... This commentary is about what I call the Listening Attention, a meditation technique, if you will, which I ve found to be a gateway to our Inner Self.
Jan 3, 2003
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--- In AdvaitaToZen@yahoogroups.com, Jan Sultan <swork@m...> wrote:
This commentary is about what I call the "Listening Attention," a
meditation technique, if you will, which I've found to be a gateway
to our Inner Self. The poet John Davis once said he felt the highest
meditation was "listening with the eyes." This is a good starting
definition. Another would be to look with attention, but without
interpretation: to listen, the attention turned both inward and
outward at the same time, with no thought or expectation. No
expectation, judging or defining; no thought, no mind. This combined
attention uses both the inner ear and eye and is turned towards the
inner heart and the outer world simultaneously. It is passive in that
it does not project an image or thought; it is active for the same
reason, in that it is a pure attention, an active not-doing. There is
no sense of an 'I' involved, for that would mean the springing forth
of an image, which the attention would become identified with. It
does not entail a motionless, inert body, for it can be found while
engaging in activity.
Before talking about how to find this portal to the Inner Self, let's
first explore why it would be a worthwhile endeavor. First, I'd like
to clarify that this is not a technique for adding
another 'spiritual' behavior to our list. We do not need to put
another head on top of the one we already have, but need to somehow
get back to a truer state we have lost through years of conditioning.
In other words, we do not need another form of hypnosis or new way to
put ourselves further to sleep, but to find how to become un-
hypnotized, more awake. I have to assume if you've come this far that
you have reasons for engaging in spiritual work. Enough time spent
digging through the patterns and habits of the mind will eventually
lead one to the unflattering realization that one is mechanical, a
robot. I like to call this creature we find ourselves to be, a
SMAARP, a Self-Maintaining Accidental Associative Reaction Pattern.
Most of us start this journey to self-discovery convinced we are
smart SMAARPs, and it can take quite a few blows to our proverbial
fat heads before we realize we are mechanical, that the mind can
never solve the problem of self-definition by itself. We need help.
The listening attention is a door to going within, to re-connecting
with our inner man, to that part of us which Knows. Once we are
convinced of our robotic nature, we may come to see the value of
connecting once again with the intelligence that created us.
The silent passage to the inner world is always with us, it does not
need to be formed, just found, but we may need years of preparation
to see it. A great deal of self-analysis, 'work on one-self,' is
usually needed in order to get beyond the ego and its belief that the
mind and worded thoughts will lead us to the Real. A lifetime of
learned behaviors, emotional blocks, fears, self-doubts, and wishful
thinking need to be cleared away. We must reach a point where we can
slip behind our compensatory thinking patterns long enough to let
something real get through. All repressed emotional material and
debilitating drains on our energy must be dealt with, too. We will
need all our strength to face the unknown, alone and unarmed.
There will be much resistance to the attempt to go within. Our
physical needs must be met, giving us the thought that time
spent "doing nothing but listening" to be sheer folly. The need for
distraction in social endeavors, TV, movies, and other forms of
feeding the head, will need to be dealt with. Our family and friends
will most likely not share the value we place on finding a connection
to the Inner Self, as it does not bring an immediate material reward
and is not conducive to maintaining whatever psychological dramas
might be in place.
Perhaps the most effective resistance to our inner journey will not
come from outside, through society or family, but from our own fear
of the unknown. We may find we are both unwilling to let go of our
old way of being and not willing to take a chance on something new.
For most of us, some form of suffering or trauma is necessary before
we will trust our own inner guidance. Fear can block us at every
turn, until we take our meaning from within, from the present, and
release our mental hold on the projected past or imagined future.
These struggles of self-discovery are also necessary to find the
right individual method for the listening attention. I found that
moving about, through hiking and cross country skiing, to be the best
way for me. I could not sit still long enough to bring about the
inner relaxation needed, or else I would simply fall asleep. I know
of one man who would drive, spending hours behind the wheel of his
car because it would give his outer mind and body just enough to do
to allow his inner self the freedom to surface. If sitting in a chair
will work, great, it would sure save a lot of time and gas. Knowing
what body type and disposition we have is a great help in opening the
A good example of how this can happen was during one winter as I was
struggling to improve my cross-country skiing technique. I was caught
between the technical advice given by instructor friends and the
feeling that I knew what to do if I would just listen to the inner
voice instead. I finally decided to go with my instincts, and my
skiing quickly reached a new level of freedom and skill. Affirmation
was quick in coming, for one day as I was thumbing through a skiing
magazine, I noticed an article by a coach on what techniques the
fastest skiers used. The system he described was exactly the one I
had found, and had been discovered by his athletes in much the same
way. While this may hardly seem a momentous step in self-discovery,
it gave the clue that trusting my own intuition and inner guidance
was a good idea, and that rote learning through mimicking others
would not bring me any closer to learning to go within. Every one
must find his own portal into the listening attention through his own
experience and faith.
From the Mystic Missal [via January TAT forum]
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