May I Have Your Attention?
Getting off track and daydreaming or entering a scattered mind state seems like an epidemic. From screen watching news to sports to politics to ads of every stripe and color, we find our attention has been taken hostage leaving us superficially involved in just about…well…news and sports and politics and stuff to buy.
When I think about it, I wonder how much all the constant availability online has interfered with our ability to concentrate making work as devotion a Herculean prospect.
There is data out there suggesting multi-tasking is bad for the brain. But that data is just another part of the interference. We weigh and measure and sort until the cows come home, we are left scattered and live a life of mind-jumping from one online get-together to email-checking to video watching. On and on the interest on the eternal world of stuff and others drains our energy and at times makes us anxious, fretful and lost in the sound bites.
A perfect description when we emphasize the bite. Yes, it takes a chunk out of our attention bite-by-bite leaving us worn out. This situation is especially important for spiritual aspirants who want to concentrate, focus, meditate and reflect on interior world of the spirit.
I for one want to ply a practice that will organize the scatter, end the daydreaming and end the sound bites that are so distracting. I want to offer an ancient understanding of practice; to work as devotion. That’s it. In order to practice to work as devotion we have to be able to use our mental powers to choose to stop the sound biting bug and turn our inner power to concentration and unselfish acts of work.
Much of what I am going to say comes from a 90 day retreat last year on this very subject.
Let me start with a quote.
It is pure arrogance to attempt to decide what is supposed to be part of a retreat experience and what isn’t.
We just don’t know what will show up. I don’t know what is supposed to happen but I do know that this is true for every day of our life.
And yet, we get up thinking we do know and how we wish the day to go. It is arrogant to think we are in charge of what happens. Our arrogance causes suffering. After all, this world pervaded by the Eternal Power is not the cause of suffering, laying claim to a thing is the cause of sorrows. And it can be anything.
When we look to do, to finish, to get and to keep a thing we suffer because we are in delusion. The delusion that we think and function as though we are the doer, finisher, getter and keeper.
Pause for just a moment and ask yourself if you are the power that put you together (birth) and keeps you together (death).
There is a sufi saying fiha ma fiha which captures the essence of our situation. It translates into IT is what IT is. Whatever comes our way we meet it with courage and big-open-handed generosity not with judgment and criticism. When we presuppose or wish the day to be a certain way, according to our plan in our head, we are bound to disappointment. Really. We bind our mind to suffering.
Facing the work of our life as devotion is a practice that gives us an opportunity to relinquish our arrogance and to meet what comes as a fish swims in the vastness of the ocean or a bird flies in the expanse of the sky; not knowing what might show up we swim with the flow and fly with the wind.
Here is a chant worth repeating on a daily basis. It is quite old, a 13th century encounter by Dogen with an old Chan cook, who was a monk. I offer it as a practice. To chant it every morning. To memorize it. To practice paying full attention to all the work you do. To work as devotion.
May all beings be free of suffering.
OM NAMO GURU DEV NAMO
Author: Fashi Lao Yue
ZATMA is not a blog.
If you are interested in doing a silent retreat or for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org