• April 29, 2019

    My unconscious, involuntary attention holds me in time and space. This mechanism makes it possible for me to continue in my ordinary life. As an analogy, this form of attention is like a laser reading the data implanted in a DVD. My life is displayed in a predictable form…even if the events seem to surprise me, my reactions do not.

    When Ouspensky and others talk about eternal recurrence, this is what I think is meant.

    There are two clear signs that involuntary attention is operating. Time is sequential, one moment flowing into another without a stop. And space is dead, just something to be filled up with things but otherwise empty, a negative.

    Can it be otherwise?

    Can there be stillness? I find that there cannot be stillness if I try to stop the flow of time. The river continues to flow and I am swept along in it. To be still requires that I access another dimension of time. What makes this possible? Voluntary attention. Why? Because its nature is not in passing time…its nature is immediate and therefore timeless.

    Can there be spaciousness? Voluntary attention is spaciousness. I enter attention-space where what was empty is alive and full of ‘substance’, not of a physical nature but real nonetheless.

    There is probably nothing more important than reclaiming voluntary attention and then allowing it to perform according to its laws, without interference. This is a moment-to-moment undertaking requiring that ‘I’ participate with subtle skill, not as the subject-center who sees, but as the one who is seen and responds.

    When I try to voluntarize my attention, I find that I cannot control it.

    To voluntarize is not to control. The secret is to participate in attention, like a dance partner. The secret of the secret is that attention is not yours, it’s a gift from the universe, a quality of space itself. When I think of it as mine, I reduce it to myself.

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  • March 26, 2019

    Knowingly or not, we spend much of our time waiting for things to happen, or not happen, dates to arrive or pass. Can you see this? Can you sense how it narrows your attention and prevents you from being where and when you are?

    Real waiting is a powerful mode of being. I do not wish to denigrate it. Consciously waiting for something valued, without agitation or impatience, provides an accommodation for arrival and a thankful response. Real waiting is shot through with faith and love. Voluntary attention brings such waiting into the present. But not so with my unconscious waiting.

    Most of us have some sort of dream-like expectation of the future which is half-acknowledged and never fully embraced in the present. See if you can find it. Are you preparing every day for its realization? As you wait, are you preparing to be worthy of the gift? Or are you afraid to really commit to waiting, watching and preparing because you fear it may not happen? Does a vague hope of some good thing occupy your mind subconsciously without your diligent participation?

    The things we wait for shape our lives in a hundred ways. Can you engage with this? First Corinthians tells us that the three great virtues are faith, hope and love (charity). Do not think of these as separate. Hope alone will not sustain you. All three virtues are needed for real waiting.

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  • September 2, 2018

    I am receptive to the view that Vajrayana Buddhists have of what happens after death…that our consciousness enters a bardo between death and rebirth where we re-experience mental simulations of the unresolved emotional states of our life. I am also careful to say that I do not know any of this for certain and I have yet to meet anyone who does. I therefore do not intend to roll out all the concepts and imagery of the Tibetan traditions.

    But I can engage in a thought experiment. What would be my experience if I continued to be aware without a physical body? Would it be something like the dream state?

    Let’s say that I am conscious but I have no means to engage in current sensations…only the memory of them…and I am no longer ‘located’ in physical space. Having no body, I am not actually anywhere in a real sense.

    In ordinary life, I experience the reverberation of the physical and the mental. A sense experience gives rise to related or associated mental content which in turn engages further sensations. This is what my ordinary ‘emotional’ life consists of…identification with one thing or another, reactive ping pong between mind and body, punctuated by horizontal sleep.

    Now, let’s remove the physical side of the equation. Remove the ping. Now I am ‘living’ within the mental simulations of my own undigested experiences, memories, the same repetitive loops of thought, fear, anxiety, jealousy, anger, greed that characterized my reactive, identified life in the body…but without the grounding of tangible sensory input or the possible shock-interruption of something new from outside.

    Feeling claustrophobic yet?

    My ‘experience’ would be just projections of my mental states with nothing to contradict them. Where is there a refuge from this tedious, repetitive self-expression? Voluntary presence and attention? Have I learned to sustain them while in the body, when it is so much easier? Or do I find that voluntary presence and attention are impossibly fleeting, quickly overwhelmed by the internal roar of associative thought projections powered by habitual identifications? Can I interrupt the flow of otherwise unimpeded thought loops?

    This is why we have the black room…a room with absolutely no visual references, no sense of location. This may be somewhat like life after death if it exists. Can I sit in that room and maintain presence and attention? Do I remember the tricks we have discussed for doing so? Or do I immediately fall into associative thinking or even sleep? Voluntary attention and presence open the possibility of choice, of movement, of contact outside yourself. Perhaps, when you are dead, you will wish you had learned to sustain them amidst the flow of personal experience.

    Why sit in the black room? Perhaps to prepare for your death.

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  • November 1, 2017

    I entered the zikr chamber and almost immediately felt as if suspended in space.

    Most of my attention is used unconsciously to maintain my physical positioning in the world. It fixes my position in a particular time and place….a day, a street address, a set of clothes, a task I am doing, a place I am going, my body shape, the way I occupy space. All these references are set in place and habitually held there by involuntary attention without conscious notice or involvement.

    To be present is to bring voluntary attention to contemporary engagement which may then be used for transformation of energies. This is what happens when I invoke presence; presence entering the present transmutes sensation into consciousness. Attention is voluntarily re-connected with its source. But the possibilities do not end there. Engagement with the present can then be released. Presence remains but it is free to enter another realm, another set of references.

    This is the point of meditation. Meditation unwinds my habitual set of references.

    Once I am present, my presence may find relationship with a larger presence, leaping into the lap of the mother as the vajrayana teaching says. One pronounced effect is that you may sense and feel that you are suspended in space. There is nothing supporting you nor is any support needed. This is what is meant in this work when it is said that presence is a voyager. I remember myself as the voyager, a presence suspended in the labyrinth of creation.

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  • May 23, 2017

    For the purposes of this conversation I am going to use the term ‘negative thoughts’. I define these as thoughts that cause a flutter in the solar plexus and a sensation of weakness or vulnerability. Typically, these are thoughts that are critical of self or others, thoughts that reflect anxiety about situations or requirements that you think you or others are facing. The fluttering sensation expresses your instability. You do not sense stability of self. Your energy fluctuates and flickers.

    Can I shift this state? I find that I can. I voluntarily sense the immediate sensations of my body. This lasts for only a moment. I do it again. Another moment. And again. If I continue to do this, I reach a point of sustainable attention requiring less effort. We could call this the ‘second wind’ of attention. I now sense myself as a continuity. The flutter is gone.

    Let’s be clear. Sensing the sensations of my body is not the same as thinking about sensing my body.

    The energetic effects of attention accumulate. In work terms, my ‘I’ has moved from the status of an identity based on sensitive and automatic energy—which are inherently unstable–to a sense of existing as a conscious being. I remember myself as the voyager separate from my fears and insufficiencies.

    Voluntary attention on sensation is the key. But so is blind perseverance. It is not enough to try something once and declare it does not work. Can you make a simple effort without immediately evaluating the hell out of it?

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