Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'attention'.
Found 2 results
Attention Every living creature—even a simple cell, however infinitesimal it may be—is conscious of its own life and apprehensive of death. From the moment that living beings—whether humans, animals, or corpuscles (i.e. minute body or cell in an organism) invisible to our senses—acquired a fragile body, continually menaced by all sorts of predators, by natural disasters, and by death, the necessity to protect it has engendered within them the elusive faculty of attention—which varies for every species, according to its degree of evolution, its intelligence, and its level of being. As, from their birth, living beings are obliged to struggle by all possible means to assure their subsistence and protect themselves from all that puts their physical existence in peril, they are, despite themselves, constrained to exert their attention without respite (i.e. without a short period of rest from something difficult or unpleasant) so as not to lose what has become most precious to them: their carnal envelope. For, as soon as a certain perception of their existence awakens within them, their corporeal form transforms into an indispensable instrument, by way of which alone they can feel themselves and be conscious of their existence in this world. Paradoxically, all these dangers that ceaselessly menace their survival not only encourage them to appreciate their incarnate existence, but also play a preponderant role in the development of their attention and in the growth of their intelligence. It is necessary—especially for a seeker already engaged on a spiritual path—to understand and accept the fact that, contrary to what one habitually thinks, without these external dangers that constantly menace human beings’ lives, without the unexpected problems that they must perpetually resolve, and without the physical and emotional suffering linked to such an uncertain and precarious earthly existence, they would sleep within themselves forever; there would be no way of persuading them to make the effort to awaken in order to discover within themselves another universe, beyond time and space, which alone can give meaning to their life. It is only with the development of attention that human beings’ intelligence grows. Their attention constitutes the third part of a trinity within them; it is situated between the Superior and Celestial Aspect of their nature, and the inferior and ordinary aspect of themselves. * * * Without the aspirant realizing it, his attention is the most precious weapon and the most precious treasure he possesses. When he allows his attention to be attracted and held by something, whatever it may be, without him being conscious of it, he places that thing between the Sublime and himself. And, as time passes, he finally becomes too identified with and attached to what holds his attention—whether that be an object of pleasure or a human being—which thus forms a screen between the Sacred and himself, blinds him, and does not allow the Divine Light to reach and illuminate his being. It proves vital for a seeker who has just set himself to meditation or Yoga practice, to be on his guard from the beginning, in order to clearly see that, whatever the object his attention gravitates towards, it is there that he will indubitably find himself. Every thought that occupies his mind, consciously or unconsciously, is only nurtured and maintained within him by his attention. It is his attention that gives it life. If he does not consent to give it his attention, this thought cannot continue to exist within him; it dies through lack of nourishment. Habitually, human beings do not realize to what extent nor in what way their attention constitutes a sort of combustible substance, because it is only through their attention that their thoughts and imaginings can find the force to manifest themselves and subsist within them. Without them being conscious of it, their attention acts as the indispensable combustible material through which their minds can dream and wander where they like—just like the oil in a lamp, which feeds and keeps alive the flame of the wick. Now, the Divine Aspect of human beings also has need of this combustible substance, of their attention, to be able to reveal Itself in their beings and manifest Itself within them. It is the precious gem of their attention that human beings use to set in motion their pointless inner chatter (which imprisons them within themselves and renders their lives sterile), their physical or other desires (which they want, most often, to satisfy without worrying about the consequences), as well as their incessant dreams of permanent earthly happiness (impossible to attain in this form of existence, which is so changeable and full of unexpected events). Without attention, no thought, no fantasy, no covetousness can take life within them. If the aspirant succeeds in awakening, even if only a little, in order to be sufficiently distant from himself, so that he can see what his attention is wasted upon most of the time and what kinds of useless and worthless thoughts or fantasies he is constantly nurturing and keeping alive within him through the precious tool of his attention, he cannot but be horrified! Human beings do not realize that at every moment they are forging themselves into what they are and what they will become, through the kinds of thoughts they allow themselves to feed with the precious treasure of their attention. They do not see the extent to which, unbeknownst to them, they are ceaselessly manipulated by their minds. Human beings are, in a way, comparable to land that one wants to make fertile. To start with, the weeds must be eradicated, the soil turned so that it can breathe, then fertilizer