I recall being at the center for one of my courses and having re-occurring thoughts about a conversation or speech I would make to someone when I returned. The conversation that kept running through my mind was one that involved sexual activity with a girl that may have taken place after the course depending on my choice about the situation. During the course, I became more aware of what I wanted to say to her so that I could clear it up for the both of us, and make my case on the situation about how I felt in regards to it and what action would be best to take, or not take in its full clarity. Rolling in thought about this subject continued with me for days and days of meditation, until eventually passed away, a couple days before the end of the course. Certainly, it was an example to me that even the objects that we hold on to for such an extended period of time, are still impermanent. The objects being the thoughts. Though it showed me something grander that I’m beginning to understand. In simple terms, it was an example that analysis is paralysis. When would I have analyzed this situation enough? When would I be satisfied and complete with the thoroughness of what I planned to say if and when this moment that I was conjuring up occurred?
I thought all course on this action that I would take on returning home. The incomplete transcribing of this speech that I wanted to do in order to resolve this situation that I undoubtedly had created as well. Yet I meant to set my position in words first within me, so that I could be grounded in my ideas of what I wanted to communicate in terms of this relationship so that the actions we took would be in concurrent truth with the image of the relationship that I conjured up. I see now that this case I was going to claim would not be setting a relationship, but the very destruction of it. There would be an image of the relationship which is not the truth. The relationship is not there when I have an image of myself or the person I’m interacting with. We meet the image, not the person. The word becomes the thing and the relationship is no more. I had already set the stage in my mind of what ought to be said, without experiencing anything in relation to her. A relationship can only be when one is totally free of all images, therefore, all knowledge, because knowledge is the past. Though knowledge is the field that we live in. So the questions arises, can we function in images yet live a life in direct experience? Can we live in the field of knowledge and at the same time experience something new?
To compare is to have an image to compare to. Comparing is only available with an imaginary form and establishment of that which is now. It is holding on to thoughts as things, which are always passing. The very comparison breeds hurt. As the word attachment means a ‘hang up,’ having an image is being hung up on the idea of something, not the actual thing, and the words are never the thing. The description is never the described. The knowledge, in its fundamental nature, is theory. Theory has its place and its purpose, but it is fragmented. We cannot use it to experience the whole. We’ve all heard the idea of quieting your mind. Who’s doing the quieting other than a fragment of the one trying to quiet it? The thoughts used to try and control our thoughts are the same thoughts that are being controlled. The controller is the controlled. This directing is itself directed. Analyzing it can only be comparing it and breaking it down, always being within the knowledge of it, never seeing it completely. The one doing the analyzing is the one being analyzed, therefore one can never know when they’ve analyzed enough. The disorder will continue in its repetition.
I have never had this encounter, which I wrote and rehearsed speeches of in my head from Day 0 – 8. Instead, in my contemplating of it and observing of what took place in the mind as this idea of this event took place, the resolving occurred. The ‘staying with’ the disorder of the mind resolved it in itself. This also brought me to thinking of the change in awareness that one comes to during a Vipassana course. We can observe in ourselves, that by the end of a course, we are more aware. What does it mean to be aware? It means to have order in the mind, in the whole being. It does not happen gradually as a process, as when the awareness is present, one cannot pin point the steps that occurred to get to it. Once aware, it feels as though it was instantaneous. The word instant is also awkward because it implies that we could see it coming. As if we can say, “In the next moment, I will be aware.” In a sense, each moment we go through these changes and in meditation we arrive at more points of realization, but upon realizing something, the realization is. Therefore, not instantaneous and not a slow, gradual upgrading. It’s a radical transformation in which the change itself abides, inwardly and outwardly. The inner is the outer and the resolve exists as it is being resolved. As we are moving beyond the question of what ought to be done to change it, it is changing.
