Posts Tagged attention
The Listening Attention is now on Amazon Kindle! Here’s an excerpt:
No matter how subtle or astute our meditation may be, we will never realize nirvana by using yet another facet of samsara. A different level of seeing is needed, a pure awareness that is not itself a product of the world or mind, but primary to the reaction pattern we call ourselves. A looking which is attentive, yet not reactive. A listening which is not affected by circumstance and the constant changes of the mind. Such an attention would lie outside of time and space, beyond circumstance, yet be aware of them as well as itself. Such a Listening Attention would also be directly connected to the formless inner realm of our True Self, and provide a Gateway to Within.
A video on a mindfulness technique, filmed in March, Canyon Rims, Utah.
If the emotional element is added while attempting this meditation, it greatly adds to it, such as really wanting to be in the heart, the higher self: valuing it.
When one begins the process of looking at oneself, many hitherto unknown facets of personality begin to appear. At first we may wish to think the meditative process itself has created these behavior patterns, but soon enough we come to see that our previous state of sleep was greater than we wished to admit. If we keep at our practice long enough, we will begin to see that certain states of mind are behind the newly discovered patterns, and may be shocked to discover our true motives in day-to-day-life. When these facts come to light, the first reaction may be to sort the behaviors into good and bad categories, and then set ourselves to the grim task of removing the negative while accenting the good. In other words, the ego will start a campaign of behavior-modification meant to bring us closer to ‘perfection’. Actually this is nothing new, having been going on since birth, but the new found level of awareness gives the ego a new sense of cleverness. It’s going to outwit itself this time, for sure.
When we begin to see the underlying motivation for a negative pattern of behavior is, say, pride, we can hardly resist wanting to counter it by creating a projection of humility or altruism. If we are honest, we may see through this, but be left
wondering if there is another solution. Renewed effort in the form of continued self-observation may take us to the next step. The pride itself could be just an effect, a compensation for an underlying state of fear. As we continue with our observing, we may come to wonder if there is ever an end to all this, if the root cause of our aberrant behavior can be found. If we persevere, we eventually come to the root cause of the fear, a feeling of alienation, the battle of the self with the not-self, the mistaken belief that we are a separate thing. This thing, or body/mind, lives in constant opposition with what it sees as other separate things. The universal has become lost in the particular and forgotten itself. This unnatural situation brings about the sense of anxiety and fear underlying most of our lives.
What now? Here we find ourselves head to head with our very sense of survival, where no ego effort can help. By looking within long enough, we may come to the door of awareness, and with grace and luck, find ourselves beyond the mind. From this new awareness, we come to see the former belief in separateness to be, as John Wren-Lewis puts it, ‘some kind of inflation or hyperactivity of the psychological survival-system’. We will also come to see the futility in putting new and improved patterns of behavior in compensation for any negative ones. The old Zen warning against putting a new head on top of the one we already have comes to mind.
All negative patterns of behavior can be traced back to the ‘I am the body’ idea, the feeling of alienation. Our natural state has no sense of separateness, for it contains all. Trying to fix an ego problem with an ego effort is doomed to failure, for as Wren-Lewis again states, ‘the underlying universal consciousness, with its every-present-moment happiness, peace and wonder, gets shut out ”. True peace can only come from our true self, or universal awareness. The body/mind will then continue to function, but in a sane manner, without the inflated ego-sense as master.
The effort of self-observation is the revealing of the false. Our true nature will remain, and as such, needs no modification. All we can do is to follow the old adage for crossing a busy road: look and listen. If we can see something, anything, it’s not us. In this manner we can come to see we do not exist, yet Are, and Life can become a wonderful thing.
The cycle of desire and fulfillment may seem a trap of monumental proportions, but as all traps built in the framework of the mind, it has no inherent reality. Let’s take a look at this cycle of desire, fear, and fulfillment, and how an ache of the heart turned within is our release.
We see that if we want something and then get it, we feel better. After years of this cycle, we fall for the trick of believing that getting what we want is what life is about. And what would make us happy would be getting what we want, when we want it, all the time. We fail to look closer and see what has really taken place. Fulfilling desire simply puts it to sleep, and leaves us in the state of no-desire. It causes no fundamental change, and sows the seeds for our future discontent. If we saw behind the circumstance, we would see that the state of no desire, or pre-desire, is what we long for, and would no longer move from it out into the dual dimension of pleasure and pain, the so-called reality of life. This state of peace has been there all along as our true nature, lying much closer than any pleasure object of the world. But this peace is not peace of mind. The mind is motion, and does not manifest in stillness. This state of no-desire is stillness itself, beneath and primal to mind, and is our rest.