needs to be added; after that, the seeds have to be planted and every young seedling cared for daily so that it can become a tree bearing a great quantity of fruit that will, in the end, contribute to feeding a multitude. The seeker must also consent to go through fairly similar stages: first he must clear his mind, through conscious efforts, then he must sow, in the field of his being, all that is positive and noble so that he can be transformed into a fine instrument that is useful to his Creator and to his fellows. And it is precisely here that his attention plays such an important role in the transformation of himself and his tendencies. In addition, a plant needs light to survive. It is also necessary to water it regularly to assure its healthy growth. In the same way, the superior aspirations of human beings need to be continually fed by the spiritual light provided by reading sacred texts and spending time with men and women who are more evolved than they are. These aspirations also need to be fed every day by attention, so as to assure not only their survival, but also their development within human beings, because if these superior aspirations are not restimulated and maintained day after day, it will be human beings’ ordinary thoughts that will gain the upper hand and inhabit them to their cost. Thus they will live only a banal and vegetative existence. Their sojourn on this Earth will unfold only in the perpetual concern with preserving their physical envelopes and gratifying their various needs. The aspirant must understand that unless he makes conscious and tenacious efforts to awaken to another world within him, a world that belongs to another dimension, beyond time and space, he is programmed by Great Nature to be nothing but an instrument of reproduction, animated by an irrepressible sexual desire in order to serve its design, which is the perpetuation of the species. The sort of attention that human beings generally possess is sufficient for the protection and maintenance of their planetary bodies. However, it is far from being what is necessary for a spiritual quest, which demands a different sort of attention, entirely unknown ordinarily—such a subtle, alert, and vivid attention that it alone can allow the seeker to approach true meditation practice as well as true spiritual work in his daily life. * * * There is a particular link between attention and thoughts. As previously mentioned, it is attention that, without them being conscious of it, works in human beings like combustible material and, thus, animates and perpetuates thoughts within them. And they vibrate within themselves according to the sorts of thoughts that habitually unfold in their minds. Furthermore, they cannot avoid drawing to them the particular conditions corresponding to the way they think and vibrate within themselves. In their ordinary, passive state of being, they do not see that it is their minds that use them and not they who use their minds. It is here that lies the cause of all the misunderstandings and the dissension in the world, because the judgments people habitually make are solely based on what gives satisfaction to their desires and their ambitions and depend on what they believe to be good or bad. They are not capable of reflecting objectively nor of creating sufficient silence within themselves to be able to respond to the call of something more elevated in their being so that a change in their way of thinking and being might occur within them. An unenlightened person wishes for the world and all that surrounds him to conform to what he wants and does not want, as well as what he thinks is good or bad. Another does not agree with him, as he also desires everything to correspond to what he does and does not like and the way he thinks things should be. A third is outraged by what the other two want, for he also has his own ideas about the way everything should work. And so wars break out with all the destruction and suffering they bring in their wake. This phenomenon, alas, is even found in the various religions of the world. Because they are cut off from their Divine Source, human beings do not see that they are only thinking and acting through their ordinary aspect. Everyone has his or her own opinions about the way things should be and wants to impose his or her beliefs on others, by force if necessary. It is important for someone who has just set out on this spiritual journey in a country that is, as yet, unknown to him, to realize, with all of himself, that every tenacious thought, every fantasy (sexual or otherwise) and all inner chatter can only arise in his mind and continue to live within him through the invisible combustible element of his attention, which he consents to give to them. Without him usually being conscious of it, the priceless gem of his attention is, most of the time, wasted in feeding all his thoughts, all his fantasies, and all his inner chatter (most often harmful to himself as well as others), thus allowing them to occupy the hearth of his being—and always at his expense. As long as human beings use their attention to nurture and keep alive all that unfolds in their minds—without discrimination between what is useful and constitutes an aid to their spiritual evolution and what proves unfavorable and is a hindrance to that evolution—and as long as they continue, blindly or through weakness, to allow these spectral entities to take root in their beings, these entities will always remain masters of their inner dwelling, taking the place that should be occupied within them by their Supreme Self. In discovering the dark aspect of his inferior nature, instead of being discouraged or even demoralized, a motivated seeker can use all of his negative thoughts, every feeling of ill-will, and every