Last night I had a dream in which I was about to be murdered. The situation was inevitable; there was no way around it. The only choices I had in front of me were whether I would be shot, or sliced to death with swords.
In the middle of the dream, I awoke and vowed that although I knew I had to die, it would not be just now.
There is still work to do.
There is rather a lot of work to do, in fact. The longer I work on my inner state, the more I see that a great deal more work is required. The loom upon which I should be weaving the fabric of my life has been neglected and attacked by vandals. It has wooden clogs stuck it its gears, and swine have been rooting in the yarns.
What to do?
We begin with a presumption that we must "use our attention" for our work on ourselves. That what we are seeking to do is to cultivate a special kind of attention, a new kind of attention. This presumption is shared by just about everyone in spiritual work.
I believe that the presumption itself is true, but the kind of attention that we need is beyond our understanding. If we knew what we needed, we could get it. Perhaps the first problem is that we do not know what we actually need.
Take a look at the loom in the picture. Imagine that it is the state our inner structure is in right now.
We want to start "weaving fabric." "Weaving fabric" is having attention, but the loom is not in a state that can allow anything to be made yet! Parts have to be identified, bolted back together, even replaced. The whole machine needs to be cleaned. New thread needs to be put up. We are not even close to knowing what it is all about to weave a piece of fabric. We just happen to know you need a loom for it. All of us continually expect to somehow weave silk purses from inner equipment that looks like this.
Yesterday a Very Senior Person who I happen to respect a great deal told me a story about someone having an attention while drawing a circle, and that they held their attention while they drew the whole big circle.
"How about that," this Very Senior Person said. "Do you think you could do that -- have an attention while you drew a whole circle?"
"It sounds wonderful," I replied. "But I wasn't there, I don't know ...just what kind of attention are you talking about?"
"Let's just say I'm talking about an attention, a real attention," my co-respondent said. "But the way I told you the story, it was convincing, yes?" replied our companion. "That would be a really big thing, to have a real attention, wouldn't it?"
I refrained from further comment. At that very moment, I had some very durable attention of certain kinds in my body, but it did not seem like it was the appropriate moment to bring this up, and to point out that to have one kind of attention is very different than having another kind of attention.
One cannot slam this word "attention" around so casually.
There are many different kinds of attention in man -- many different levels of consciousness are available. To speak of attention as though there were only one attention--which in our work is done all the time, in my experience-- is quite incorrect. Every center has the capacity for attention within it, and each center's attention is divided into three parts. So there are actually many attentions within the body. The relationship between these various attentions is what creates a greater whole.
Can we really say we know anything about that? We may have a very active attention in one part, and almost no attention whatsoever in another one. Perhaps we don't study this enough, because we all somehow presume that attention is one thing?
If we assume that, then for as long as we assume that, we fall victim to an expectation. And for as long as we have an expectation, we will fail to explore the territory properly.
I have respectable enough kinds of attention in some parts of me. My wife has a very good degree of attention in some parts of her. Nonetheless, it's clear that both of us have deficiencies which are at times quite glaring.
I have noted to her with interest that people always think their own particular "expert area" of attention is quite good and even wonderful, and believe everyone else should have attention as good as theirs in that area. Thus the movements people think that everyone should have attention in movement, the intellectual and ideas people think that everyone should be smart and adept at ideas, and the emotional types feel that everyone should have big hearts that are filled with love.
Everyone in life has a tendency to rely on what they are good at, because it feeds the ego. It is much more difficult to look at what you are not good at and admit that it is an issue. In other words, instead of looking at the parts of the loom that are still intact, and capable of functioning well, we all need to be looking at the parts that don't work well. Most of us don't do that, because it is an extremely uncomfortable occupation. If you want to look at what's not working, I can guarantee you, you are going to get your hands dirty.
When I study the disarray in my own inner life, which consists of many psychological ideas that are objectively foolish, a lot of silly fantasies, some insipid paranoias, and a wide range of fairly powerful compulsions, some of which are biological, I see that there is little intelligent order in the way that things proceed. I keep watching the various discombobulated things that go on (see list above) and noting them down in a little booklet.
There they are.
In the midst of this, one of the best anchors is the attention to sensation. Sensation can have its own attention which is active, perhaps even more active than any other kind of attention that can be--at least initially-- recruited to our effort. It is not sufficient unto itself, but without it, not much is possible, because unlike most of our parts, it has an inherent and organic capacity to become awake.
Hence my constant reference to developing the organic sense of being. This sense serves as the anchor which keeps our ship in the current. We can come back to it and rely on it,
...even, perhaps, when the murderers are pounding at the door, and the only choice left is between the gun and the sword.
May your looms run smoothly, and your yarns be whole.