This trap of desire and its fulfillment also involves forgetting. We forget we are fulfilled as we really are, within, and thus move away through temptation and trickery. Not from being pushed, but from being fooled. We have become mesmerized by the world and its sensations, and have forgotten the peace that lies within. A potent cocktail, equal parts faulty memory and a profound propensity towards fantasy and projection, mixed with fear of unfulfilled desire and death, topped off with a passion for grabbing onto everything that feels good, keeps us on the endless loop of turning our attention out into the world for fulfillment, coming back into ourselves to rest, and then going back out again. We have become identified with the world and it’s dual nature, and have forgotten we are complete and forever in the state of fulfillment within, our true home. We are not an animal at heart, though we have come to believe this.
This leads to the longing of nostalgia and how we confuse the circumstances of our childhood events with a purer state within that was also present at the time. It is innocence and lack of guilt that we truly long for, a state before temptation and the chasms of the mind led us out into duality. We long for our childhood or nostalgic scenes, not because these props and times can provide peace, but because our inner state at the time was one of peace. We paint this inner state onto the scenery and confuse the two, fooled again. We mistake the event for the feeling, much as we do the act of fulfillment of desire with the state of no-desire. Nostalgia in its pure spiritual state is not the desire to live in a root-beer commercial, which might be nice, but the longing of our heart for its true state of oneness. Our inherent inner peace passeth all understanding, for to ego and mind, it’s completely unbelievable.
The Gnostic’s tale of the Demiurge, the arrogant ruler of the material world, gives us a clue as to the nature of our own prison, and how to escape it. Being himself created, a creature, the Demiurge’s belief in his own infallibility is a lie in basis, and so must be continually bolstered. To accept the true nature of his existence would be un-thinkable, for it would mean his demotion from absolute ruler to mere manager, a caretaker of sorts, rather than the True God. This he sees as death, and rightly so. Let us take a look at how we as ego, a reaction-pattern created from thought, make the same mistake, and how we can become free of this prison of projection and delusion.
When we lose contact with our true Self and become identified, we do not become identified with the world or the body. We actually fall asleep to the world or body as well as our true nature, and become identified with the mind; meaning we are identified with thought and feeling. We may believe we are seeing things as they are, for we have never bothered to take a look at how we see, or what we are really seeing. The self-reflecting consciousness sees just that: a projected reflection of its own experienced consciousness. This inner mind-world is a superimposed projection, built of thought and feeling formed throughout a person’s life, the process of which he is completely unaware. We do not see this projecting process, for it is instantaneous and automatic. We only see the end result; a world made of thought, removed from the eternal Now through a gap of time. (see footnote 1.)
This split-second from when we receive a percept and then react to it with thought and feeling is this gap of time. This gap, though it be only a split-second, is a chasm wide enough to separate us from our very Self or Source. It is also wide enough to allow us to live in a world of reaction; a world of judging, thinking, and assumption. This dualistic realm is never stable, ever changing, and ruled by a tyrant whose very existence is after-the-fact. This tyrant is called ego, and is the very thing we have come to be. Our very sense of self has become identified with a reaction-pattern, removed from the present through time. This sad state of affairs is not only unreal, but patently dangerous. All of the world’s ills spring from this illusion.
This illusion can also be called mind, or the inner drama. We live in this self-created drama, and must continually re-create it to keep our false sense of self somehow stable in an unstable world. Now, in our struggle for self-survival, our first reaction to hearing this is to dig in, to insist more than ever that we are in charge by deciding to take immediate action and remedy the situation with our new knowledge. We may decide to root out this egoic ruler who has deluded us for so long, and never again make the same mistake. Or, if our pattern is based in fear, we may decide to run farther into distraction and thought, hoping to be safe in sleep with the covers pulled tightly over our heads. Both of these reactions would be laughable if they weren’t so common. Through our very effort to free ourselves, we trap ourselves even more. Through the arrogance of ‘deciding’, the Demiurge has simply affirmed its self-declared infallibility. We have made the same old mistake, again. As the reaction-pattern, we have only reacted. Nothing has changed; the dream goes on. (see footnote 2.)