harmful tendency he discerns in himself—on condition that he regards them without identifying or being emotionally involved with them—as so many means to awaken and turn towards another world within himself, where reigns the unchanging silence of his Celestial Being—just as a bird uses the very resistance of the air as a support to rise aloft. In this way, a mysterious and invisible alchemy may begin to operate in the aspirant, to transform the “crude metal” of his ordinary self into sparkling “Gold.” All his unfavorable penchants and habits—which not only have crystallized within him since he arrived on this Earth, but have also plunged their roots into a time that is so mysteriously distant—must inevitably go through the furnace of ardent work on himself to be sublimated and transformed into traits of inner beauty, so that he becomes worthy of bringing to others the Divine Light and spiritual knowledge he will have acquired after so many years of hard and tenacious efforts. It will then be possible for him to have a glimpse of the real meaning of the word “love”—a word that springs so often from people’s mouths, but whose true sense is so misunderstood, the sentiment itself being so rarely felt. This word “love,” which turns up continually in everyday language, is, alas, even used to express tastes or opinions on things that are entirely banal and unimportant! Ordinarily, one does not see that, generally, one speaks without being conscious of oneself or of what one is saying. The speed with which most people verbally express their thoughts—often without reflecting upon the true meaning of their words or the effect they have on others—does not allow them to see that they are only repeating formulae or phrases acquired mechanically from childhood, which have become habits within them that they practically never question. People do not realize that the word “love”—which is commonly uttered so easily, without concern for the use made of it or what one is associating it with—also signifies attention and compassion, because compassion cannot be dissociated from love. Again, one cannot but remark the extent to which attention proves to be a vital element in a seeker’s work and that it intervenes in all domains, including that of love. If human beings were sufficiently conscious of themselves—that is to say conscious in a way that is not habitual to them—and masters of their attention, they could no longer speak or act as they do ordinarily. Indeed, what one generally calls “love” is, most often, only the expression of the desire to gratify pressing physical needs or to satisfy one’s personal ambitions and interests of the moment. Moreover, human beings are, most of the time, so imprisoned within themselves and so identified with their daily worries that they practically never consider the problems or needs of others in a right way. Sometimes it takes very little for what one calls love to transform into indifference, if not hate. As long as human beings remain cut off from their Divine Source and as long as they do not know, through direct experience, the Divine within themselves, they, most often, only unconsciously obey an instinct of preservation that arises in their profane selves and drives them to live only for themselves and for the various goods they want to obtain from the great external world, in order to meet the pressing demands of their little inner worlds. As they ordinarily are, they are far too identified with what is happening most of the time in their minds, with their daily problems, and with their various physical needs to succeed in being sufficiently distant from themselves in order to begin to know themselves. Because of their conditioning, they spend their terrestrial existence with a sort of stranger within them or, one could even say, with an invisible entity that has taken possession of their beings, which inhabits them and manipulates them as it will, according to its desires of the moment. Furthermore, as their habits—whether they are good or bad—ceaselessly grow and become crystallized within them as they age, all that they see or hear around them sets in motion a mechanism that, without them being conscious of it, automatically sets off within them associations of ideas and corresponding emotions that succeed one another with great rapidity, just like in their nocturnal dreams. In all these mental processes, it is their attention that, without them perceiving it, is taken from them and used, most often, futilely. Unless they have the chance to meet someone who helps them to awaken, they will continue to remain at the mercy of this stranger within them—with which they are so identified, to the point of taking it to be themselves. This invisible aspect of their personalities keeps them in its grip and uses them for the gratification of its various ambitions and its physical appetites, which not only all constitute obstacles to their spiritual fulfillment, but also ceaselessly cause problems for their fellows as well as all other living creatures who have the misfortune to share this planet with them. Without them ever being conscious of it, the thoughts of human beings continually twist and turn and change direction endlessly within their minds, like clouds in the sky, at the will of the wind. Furthermore, like sleepers who—unless they are awoken—do not know that they sleep, they also do not realize that they are hardly ever conscious of themselves in the way they need to be in order to be able to realize what is happening within them. Sometimes, it takes so little for the thing they like at a given moment to lose all interest for them, especially if they no longer need it. On the other hand, tomorrow, they may like the very thing they do not like today, if they should discover that it can be useful