There is an ongoing small Work group that I lead. We meet once a week in our respective cities; every other week we hold a joint conference call on Saturday, which is also a Work Day. After the call, work can last the entire day and on into the evening. We have a 10 day retreat once a year which is spent in intense inner work, practical work, including movements practiced daily. We occasionally travel out of the country, Mexico often, and went to Italy 3 years ago. We try to come together as a group two or three times a year for 3 day weekends.
My ongoing outer, sort of inner, work includes teaching classes & workshops on the Enneagram of Personality Types, an excellent tool for self-observation. I believe it can speed up the recognition of aspects & characteristics of the personality and also gives credence to the idea of higher centers as well. In that terminology we describe them as, the Virtues & Holy Ideas. In work terms "the higher centers.” I also act as a Coach for people using the Enneagram of Personality Types for personal work.
The Center has been actively offering ongoing spiritual type studies since 1987 under that name. Group Work has been part of my life as a student always since 1966, and as group leader in conjunction with Michael starting in 1972, and continuing on my own since 1995. I have not considered all this in such concrete terms for some time. Shocking to realize that the Work has been a constant with me the majority of my life, and still there is so much more needed. I am forever grateful for the Work, it has shown me my path in this life, taken the “Why” and put it to use.
GUY: Do you have a wish for our poor, sad Planet?
GLORIA: I would not like to interfere with great nature’s plan regarding the planet in the long cycle, and I do recall Ouspensky writing about Mr. Gurdjieff speaking to that question.
Paraphrasing, he said that only evolution of Man has a possibility. He said that change was only possible in Man and even then only by a few, a small percentage.
I remember this striking me strongly since I did not like the idea of being food for the moon. Unfortunately I do not know the exact place in the book where the question is addressed, I will search it out. However this idea has helped me to work on "non identifying" when the planet appears to be going to hell in a hand basket. It is painful for the machine to watch; however when out of identification in other parts, it all makes sense. I am not the universe, although it is all in me.
So with that in mind, I would wish for the planet's sake, that we develop to the fullest evolution the percentage of Souls that will assist to keep great nature’s plan in balance. That those who can escape, will no longer feed the moon and be food for "something higher.”
You can e-mail Gloria or visit her website Journey2Essence.com [the website didn't work when checked march 2006]