How then, can we escape this prison of thought and time? Our very effort to escape binds us more tightly, and even the world of distraction and sleep provides no rest, being subject to drastic change through ever-reacting thought. The answer lies not in affirming our ignorance through thinking we now know what to do, but in our admission of the problem itself. Through the simple admitting that we do not know, we begin the homeward journey to freedom. If we start with this surrender; then our attention has the possibility of freeing itself from the drama of the mind in time.
This surrender is a not a passive giving in to our identification with the world or thought, but an acceptance of the facts. We realize that we do not know ourselves. We do not know how we see, much less what, and are thus freed to start looking. This admission frees our attention from the hypnotic trap of conceptual thought, stabilizes it in silence, and returns the mystery to awareness. To find the possibility of moving this attention within to find out who we really are, as the True Self, means that we must free this wandering attention from identification with thought and knowing, and allow its gaze to be turned back within, across the chasm of time and projection.
When we can actually view the world without association, meaning we are finally capable of admitting we know not what we see, we have found a valuable clue. We have now become an observer, capable of turning our gaze within. No longer lost in time and the projection of the associative mental world, there is now the capacity to move within. We have this new freedom because we are no longer locked in the after-the-fact reaction-dimension of thought and feeling. This is how honest self-observation gives us possibility to become, to become a real Observer. In the world of thought, there is none. We step out of our own way, and are freed from our personal demiurge as we allow the True Consciousness, the mystery of our being, to come forth. – Bob Fergeson
1. “In The Nature of Consciousness, you can read of an experiment conducted in 1985 by Benjamin Libet. Electrodes of an EEG machine were placed on the scalps of subjects to detect the onset of mental activity. The subjects were then instructed to spontaneously flex their hand, and to note the time of perceiving the urge to do so according to a clock. The results of the data collected showed that the brain began action, referred to as mental potential, about half a second before the subjects experienced the urge to flex, and three quarters of a second before the flex occurred. I have heard of similar experiments which produced the same result. What subjects experience as a conscious urge to act was shown to be an after the fact product of previous, usually unconscious, mental activity. Who is the actor?”
- Mike Connors, Effortless Meditation: Starting with the Goal, http://tatfoundation.org/forum2005-12.htm#5
For more information:
Benjamin Libet, Mind time: The temporal factor in consciousness, Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience. Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01320-4.
The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates http://www.amazon.com/Nature-Consciousness-Philosophical-Debates/dp/0262522101
Ned Block, Editor
2. Why do we seem to have a hard time incorporating Douglas Harding’s experiments or Tolle’s Power of Now into a lasting awareness? If we have an early success with one of Harding’s experiments or realizing the power of the moment, it could be the worst thing that could happen to us, because we can turn these realizations into a fabricated memory, later used in projection. At any point from the moment the realization is turned into a memory, when we think we’re in the power of now or remembering a Harding experiment, we will be referencing that created and stored memory, and fabricating it into a projected ’moment’. That’s our mechanical mind’s way; it’s easier and we’re used to it. Trying to go back into the power of now or the moment, looking at who you really are, is very antagonistic to the ego to say the least. We have to realize this trick; otherwise we just go on looking for the next guru, the next teaching, the next level, since we’ve got that merit badge, and are feeling once again the need to assert our feeling of knowing. The mind is geared to find another problem, and solve that, ad infinitum. No change in being is possible if we do not realize how our mind creates and projects images, and then fools us into thinking they are somehow in real time, rather than after the fact. But the actual seeing of how we create our lives and our moments every moment as we go, this takes being new each moment, rather than an act of projected memory and agreement all taking place unconsciously. It’s hard work, a mystery, to stay a step ahead of our mind. Not only do we create what we’re looking at, objects and things, through this process of creation and projection and then only seeing the finished product, but this created projection is what we are, as individual personalities. Our initial percepts and our reactions to them create a fabricated memory, and eventually a fabricated projection, which is us, as well as our world. – Bob Fergeson
Art Ticknor and I were interviewed by conscious.tv this month in London. The staff there, Renate, Ian, and Eleanora, were awesome, great people with genuine interest:
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.