to them after all. This also applies to the love a man bears a woman and vice-versa. True, disinterested, and compassionate love seems unknown to most of the human beings inhabiting this Earth. As and when the aspirant advances spiritually and his inner eyes open, he will no longer consider the outside world in the same way. Moreover, he will no longer be able to obey the blind impulses within him in the same way. He will no longer want to act for the satisfaction of his ordinary personal interests, but to respond to something elusive that belongs to another Universe within him, incomprehensible to the people of this world. He will then feel the imperative necessity to change his way of thinking, being, and behaving in everyday life, in order to be ever more honorable and true inside, to become worthy of being admitted into a Holy Place within himself and dwelling there. What one habitually calls “love” will take on a completely different meaning for him. He will begin to find himself in what can only be called a state of love that is beyond him—a compassionate and indescribable state of love that will rise from the depths of his being and cannot fail to touch the people who come into contact with him. As previously mentioned, one cannot dissociate love from compassion and attention. Thus, the aspirant will be ever more attentive and sensitive to the suffering and needs of others, in an entirely particular way that one cannot ordinarily know. He will feel their pain and their emotional distress with inhabitual compassion. This state of love in which he will so mysteriously find himself, as the result of his long years of spiritual practice, will always remain an enigma for him. He will be unable to describe or understand how it manifests itself within him. All he will know is that, suddenly, this state inhabits and illuminates his being. He will always be seized by wonder before its presence within him. This special love will radiate from him, independently of his will, to bring a little light and consolation to others in the painful moments of their lives—just as light emanates naturally from the sun. * * * It is always their attention that is involved in what is happening within human beings as well as in all that they do in the external world—whether for good or ill. It is only through their extremely developed attention that great composers can create musical works so prodigious that they elevate listeners to another plane of being, thus allowing them to experience entirely inhabitual sentiments which it is impossible for them to feel otherwise—sublime sentiments that belong to another elusive universe, inhabited by “Devas” (gods) and their “Gandharvas” (celestial musicians). Furthermore, this music, composed by geniuses with the help of their attention, will, subsequently, year after year, for centuries even, put to work the attention of all the members of symphony orchestras, without them being conscious of what is happening within them. Thus, one can say that through their attention and their great capacity for concentration, composers become, despite themselves, spiritual masters of sorts for all the performers in an orchestra, for the conductor, for the soloists, and even, to some extent, for the listeners too. Is it possible to imagine the many years of hard work on attention and concentration necessary for a pianist to one day be able to rise to the challenge presented by performing, from memory, before an extremely critical audience, a concerto by Beethoven or Brahms, which contains thousands of notes, changes in harmony, modulations, and complicated rhythms? Is it possible to imagine what a great singer needs by way of long tenacious practice of attention and concentration before being able to sing by heart, before an extremely severe public, an opera by Puccini, such as Madame Butterfly or Turandot? One might then, perhaps, understand how much more concentration and, above all, division of attention is demanded of a great composer to be able to write a symphonic work that requires such a great number of musicians for its performance and which is like the creation of a marvelous universe in miniature, where so many different things unfold simultaneously. Thus, it can be seen that, in every great artistic realization, it is always attention that plays the preponderant role. Through attention, the positive effect of these works continues, for centuries after the death of their author, to spread across the world in order to help other people in their efforts to master their attention. Moreover, one can only be filled with wonder when one thinks that, even a long time after the death of great geniuses (such as Beethoven, Brahms, César Franck, or Gustav Mahler), their music continues to nurture the sentiments and minds of an incalculable number of men and women, exalting them and bringing a little light into their lives—a light that is not of this world and that can, little by little, open to them an unhoped-for door to another Universe, so subtle, so fine, and so sublime, that they carry deep within their beings without ordinarily knowing it. Furthermore, music of such genius constantly helps humanity in other ways too; is it truly possible to imagine the number of people throughout the world who have been nurtured and financially supported by the very admirable musical creations of a great composer, such as Beethoven, since he departed this planet? All the performers and their families, the conductors, the soloists, without forgetting either all the people working in the concert halls, the music printers, the impresarios, the instrument makers, etc., all of whom have been able to provide for their needs through the attention and labor of a single human being—or perhaps it would be more correct to say of a