To Be Aware Of Inattention

=== Daily Quote ===

Attention is this hearing and this seeing, and this attention has no limitation, no resistance, so it is limitless. To attend implies this vast energy: it is not pinned down to a point. In this attention there is no repetitive movement; it is not mechanical. There is no question of how to maintain this attention, and when one has learnt the art of seeing and hearing, this attention can focus itself on a page, a word.

In this there is no resistance which is the activity of concentration. Inattention cannot be refined into attention. To be aware of inattention is the ending of it: not that it becomes attentive. The ending has no continuity. The past modifying itself is the future—a continuity of what has been—and we find security in continuity, not in ending.

So attention has no quality of continuity. Anything that continues is mechanical. The becoming is mechanical and implies time. Attention has no quality of time. All this is a tremendously complicated issue. One must gently, deeply go into it.

Letters to the Schools vol II, p 31

=== Thoughts ===

Well, he’s certainly right about one thing- this is a tremendously complicated issue, and like usual, it’s fundamentally important that we all have a deep and total understanding of what’s being discussed here. Even I had to read this quote a couple times before I really knew what Krishnamurti was talking about, and I study his works religiously. So let’s do something a little different this time, and take things to a personal level. I’ll try to illustrate the ideas expressed above with an example from my daily life.

On Friday morning I got up and started getting ready for work, like I normally do, except that I did things a little differently. (As the Thai’s are so fond of saying “same, same, but different”.  I spent the first few minutes of my day in silent observation, and watched my mind emerge from it’s nightly slumber. As I observed the usual activity of thoughts starting to slowly roll out of the void, gaining momentum with each new idea, and each increasing level of attachment to those ideas, I did something different from usual, and simply refused to identify with them. Instead of getting carried away by what I was thinking, instead of attaching myself to those thoughts and becoming absorbed by them like usual, I simply watched them unfold, and disappear back into the void, observing myself from a somewhat detached state.

You see, over the past year, since I really began watching myself in earnest, since I’ve become fully aware of my daily behavior, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the best way to stop attachment is to cut it off at the source, at the very first moment of consciousness, right after waking up. I’ve found this to be by far the best way to keep my mind from spiraling rapidly out of control; because that’s what thought causes it to do! Thought divides me from the environment, sucking my attention inward as if it were trapped in a vortex, focusing it on my internal mental constructs, ideas, and beliefs.

As Krishnamurti explains above, and as I’ve experienced it in daily living, thought reduces attention to concentration. While attention implies total awareness of myself and my surroundings, including the relationship connecting the two, concentration is a focused or limited awareness of some particular individual aspect of one or the other, in which the relationship between the two is completely lost. Concentration implies a divided, limited, and entirely subjective state of consciousness. Concentration itself is a mental state in which reality cannot possibly be experienced for what it actually is, because it represents an abstraction, a simplification, or evaluation of that which is real.

When I wake up each morning, my mind immediately launches off from that initial starting point of the first thought, which is to say the first division between “self” and “other”, and rockets me toward an infinite web of other remembrances, fears, desires, and insecurities. The more attached I become to these thoughts, the more momentum they build up, and the further refined my concentration or focus becomes, to the detriment of my ability to pay attention to everything happening both around, and inside of me. And without that consciousness of attention, I have noticed in practice that I have absolutely no chance of understanding anything, or operating with intelligence (as Krishnamurti would put it).

As I woke up Friday morning though, I watched the rotors of my mind spin up and begin to roll out that familiar line of thoughts, but instead of getting lost in them like usual, instead of attaching my consciousness to them, and instead of becoming completely absorbed by them, I merely observed them. Like Krishnamurti says above, I was aware of the thoughts as inattention, and as such, they dissolved on their own, returning to the void from whence they came. Instead of focusing on my thoughts, I refused to focus on anything whatsoever. I simply observed my surroundings, and watched the process of my mind emerging from deep sleep. Instead of turning my attention inward, I refused to turn it in any direction whatsoever.

With a completely unfocused attention, I was able to participate in my morning ritual in a completely different way. Instead of focusing on my thoughts, I listened to the water coming out of the shower head, and felt it running down my body. I felt the soft cloth of the towel, and watched the response of my hair to the brush. And throughout the entire process of getting ready, I felt the beating of my heart, the breathing of my lungs, and the other movements of my body.

And amazingly, that usually highly repetitive daily process of getting ready for work took on an entirely new light! All of my movements and actions seemed new, fresh, and entirely full of life. And while thoughts occasionally cropped up, they inevitably slipped off back into the void as I refused to limit my attention by focusing on them.