There are certain experiences that one can imagine would make a great change in a person’s life. That being in a moment of critical danger, for example, being confronted by a wild, dangerous animal, it would be absolutely necessary to be fully attentive. We’ve all heard that in a moment of danger, a person can act purely and that this action is exactly what is necessary in that moment for safety, acting out of the instinct to survive. That in this moment of danger, we would be fully aware and attentive, because we would have to be. Does it take a moment like this to be aware? When we are dying every moment, one can ponder, what is death? To fall into the madness of our thoughts is danger. To live in a world of illusion is a great tragedy. It is real death, to the individual and to the world, to live completely in images and thoughts. We must respond adequately and urgently now, or else we are living in dysfunction and we are a danger to ourselves and society, as we are the society. So while we are seeking experience, as it seems to be with so many of us, we are having an experience, that we are ignorant to. How can we experience anything new when we cannot recognize the new? What are you experiencing now, and if what you’re experiencing is you, what is action?
When one is not trapped in images of the past, the action will happen in itself as a pure act of attention. Not a reaction, but an adequate response. A responsible action, good for oneself and good for others, as Goenka might put it. No thoughts can see this for us because those are funded from the past, so we must look at it. We must attend it. I believe living in the present means to attend. The original sense of the word religion is to gather all energy together to be attentive. One cannot be free if they are subscribed to what is, but what is in the present? Our attention, burning like a fire. As we sit with this fire, we must realize that a fire cannot burn itself, and therefore, sit as the fire. As only when the observable is observed without an observer will it be absolutely seen. We’ve thought that the ones who have choice are free, but it is only the choice-less who are free. When you think you have a choice, you are thinking without the true presence which responds in and of itself, as it is, as a flower grows. In attention there is no waiting. How can we prepare? The moment is now and it is our responsibility. The change and the movement of life is now. Are we with it, or have we made up our minds about what is or what it should be? An answer which cannot be in thought, as it would be fragmented.
The origin of the word suffer is under-carry. To suffer is to truly under-stand and to understand suffering we can go beyond it. In seeing what we are; our conditioning, our habits, our violence, in the perceiving of it, a compassion for all beings emerges. It takes on living form, no longer trapped in a repetitive, modified cycle of the past knowledge, which is analysis. In this analysis we can never arrive at the point where we are clear that we’ve analyzed it enough, because that would require more analysis. Living is not seeing and asking, “What should I do?” With the right awareness, which is the awareness of suffering, the adequate response occurs naturally. The awareness of the divisive nature of thought brings a new nature of being. The moment becomes one in which great care is required, because we are in conflict, together. The realization of suffering sends the passion to action. The perceiving is the acting upon it. In under-taking the view that we are all suffering together, our relationship blooms in compassion. We share the struggle, in this field of knowledge and in understanding it we flower in the new. Life implies death, and that is suffering that is occurring now. Death is not an ending, but a connected movement with life that is happening now. To see this we can experience the vitality of death. This happens in the moment, by itself, which is the true meaning of the word nature; that which happens by itself. Can we live a life that happens by itself, without conflict and without control? A life that flowers in goodness, as a living art, not needing an expression outside itself, growing without division.
With a whole attentiveness of being, and therefore a holy one, the response to any situation will be one of understanding and compassion. As the mind sees the conditioning, as it is will be seen as it is. Seeing what is not only leaves what is to be experienced. The complete understanding of the disorder which the mind is in gives way to a compassionate intelligence. This intelligence will act in service. This is the truest, most valuable act, to free oneself and others. Physically or psychologically, we all suffer. Can one live a life free from this suffering? Only when our suffering is looked at, simply observed, can we understand it fully, as our analyzing of it will never be complete.
2 thoughts on “Attending What Is and What Is Attending”
You kind of lost me in the second half. I did enjoy the discussion on imagining future situations though. It’s strange to me how often we do fantasize about situations that may or may not occur (and are always different from how we conceptualize it in our minds). When I was younger I used to think that if I imagine a situation it won’t happen that exact way; I (ill)logically concluded that if I imagine the situation going poorly it won’t go poorly.
Haha sounds like tricks of the mind for sure. It’s interesting stuff.