An Exercise in Paying Attention

Always begin with observation.  Attention is foundational and you are able to access it at any time.  Leave your preconceptions behind and begin by noticing your internal situation.

With careful and precise observation, the details of your inner world come alive in vivid clarity.  Everything there is worthy of study and consideration, with wondrous encounters at every turn.  A network of sensations, aloft on the currents of breath, form you at this moment in time.  Billions of years of history and development find their home in you, etched into something vibrant, taking on many elusive guises.

Within this beauty, however, is tension.  We have inherited the drives of the organism and they still live within our muscle and bone.  These tensions form a tight knit aggression that coils in on itself and waits to act.  Through this common drive of life, we find ourselves with a mind that not only desires and seeks power.  In the human case there is a larger quest for identity and differentiation.  Even though this drive has created beautiful works of art, through it humans also partake in the shadow realms of cruelty and violence.

These concerns have created an unstable mind, something which we come to know through careful observation.  These are reinforced by social cues, creating larger emotional structures we all draw from.  As your attention gathers these things into your conscious awareness, don’t lose yourself in them.  Look at these thoughts carefully and try not to create any additional mental noise around them.  Without constant reinforcement, thought shows itself as a transient phenomenon.  And as you continue to pay attention, something else breaks and your sense of a firmly bounded self begins to fade away.  It’s as if you were in a cell, wondering about the nature of life and yourself, when suddenly that very life floods in and carries everything away. 

The questioning of the limits of human conditioning will lead you there, but it is also a place of opportunity.  With this lessening of a sense of yourself, you have changed the way you grow, branch, and communicate.  As observation strengthens it becomes clear how much you share with others, and what they reflect in you as well.  The mutuality and interconnectedness of things stops being an ephemeral concept and becomes a startling physical fact.  This cause and effect reciprocity means our actions toward each other truly matter.  We can stop seeing ourselves in that same closed off cell and pour ourselves into this life without fear. 

It is continually amazing to me that these kinds of insights emerge from such a relatively simple practice.  Simply look and listen.  Notice how your responses, thoughts, and behavior shape the tenor of your situation.  Start changing these habits and observe their results in turn.  You will better understand others, and this reality, because you’ve taken the time to see yourself more clearly.  And by observing those things, you will also come to know the wonders of simply being a human, in this moment in time, in a world of heartbreaking mystery and beauty.  That world is you as well. 

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