I want to elucidate how small efforts lead to huge presence.
We had a great turn out for our last open meeting! I decided to do an exercise that would illustrate what happens to our inner state when we attempt to divide our attention. Many guests were confused when they tried to do this with their thinking mind and “concentration”. Some became overwhelmed with the effort and found it to be too much, even impossible.
Here is the big reveal.
If you are trying to maintain awareness on several things within yourself, you will soon see that it must be something other than thought that maintains sensation in your body or feels the feelings.
Please realize that the power to hold sensation in your body while watching the rampant associations of thought and then at the same time come to know the very subtle feelings that are firing off at rapid speed is the path to presence.
Teaching meditation for twenty years has allowed me a unique vantage point. I have heard myriads of descriptions of meditation experiences. The primary A number one effort that people start out with is attempting to keep their attention on their breath, for example. They do this by focusing the mind on that aspect of the body. When their mind wanders they bring it back to the breath, and so it goes.
They train their mind like a dog and overtime it calms down and somewhat behaves until it doesn’t. They try to still the monkey mind instead of learning to observe it.
“If you wait for the mind to stop, you’re going to wait forever,” says Adyashanti.
Part of the process of divided attention is to allow the right work of centers as Gurdjieff would say. When we can start to pinpoint which center is in action, it gives us a clue as to what is going on within us. It also develops and gathers the observing “I”s. To do this requires us to observe ourselves thinking thoughts, feeling feelings, and holding sensation in our body all simultaneously. This takes great effort.
Unfortunately, most people think they already do this.
Is it our mind that divides the attention on each of these three things?
That is for us to discover through small efforts. Last weekend, we kept the ongoing inner exercise of being aware of our feet, namely to hold sensation in our feet. Everyone would forget and suddenly remember. To try and maintain that once we remembered is the kind of small effort that grows this very important capacity.
If people are honest, they will see that they cannot hold sensation in their feet for very long without getting caught up in mental association. The tiny short intervals will start to come more often. This means something in us is growing to allow us to wake up more often. If it is the thought that holds its focus on feet, there will be extreme difficulty in maintaining sensation for any kind of duration before the thought takes off in another direction. This is what thought does. It never stops analysing, judging, assessing, remembering or associating. That is its job.
Making small efforts to discover what the feeling center actually is will reveal so much about how we function in the world. Making the effort to maintain sensation in an already thought filled reactive state will often expose something about how our feeling center works. Feeling is not reaction. Feeling is not emotion, but something that acts on its own. It is knowing in a different way than thought, and to recognize it and get to know it will unveil another working part.
Curiosity, experimentation, and verification are the important elements of these small efforts.
They are often the very things that we take for granted and assume we already know. More often than not, when a student is reporting back to me regarding self-observation, it is an analysis by the thinking rather than a true seeing of oneself. True seeing requires presence and the ability to maintain attention on various centers within us.
Here at the awareness school, we learn to build presence through myriads of inner exercises that allow one to divide attention. The more our attention is divided the more we have of it. Holding these aspects of ourselves in unity before us is to know presence.
We aren’t changing or fixing. We are accepting. This is done through presence.