giant: Beethoven! What immense work must have been produced by this prodigious musician to succeed in leaving behind him such a great quantity of works—despite the terrible handicap of deafness which began quite early in his life and even though he lived only fifty-seven years. Incidentally, to someone who exclaimed that he must live in a world of enchantments where inspiration flowed in abundance and without effort, he responded indignantly: “My music is only one percent inspiration, the rest is ninety-nine percent perspiration!” The people of this world, plunged into the darkness of their spiritual ignorance, cannot understand in what sense an enlightened being or a great artist is sacrificed. He comes to this earth predestined to be sacrificed for the whole of humanity, without them being conscious of it, in order to help them, directly or indirectly, to apprehend the meaning of their existence on this planet. A great musical genius is even sometimes condemned to spend his whole life in poverty, with no other desire within him than to occupy himself with his artistic creations, in order to accomplish an enigmatic destiny that remains forever elusive for the majority of those who people this Earth. Instead of wasting the precious tool of his attention in worthless thoughts and activities, as most men and women do, the musical genius, driven by a mysterious instinct that is beyond the comprehension of the masses, struggles ceaselessly with himself to concentrate all his forces and all his attention with the sole aim of bringing forth his creations. Indeed, it is only through the continual sacrifice of himself, of what he does and does not want ordinarily, and of everything that might bring him the distracting and fleeting pleasures that most people seek, that he succeeds in being sufficiently concentrated and inwardly silent to hear the mysterious voice that murmurs in his ears the inspirations that are so strangely sublime and moving that they will subsequently transport his listeners into the domain of the gods. It is in this way that not only does the whole of humanity benefit from the work and the sacrifice of a great genius, but the genius himself also benefits from it, because throughout his whole life, he exerts his attention—like an aspirant during his meditation practice or his spiritual exercises in active life. It is right that the price to pay should be so high; it could not be otherwise, with regard to the spectacular result for the world when the attention of a human being is employed in such a positive direction. When someone has used the gift of his life in a constructive way, not only does he leave a beneficial trace on Earth after his departure, but he is also an example for humanity, who can thus look at the future with hope, instead of remaining tied to their self-destructive belief in a material happiness that is impossible to make concrete. The wrong that one does also leaves its imprint upon the world. If, in acting to satisfy a personal interest or in not doing his work properly, someone causes suffering to another, that other may be so emotionally disturbed that, without him meaning to, the state in which he finds himself will trouble other people who come into contact with him and, in their turn, they will also be unable to help disturbing those around them. In this way, the problem caused at the beginning will continue to spread across the world. What a seeker does not generally realize is that, if everything he does is executed carefully and with consideration for others, it will not only be others who will benefit from that, but he will benefit too; in effect, this way of acting will, firstly, exercise his attention and, secondly, make all his qualities grow within him. In this way, it is he who will, in the long run, benefit psychically from his efforts. * * * Every action inevitably brings about consequences, good or bad. It is with their attention that wrong is done by human beings in the world and it is also with their attention that good is accomplished. What is more, where their attention is drawn, it is also there that their interest is. Thus, the aspirant can appreciate the inestimable value of his attention and understand the crucial role it plays in his life and in that of others—especially when he uses it consciously in his various spiritual exercises. Attention can be compared to the atmosphere that surrounds the Earth, because of which alone one can see the daylight and the blue of the sky; as one leaves the earth’s atmosphere, one encounters nothing but darkness. It is the same for human beings; without their attention, by way of which alone they can join with the Light of their Celestial Being, they lose themselves ever more in a state of near dark isolation. The incommensurable space of the Cosmos is made up only of eternal darkness, studded here and there with the minuscule points of light which are the stars, and of countless galaxies separated by inconceivably vast distances. The musical genius is, to some extent, comparable to one of these small points of light that tries to shine through the darkness in which humanity is plunged. He is like a solitary beacon in an immense ocean of men and women of all races who, like the waves of the sea, are ceaselessly born and die, without apprehending the true meaning of their existence on this planet. The composer struggles throughout his life to bring forth his artistic creations and, thus, to assume the mysterious role for which he was predestined. His music is like the light of a lamp that illuminates the souls of humans and shows them the path towards a subtle Universe, usually ineffable and indefinable, that they carry within their beings without being conscious of it. * * * An aspirant may benefit from observing a particular