As I walked to my car, I continued to observe my surroundings, looking at the fresh morning light, smelling the dew on the grass, and listening to the sounds of the birds chirping. When I caught sight of a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting up on top of one of the trees, I stopped and watched it for a few minutes, even though I felt like I should be hurrying off to work. And while I watched the Hawk, I became fully and deeply aware of the amazing color of the morning sky, the gentle breeze tickling my hair, and the cool, crisp morning air on my exposed skin. I felt completely alive, and fully present in the moment as it unfolded, undistracted, and undivided by concetration.

It was a beautiful morning to be sure, but even more so because I was actually experiencing it for what it is, instead of interpreting it according to my own ideas (like most of us usually do), or in a half-assed way, by dividing my attention by placing some of it’s focus on my internal dialogue. Without that distraction of the internal thought-stream, and without my attention limited by focused concentration, I was able to look, see, smell, taste, feel, and touch the world around me in a way that seemed entirely different; more complete, or real.

As I opened the door to the car I listened to the noise of the hinges, and felt the metal of the handle. I looked at the car, not as that all-too familiar possession that is “my car”, but as an incredibly complicated and intricate device; as a real work of art, and creative ingenuity. And as I started the engine, I listened to it’s sounds, felt it’s vibrations, and waited patiently for it to heat up. I watched the windshield defrost, following the many little streams of water, like so many rivers, running down the sides of the windows. I never felt like I was in a hurry. I never felt rushed. I just watched and listened to everything happening around me, watching the events unfold from a state of unfixed and unfocused attention. No one thing, including myself, was more important than any other. There was no evaluation, interpretation, or valuation of any of the actions happening around me, there was only observation.

And when I started my drive to work, I didn’t turn on the radio or even put on any music. And I didn’t feel bored at all, on the contrary! Instead, I listened with rapt attention to the acceleration of the car, and devoutly watched the scenery pass by. I sat patiently at a red light, waiting for my turn to join that slow crawling morning commute, and watched with fascination as a thick blanket of fog slowly rose over the freeway. And when I merged into the line of cars snaking their way up the 405, I didn’t race over to the fast lane like I usually do, but stayed to the right, without experiencing the typical feeling that I was losing in some kind of a race.

I felt no need to rush, no need to hurry, and none whatsoever to compete with everyone around me. Because I wasn’t comparing myself to them. Because I was living in a space where the “I” takes no more precedence than anything else! Measure never even came into the picture, even though that’s what I’d usually do. This morning, things seemed different. I was experiencing everything as entirely new. That typical feeling of disgust and revulsion toward the morning commute, that most monotonous and obnoxious of all of my daily routines, never even entered into my mind. At peace with my surroundings, I simply observed the world around me. Even though I was on my way to work, it felt as if I had nowhere to be, and absolutely nothing to do. Simply enjoyed my surroundings.

I felt no revulsion, no anger, no disappointment, and no frustration. I didn’t mind sitting at red lights, crawling up the freeway at low speed, or even arriving at my cubicle  for another nine hour stretch of monotonous work-life. I didn’t feel trapped, confined, or even disgusted by the rat race, as I normally do. Instead, I took my time. I enjoyed my morning. I explored the world around me, and my reactions to it, without becoming attached to them, without identifying with them. The process of getting to work didn’t feel at all like the usual race to the cubicle, but like an ambling saunter through the world of man. And all of this because I was experiencing the world from a place of attention, rather than concentration.

Imagine the possibilities for your own life!

And, to get a little preachy, while I’d be the first to call the world of men entirely corrupt, disgusting, and morally bankrupt, I’m also aware that this is the world each one of us has helped to create (myself included, of course). Each one of us sustains this world with our daily behavior, and our repetitive thoughts and actions. And while I’d also be first to say that this world should, and needs to change, I’d also be first to admit that this won’t happen until each and every one of us changes first. And by us, I mean you and me. We must change. And we must change now.

But we need not meditate (in the usual sense of that word), we need not prostrate (as we’ve been told), we need not perform recitation of mantra (as the Guru says), nor accumulation of karma (as some Buddhists proclaim).

We must simply refuse to continue dividing ourselves from our surroundings. We must refuse to make divisions. We must cut off that habitual attachment to and obsession with our thoughts.

As Krishanmurti often explains, “the first step is the last”. That first glimpse of reality is all that it takes. Once you get that glimpse the entire system of accumulation and identification is finished!

The rest of your life becomes the act of living, rather than a response to being alive. And let me tell you, this requires both a fundamental and radical adjustment. And it is a thing which must be experienced to be fully understood.

And none of your so-called “spiritual” activity has anything to do with it! At no point in this lifetime, no matter how hard you try, will you ascend to some alternate reality, living in a land that sparkles like diamonds, where everyone is happy, and everything is beautiful.

But, if you refuse to focus you attention, if you refuse to limit it with concentration, you can find a space for yourself in this world which will fill you will joy, excitement, energy, and love. You can find freedom in this world. And you can make it a better place in the process. And the simple beauty, and the point of all this, is that all you have to do is try.

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