Tag Archives: attention

Stalking Yourself with the Listening Attention

     Above the door to the ancient temple in Delphi were inscribed the words, “Know Thyself”. These words describe the process by which we separate from our false state of ignorance and rediscover true Being. But how do we initiate this process, this grand work of spiritual discovery? What tools should we choose to come to know this thing we call ‘ourselves’? If we are to engage in the pursuit of self-definition we will need to use the best tools available. To stalk our ‘self ‘, we will need something above or behind this personality to best observe with, something of a different order. Using the personality to observe the personality simply doesn’t work. It’s like trying to lift a plank while standing on it. This self we wish to come to know is a constantly changing, moving target, a veritable chain of reactions and patterns, seldom still, but always within our sight. To observe it we will need something calm and constant. Something that looks but doesn’t react; a seeing that listens.

Shadows on Snow
Shadows on Snow

 

  Coming to know ourselves eventually crushes the ego, in that we find we are not what we imagined ourselves to be.  We begin to see that the person we think we are is purely mechanical, a robot. Honesty and courage will be needed if we are to accept what we see, and perseverance when we find our task difficult and wish to retreat back into imagination. This process of dis-identifying leads to ego-death, as we separate from our pattern. The simple act of clearly seeing the person we were for what it truly is, is enough to bring about its death. We find we have become that which witnesses experience, where before we were experience, creating more and more experiences in an endless mechanical pattern. We are no longer the wily animal we have been tracking, which becomes cleverer with every experience, but instead something free, eternal, and indescribable.

Observing

Osprey and Full Moon
Osprey and Full Moon

Learning to observe, or watch oneself without attachment, is so easy that most of us overlook it, thinking that we must need to be doing something more complicated.

Try a little experiment.Take your watch or a clock with a sweep second hand, and see how long you can watch the hand as it moves. Without thinking, just concentrate on observing the hand, without thoughts. Not very easy, eh, but so simple. If the thought comes “I’m watching the hand”, or if you find you’re trying to help it move by willing it, i.e. being the doer, or think, “What an idiot, I’m watching my watch!”, then you’ve lost the observer and are now creating a scene through visualization.
Now, find some task you perform as a habit, something simple you do everyday. Watch yourself as this task unfolds. If the thought comes, “I’m watching myself do this”, or “I’m watching myself, watching myself do this”, then you’ve lost the thread, and created another observer or self with which you become identified: the subject-object visualization trap. Just realize this, and go back to observing the scene, without a sense of involvement, even as the watcher. After you’ve had a bit of success with this, move on to something more complicated, and see if you can again observe the scene without the sense of the doer, or self.
Also, begin to remember what thoughts brought you out of the observer and back into identification, and what the hidden motivation was behind them. This free association, following the thoughts back to the desire or fear that caused the loss of the listening attention and brought back the sense of attachment, will show you your pattern. Then, go back to observing until the circle of distraction and loss of the listening attention spins around again.
Practice the above meditation for awhile, and put what you’ve found in clear, concise language.

Buzz Ball or Essence?

“I want to become so lost in experience that I forget myself.  I’ve always got things to think about, lots to do, it saves me from being in the moment. Something in me doesn’t want to face the moment, because it thinks it’s missing out, it’s going to miss something.  Like needing to watch movies, or social networking, browsing endlessly on the web, channel surfing even though I can’t find anything I care about. I like to think that if I would just go home at night and sit in the dark, be quiet, stay away from the endless

Observant Osprey
Observant Osprey

electronic chatter, that I’d be calmer, happier. But when it’s that time, I find myself doing the same old same old,  because I feel that I’m going to miss something.  That if I watch the movie, browse the web, I’ll have done something.  It’s the same way with thinking.  I don’t like to just walk along, or just sit and be empty of reaction.  Something in me wants to be thinking, thinking, thinking all the time because it’s so afraid it’s going to miss something by being quiet.  It’s really strange, I think my mind is like a sort of buzz ball of static, trying to assert itself and stay alive, rather than letting what’s essential, my inner self, come forth and grow. “

If the above statement rings a bell for you, you’ve begun the big battle, the war of the selves. The inner fight between the outer and inner man. This is a huge step on the path, for it shows we’ve come to realize that the battle is within, not with circumstance or others, but with ourselves.

This buzz ball, the mind of static and habit, is opposed to our essence. It is all a matter of identification: what do I see I am? If you’re identified with the buzz ball, then you have to think, plan, do, be nervous, think you’re missing out all the time.  If you’re identified with Essence, then experience doesn’t have to be so regulated or enticed.  It’s just your awareness of existence, and what creates it, that matters. You simply enjoy watching whatever it is that’s there.

Then, words such as those in the Serenity Prayer take on meaning, for we begin to see we may not be the doer after all, but an observer who has very little to do with what’s going on in the play of our lives.

Lord, grant me
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.


Brain Fog 2

Another thing hidden by the brain fog is the dual aspect of our machine and its life. Our lives are largely the process of a machine generating energy, like a treadmill. The dual motion of two pistons, action and reaction, experience and experiencer, hooked to a central drive shaft, is transferring our energy away. We can see this by observing how we spend much more energy in our lives than is necessary to simply get by. We lead mechanical lives of dissipation, which are not of our own making, but from the states of mind we have bought into.  We are hooked up to the treadmill in the rat race, and in our personal emotional lives as well. Our emotional reactions to our spouses, our parents, our careers, whatever belief system we bought into, drives the machine, takes away our energy, and we never question it.  We can never solve this problem from its own level. The harder we push, the harder too are we pushed back. We think that we know what we’re doing, that we want what we want. It’s all being forced upon us, until we begin to question it.

Fog
Fog

This questioning takes a certain amount of courage, and trauma perhaps, but in the end run it saves a lot of energy.  We have to be able to face the fact that we do not want to question ourselves, our very beliefs, our sacred cows at whose altars we pray.  Our defenses automatically jump up whenever anyone else calls us on it, keeping our ego and the system of belief safe.

The process of contracting the attention to improve reception, followed by a period of relaxation for it all to bring fruit:

We have to have a contraction of our attention from the manifested world, to save our energy and create an aim and direction; simplify our life. But at some point the danger is this contraction could become the search in itself and an end in itself rather than just part of the means.  The contraction has to be given up(actually, it’s removed) for a total relaxation, once the contraction has done its work.  In other words, once we find that thinking and planning and doing in our practice have come to a dead end, then we have to give it up once we’ve hit the wall beyond which our mind cannot go, and allow the inner relaxation, so that we can receive.

First, we contract or withdraw our energy and attention to make the machine efficient and gain a vector and direction to get surely headed in the right way. Then, at some point there has to be complete inner relaxation, because the contraction of itself can’t give us the answer, the answer has to come from within through the relaxation. We get out of our own way. We must allow ourselves to receive, once we have improved the receiving mechanism: the intuition.

I've got my eye on you