Modern Practice – Part 1


Bolshezemelskaja_tundra_1
There is a story of a man lost in the wilds of the Irish countryside, desperate to get home to Dublin, and a farmer leaning on a gate will only tell him:  ‘Well, you’ll not get there from here.’

To get anywhere you need to know where you are — where you’re starting from.

What was it I forgot?

What was it I forgot?

Ouspensky’s teaching begins and ends with the practice of ‘Self-remembering’. Nowadays, the word ‘mindfulness’, from the Buddhist tradition, conveys a similar meaning.

Most of the time we forget our own presence – I am here, now, in my body – always losing ourselves in the continual scenarios being presented by the inner and outer worlds. The first step in developing individual consciousness is to ‘come back into oneself’.

When consciousness is ‘at home’ it can widen into the awareness of its own truly universal nature.  All This I Am… and something more, quite inexpressible.

Why then are such blissful moments so elusive? Everyone has feelings like this from time to time quite naturally. What prevents them from pervading our lives more regularly?

You can’t remain consciously aware of yourself
at will for more than about two minutes.
Try it now —
. . . a state of still-aware-presence . . .
Note the first thought that arises.

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Attention is continually distracted away from the centre of the present moment and immediately becomes absorbed in whatever is happening inside or outside oneself. When the attention is occupied like that our whole existence runs on auto-pilot.

Escape from this automatic existence requires a twofold practice. It’s necessary first to build up some better, more refined energy and also to stop wasting the energy we have got.

Cats know how to pay attention

Cats know how to pay attention

Attention becomes awareness

Attention becomes awareness

The basic tool for both these practices is attention. ‘Attention’, say the saints, ‘is the source of success.’  ‘Attention is the path the Buddhas have trod.’ Attentive actions not only produce efficiency, they also create more energy. Attention to the automatic body/mind functions and feelings as they arise allows them to resume a rightful, healthy and useful position in our psychology.

Those who can attend to the outward world can also attend within. Those who can’t manage to give attention to the physical work would not be able to give their attention to meditation. To give attention to physical work a person must find the kind of work which does really interest them, so that there is no opposition. Those who find it difficult to attend inwardly should first of all practise their attention in the work they do for their living or hobby. To attend is to be one with the work, and to be one with the work one must get body, senses, heart and mind all attending simultaneously.
HH Shantananda Saraswati.

Barrel racing

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Attention is ‘applied consciousness’ — just as there is pure mathematics and applied mathematics. With some attention present, functions become conscious.  Without attention all our functions, whatever we are doing, happens automatically. Attention can be either a state of Doing like the cat and the rider, or just of Being, like the Buddha. When we are just ‘being’ we call it ‘awareness’, to distinguish the two. (See here)

.Attention and awareness can only exist in the present moment. Only this moment, ‘now’, holds the gateway to consciousness.

The whirligig of space and time — all the fun of the fair

The whirligig of space and time — all the fun of the fair

The sense of ‘time’ is the basis of the illusion we call ‘life’. Time and movement are really one thing, but what that one thing actually is remains a mystery.
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Once again, we ‘can’t get there from here’. To see the truth concealed within the mystery we need more light, more consciousness, and that requires a particular kind of energy which often seems not easily accessible in the ordinary day-to-day waking state.

Water, the image of stillness

Water, the image of stillness

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The simplest method of releasing more of this particular energy is to use attention to lead us to the awareness of inner silence and stillness. Stillness of body, heart and mind. Being still and aware is like connecting a battery to a charger. By learning to allow moments of still awareness to lengthen and widen — by liking them — and by keeping on coming back to them, a new kind of energy begins to accumulate.

Good advice

Good advice