Thursday, October 1, 2009

So, Pay Attention: Attention means Attention!

"There's an old Zen story: A student asks, "Please write for me something of great wisdom... Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word, "attention..." --Nothing Special Living Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck

All of us in the busy whirrings of our mind, find that in the modern world there is so very much competing for our senses, our eyes and ears most especially. We are easily bombarded with advertisements and other communications, all of which have the potential to take us away from this place, this body and this present moment. Suzuki wrote that a quiet mind is vital to self knowledge, to enlightenment.

We become wrapped up, each in our own great 'I'. There is the I who likes this, the I who doesn't like that; the I who wants to give an opinion and the I who wishes not to be missed, and then there's the I who just wishes and wishes. It is actually so easy to become entangled with 'I' because, in our daily lives, 'I' accompanies us everywhere and often interprets, interrogates, judges or assumes-- voicing all the while what 'I' wants, wishes and desires. It's no wonder the present moment becomes lost, or even the 'last moment.' Do we bother with the little things, portions of our daily musings, do we notice? Can I see that this moment is as important and unique as any other moment?

I stubbed my toe, my partner is angry with me, I missed the bus, my child is sick, I can't find my pen! Every one of these experiences occurs in a moment, present and unique, and then it's gone. So many, many moments are what our lives are made up of. When you think about it, there are only moments in a day, strung together by our varied experiences within that day. Tell a story of your own day. You will find a natural sequence to the experiences of that day, yet the progression of thoughts in your mind may not be so sequential, relevant or clear. An agile mind easily produces a life that can actually be experienced as muddy, messy, unclear, stressful.

When the student asked Master Ichu, as Charlotte Joko Beck writes of in her book, Nothing Special Everyday Zen, "something of great wisdom..." He wrote, Attention. The student said, "Is that all?" The master wrote, "Attention, Attention." The student was irritable--it was not profound or unique in the student's way of looking. The student then demanded of the teacher that he explain the meaning of this word, attention. The Master then replied that attention means attention.

Beck writes, "it is not a question of importance; it is a question of paying attention, being aware. Why? Because every moment in life is absolute in itself... So when we don't pay attention to each little this, we miss the whole thing. And the contents of this moment can be anything. It doesn't matter what the contents of the moment are; each moment is absolute."

Giving full attention, undivided to each moment, each person, each task is both a challenge and a gift that we receive in that moment. If we learn to pay total attention, we "would never be upset... if we are, we're not paying attention. The difficulty arises in a life when we give over a moment to something, to anything else.Our mind whirrs, spins off. Often it is to our self-centered thoughts, our ego: 'I want.' Focused on this notion, we lose attention to other things within and around us in the world; we miss the possibilities in the moment of something new, something good-- something, that while, impermanent, may be our answer. And just maybe life, lived simply as it is.

No comments: