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It is fair to say that most people pay more attention to the thoughts in their minds than to what they are doing or to the situation at hand.  While doing one thing, they are usually thinking about something else.

 

Paying more attention to the thoughts in your mind rather than to what you are doing leads to

 

*     lack of energy

*     running round in circles getting nothing done

*     feelings of not having enough hours in the day

*     tension, both mental and physical.

 

When your attention is focused effortlessly on what you are doing - such as when involved in a favourite pastime or hobby - there is a sense of

 

*     having more energy

*     getting more done (becoming efficient)

*     having more time on your hands

*     being calm and relaxed, both mentally and physically.

 

What, in essence, are people doing when they are involved in a favourite pastime or hobby? They are simply paying attention to what they are doing.  Their focus of attention is on the pastime.

 

Such attentiveness has a relaxing and calming effect, which causes a sense of well-being.  It is not the hobby or pastime which initiates the peacefulness, but the fact of having one's attention effortlessly on what is being done.  In other words, it is the focus of attention that initiates the calmness, not the object or activity.

 

If you were just as attentive to everything you did in every moment, you would always be in this state of calm.  It stands to reason, doesn't it?

 

You clearly have a very simple choice.  You can either listen to or entertain distracting thoughts while involved in your daily activities, or you can focus your attention entirely on what you are doing.  One leads to confusion, stress and tiredness; the other to inner peace and energy.

 

From now on, focus your attention on what you are doing - whether it be having tea, walking to the shops, waiting in a queue, talking to someone or driving the car.  Every time you become aware of the fact that your attention has shifted away from what is in front of you and onto thinking about something totally unrelated, shift your attention back into what you are doing.

 

See for yourself what the outcome is.

 

Do you know what your mind is?

 

The mind is just like a computer.  Everything that has happened to you, including everything that is said to and by you, is recorded in your mind.  It is a recording of facts, of memories up to and including this second.  So if you use your mind and think, you are using something of the past - a memory.

 

If you were asked what you did two seconds ago, ten minutes ago, last week, five years ago or at the age of five, you would have to think about it and remember. If you were asked what will you be doing in five to ten minutes time, tomorrow, next week, or in ten years time, you would have to think about it and surmise.  In other words these processes are in thought only.

 

If you were to stand back and be aware of your thoughts (mind), you would see that there is always shuttling between the past and the future - what has happened or what is going to happen.  This is the nature of thought.

 

The mind comprises memories, knowledge and the faculties of analysis and rationalisation.  Obviously, you use this wonderful tool to help you on the level of day-to-day existence; e.g. to run a business, to study, to remember where you live, to fix the car or design new tools and machines, to make your life more comfortable, healthy and safe.

 

But if we use thought, which is made of memory, inwardly, in a psychological sense, then we become bound to the past.  Thought has no place at this level

 

Through using our minds, we all have opinions, viewpoints, or beliefs about our environment and the world in general.  If we look at something or someone, even ourselves, and think about what we see, we are looking at our own thoughts, at images of our own creation which have their origin in memory - the past.

 

It is these thoughts that cause stress and confusion, not the circumstances.  It is our reaction to what we perceive that is the source of our suffering.  The thoughts, which come between you and what is in front of you, cause the confusion.

 

If you are looking at your own ideas about the world and don't like what you are seeing, the mind does a split.  It looks at these ideas, opinions and beliefs and asks itself: What is all this about?  What is the meaning and purpose of it all?  It starts to question and analyse its own perception.

 

The mind goes in search of an answer. This is called philosophy and religion. The mind believes that this will give some meaning to its own mental image of the world and life.  But all we have done is create another sense of reality with the building blocks of other people’s viewpoints.

 

We create our own sense of reality with our mind and its thought.  When the mind projects its image onto what we are looking at, we never move past our own opinions, beliefs and attitudes.  We react to our own thoughts.

 

To perceive that which is new and true, we must be able to have clear, attentive observation, undisturbed by any thought, so that we are not looking at the new through the eyes of the old - putting an image made of past memories onto the situation at any given moment.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OBSERVATION AND CONCENTRATION

 

Once your attention is focused on what you are doing or on what is before you, you must see that there is a major difference between the states of silent attention to every moment and of concentration on one thing at a time.

 

To purely observe, there is no conscious awareness of thought.  There is a quietness within.  This is effortless and calming.

 

To concentrate (to focus your thoughts) and think about what is happening in front of you takes effort and energy.  The mind is controlling its own movements of thought.

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When you concentrate and think, you are looking at your own thoughts about what you perceive.

 

At work and when performing tasks it is necessary to use your memory and knowledge.  At any other time these thoughts become a distraction and take you away from what you are doing.

 

To shift your attention off rational thought or wandering thoughts back onto what you are doing means just to shift it silently and effortlessly - a change of focus - not the mind directing and instructing how and where it is to go.  This way you are consciously telling yourself about what you are doing.

 

One takes effort and discipline and won't last long.  The other is an effortless shift.

 

The effect of this shifting of attention finally helps to recognise behaviour patterns (movements of thought) which are the underlying factors on which we base our actions and emotions.  It also helps us to be free of the dependency we have on these habits of conditioning.  It is the recognising and seeing of our own conditioning that is the catalyst  for our own unconditioning.

 

The power of observation is essential.  Most people do not realise

* how much attention they pay to their thoughts in their minds; .

 * that inattention and scattered thoughts lead to inward confusion, stress, emptiness          

          and apathy.

 

The art of attentiveness, which includes the faculties of pure observation and the act of purely listening, means not interpreting what you see or hear, but having a quality - of mind - where your impressions are not influenced or strained by your own mental memories of fear and prejudices.

