Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Forget meaning, practice being

"...Bare attention, Buddhism calls it, a pinnacle of meditation, a path to freedom from pain and suffering - not by fleeing the world, but being fully available to it.

Disponibilité, André Gide named a related attitude. (Availability, Receptiveness, in French)

Phenomenologists label their version of "bare attention" phenomenological reduction. But it's interesting how many of the world's religions and philosophies urge us to live in each silvery moment, while resisting the temptation to skim over, take for granted, or ignore the impromptu sensations that give life its vigor.

Forget meaning, this attitude says; practice being.

Feats of disciplined awareness wouldn't be necessary if we weren't in such a hurry to die and shed the burden of the senses, those permanent houseguests that keep us tipsy or tormented throughout our lives. Slow down, our sages advise, slow all the way down to the pace of stone and shadow.

How long can you watch sunlight flash across threads of spider silk stretching between two limbs of an evergreen? How long after the tree appears to be full of tinsel? Can you observe it longer than that, with continuous pleasure and surprise, but without remembering a Christmas? Without planning gifts or visits? This is the tinsel test.

Poets tend towards bare attention naturally, and are usually able to address one facet of the world with such devotion that, as Blake described it from the depths of his own supple vision, it is possible to "see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour. (

Page 266, A Slender Thread, Rediscovering Hope at the Heart of Crisis', Diane Ackerman

No comments:

Blog Archive