technology that can be found in the external world. If he grasps the principle, it could encourage him to become more serious and more motivated in his meditation practice, as well as in his spiritual exercises in active life, and help him to understand better the importance of his attention and the crucial role it plays in what he will become, for better or worse, according to whether he employs it in a positive manner or wastes it uselessly in thoughts and activities that are incompatible with his wish to know the Sublime within him and to accede to another plane of being beyond time and space. When, in a boiler, the flame transforms the water into steam and it is channeled and guided in a determined direction, the strong concentration of this steam becomes a formidable and powerful energy that can, then, set in motion enormous engines working for the good of all. Thus, it is through the intense concentration of steam that a locomotive can not only travel at high speed, but also draw a large number of very heavy cars, filled with merchandise of considerable weight. It is the same for the seeker. When his attention has passed through the fire of long and intense meditation practice and when he has finally mastered and channeled it towards a definite aim, then—just like the strong concentration of steam within a boiler becomes a force capable of moving a colossal machine—he will be able to transmute his unfavorable tendencies into positive and creative energies. Unsuspected forces will begin to awaken within him, making him capable of executing all that will be required of him very scrupulously and, even, with a perfection that is not within reach of someone ordinary, because all the tasks he will undertake will then be carried out by another aspect of his nature, which, hitherto, remained in a latent state. He may even discover that he is capable of realizations in various artistic domains with a talent that will astonish those who know him. Furthermore, the intensity of his sentiment will become a source of inspiration for the people who come into contact with him, continually encouraging them to become more motivated in their spiritual practice. A particular force that will emanate from his being will constantly touch aspirants who have come to seek from him the necessary help towards their own emancipation, because he will always want to act in their interest when they have need of him, despite the adverse circumstances he may find himself in. Thus, a serious seeker cannot avoid being profoundly troubled when, through intense and sustained meditation practice, he comes to awaken a little and distance himself from himself sufficiently to be able to note that, without him ordinarily being conscious of it, it is always his attention that is involved in all he thinks, says, and does, whether for good or ill, and it is also his attention that plays a determining role in his evolution or his involution. The way he uses the gift of his attention, as well as the goal he uses it for, will indisputably make of him what he is and what he will become. The moral integrity of human beings as well as their sincerity of spirit cannot subsist within them without being fed by the tool of their attention, just as evil cannot continue to exist within them either without being nourished by that precious combustible substance that is their attention. When attention is channeled in a determined direction, it becomes a phenomenal force, a force that, in the same way that it animates great painters or great composers in their artistic creations, proves indispensable to the seeker in his attempts to know the mysterious Source whence he emerged and in which he will be reabsorbed at the end of his temporary passage on this planet. It is only through the continual renouncement of himself and what he wants and does not want ordinarily (as the geniuses mentioned previously do) that the aspirant can come to master his attention in order to be able to hear within himself the voice of his Celestial Being which is trying to guide him on the path of his hope—a path that is sown with traps of all sorts that are difficult to recognize without the help of someone who has already gone through this kind of trial. * * * In addition to all that has previously been said about attention, there remains a fundamentally important point that a serious seeker must take into consideration and try to understand. It is the crucial question of his interest, because one cannot dissociate human beings’ attention from their interest. When someone is very interested in something, whether that be any sort of object or activity, his attention is inevitably used to feed that interest; effectively, what kindles his interest cannot but capture his attention. Thus, just like a great painter or a musical genius who is profoundly passionate and absorbed in his artistic creations, the aspirant must also come to be so intensely interested and occupied by his quest that it becomes a question of life or death for him. His spiritual practice—meditation and exercises undertaken in active life—must take first place in his existence. Nothing else must count for him. In addition, he must ceaselessly take care that his efforts and his interest do not weaken and lose their initial force, which will inevitably happen if he allows himself to be distracted by the futilities of the external world. This primordial quest must always remain the essential reason for his presence on this planet because, at the hour of his death—an inescapable moment that awaits all living beings without exception—a burning question will arise within him: “Does all I have thought and done, from the day I was born into this world, until this fatal moment, justify the enigmatic gifts of my mind, my attention, and my life?”