 

This is not some new theory, philosophy or religion.  We are looking at what our mind is doing, the facts, in black and white. We need to learn to observe the thoughts which accompany every movement in our work, play and relationships, so that this becomes a living process, not some other mental concept to think about which has no relevance or practical use in our daily life and work.

 

This observation is a quality of attentive energy, it is not introspective self analysis - thinking about and analysing your own thoughts, feelings and emotions.  This continual self-centred observing can go on forever and ultimately only modify your behaviour but never free you of your conditioning.

 

 

THE QUALITY OF ATTENTIVENESS

 

Have ever thought about or pondered on how you pay attention to something?  Have you ever noticed how you hear something - the sound of someone’s voice, the sound of the wind, the birds singing?  How do you listen?  Is it a casual listening, giving energy to what you hear only if it directly relates to you, to your self-interests?  Or do you give total attention - all your energy, mind and heart, your senses - to what you are listening to? Have you ever looked at this in yourself.

 

What is the quality of energy you bring to everything you do?  As you read this line, are you looking and reading with all your energy?  Are you looking at the page totally with your eyes, looking into the words to sense their true meaning, or are you aware of the sound of thinking in your head while you read, which means you are distracted by your own interpretation - your conditioning - of what you think these words mean?  Can you look at this page - or for that matter at anything, the tree, the clock, that bird, your partner, your child - without hearing a sound inside yourself?  In other words, can you look at this page now without thought?

 

The depth of attentiveness, which you bring to anything before you, releases a quality of energy which has a movement unique unto itself.  When you are alert and attentive to every sound you hear, to everything you see, a great mutation occurs - a seeing and understanding of life that is totally new, fresh and unpolluted by your mind's conditioned content.

 

No one - no priest or guru, no book or philosophy - can show you how to be attentive.  You have to look at this by yourself.  You have to put this question to yourself, ask yourself, see absolutely by yourself how you pay attention to everything you do.  If you are not interested in this, there is no point in reading on, because you must give your total energy, everything you have, to this question of how you are relating to everything.

 

Again, as you read this line, are you looking at the words or listening to your own thinking?  Have a look.  Watch carefully.  If you are listening to your inner voice, give careful attention to the sound inside your head.  The sound you hear is your thinking, your conditioning. Can you read this line without the sound of your own thinking?  See how much energy you have to give to this, see that you are doing this totally on your own.  You don’t need someone to train or teach you how to watch your own mind – just do it, NOW.

 

When you give this much attention to everything, there comes into you an immense energy from no direction.  It has a quality of aliveness.

 

Most people are so obsessed with themselves, thinking about and analysing how they feel and what they are thinking, that they are unable to hear what is being said to them or see what is happening in front of them.

 

How do you listen to something?  Do you listen to the sound of someone’s words or are you listening to your own thinking (the voice in your head)?  Don't answer!  Just watch how you listen to someone. Do you always refer back to think about yourself, analyse every feeling, emotion and thought that comes to your awareness?  Can you watch your thoughts and emotions without thinking?  Don't ask anyone about this, but give your full energy to find out for yourself.  Is there a passion, vitality in you to find out for yourself? 

 

Become a light unto yourself.  Begin to enquire into what is happening inside yourself.  Enquiring is not thinking about what is happening, but looking.  With passion and energy, bring a quality of attention to what you find. If you find your anger, look at it.  Bring all your energy to it so that it reveals itself to you, so you can understand what anger means, all by yourself.

 

Enquiring is listening and looking with all your senses.  Why don't you listen or see what is happening in yourself?  Are you too busy listening to your own mind and responding to this inner dialogue?  How much time and energy do you give to listening to your own thoughts, to analysing or thinking about yourself, to being busy telling everyone about how you are, what you think and feel, always coming from your self - interest?

 

The quality of attentiveness which has an intensity of wakefulness cannot be cultivated.  It is not within consciousness.  You cannot make yourself be attentive. If you try to understand, practise and prepare yourself for silent attentiveness, you are playing a dead-end game.  You are either attentive or you are not.  If you are not, find out why.  Look at everything with this quality of attention until there is nothing left to see but what is happening before you.  This silent passion and intense quality of attention is selfless action - love in action.  The doer and the looker (the I, my, the you, the sound of a voice inside your head) disappears.  There is only the sound of silence.

 

Are you doing  this now?  Are you looking at your thoughts, hearing a sound of words in your head?  Or are you looking?

 

This is directed at everyone who aspires to peace of mind and self-knowledge, which is also relevant and practical to daily life.  The only way this is possible is to understand that inner-peace and self-understanding

 

*     come from observing our thoughts while we work and play and relate to others in our daily routine;

 

*     cannot be gained by any method, theory or ideology: through any book, discipline, counsellor, priest or guru, or by self-analysis;

 

*     can be recognised only when the mind is silent, clear and attentive.

 

It is so simple - that is why it is so difficult.

You must see for yourself

 

*     how to recognise your inner mental dialogue and how this is the cause of stress;

 

*     what your mind is; i.e., what are thoughts and memory and their right functions;

 

*     your attachment to thoughts and memories, and how they condition you like a programmed machine;

 

*     how to observe your thoughts (your conditioning) in your daily routine, and the way they dictate all your actions and emotions;

 

*     how to move your attention off this continual inner chatter

 

*     why we have come to "depend" on other people's advice, books, methods, and techniques for peace, relaxation and guidance.

 

We will ultimately see that it is possible to function in our daily routine, with all its stresses and strains, with a quiet, yet attentive mind. The mind which is always thinking will never know true inner peace.

 

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    Copyright © Peter Crook 2005    

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