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  • Writer's pictureJeric Te

Life is Real Only Then, When "I Am": Reflections on G.I. Gurdjieff's


G.I. Gurdjieff, the enigmatic spiritual teacher and philosopher, left an indelible mark on the landscape of esoteric thought with his profound aphorisms and teachings. One of his most intriguing statements, "Life is real only then, when 'I am'," encapsulates the essence of his philosophy. This phrase, though succinct, invites deep contemplation and offers a pathway to understanding the nature of existence and self-awareness.

The Essence of "I Am"

At the core of Gurdjieff's teachings is the concept of self-remembering or self-awareness. When he asserts that "Life is real only then, when 'I am'," he emphasizes the importance of being present and conscious. In Gurdjieff's view, most people live in a state of mechanical existence, going through the motions without true awareness or presence. This mechanical state, characterized by automatic responses and habitual behaviors, lacks the depth and authenticity of a truly lived life.

To Gurdjieff, the statement "I am" signifies a moment of genuine self-awareness. It is a declaration of presence, a recognition of one's existence in the here and now. This level of consciousness transforms ordinary experiences into something real and meaningful. When one is fully present, life is no longer a series of automatic actions but becomes a vivid and authentic experience.

The Path to Self-Awareness

Gurdjieff's teachings often focused on the rigorous and disciplined pursuit of self-awareness. He believed that achieving this state required conscious effort and intentional practice. Some of the key practices he advocated include:

  1. Self-Observation: Regularly observing one's thoughts, emotions, and actions without judgment. This practice helps individuals become aware of their automatic behaviors and patterns.

  2. Self-Remembering: Actively reminding oneself to be present and conscious in the moment. This involves breaking the cycle of mechanical living and cultivating a state of alertness and presence.

  3. Inner Work: Engaging in practices such as meditation, contemplation, and introspection to deepen self-awareness and connect with one's inner essence.

  4. Balancing the Centers: Gurdjieff taught that humans have three centers – the intellectual, emotional, and physical. Achieving harmony and balance among these centers is crucial for true self-awareness.

The Impact of Self-Awareness

Living with self-awareness, according to Gurdjieff, transforms the quality of one's life. It allows individuals to experience life more fully and authentically. When one is present and aware, each moment becomes an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. Challenges are met with clarity, relationships deepen, and a sense of inner peace and fulfillment emerges.

Moreover, self-awareness opens the door to deeper spiritual understanding. It enables individuals to connect with their true essence, often referred to as the higher self or the true "I". This connection fosters a sense of purpose and alignment with the greater fabric of existence.


Gurdjieff's statement, "Life is real only then, when 'I am'," serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of self-awareness and presence. In a world filled with distractions and automatic behaviors, cultivating the practice of being present can lead to a more authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life. By embracing Gurdjieff's teachings, individuals can embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation, ultimately experiencing life in its truest and most vibrant form.

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