In my previous blog ‘The core secret of mindsight – Get out of your own way‘, I explored the notion of doing less to gain more, a fundamental principle in mindsight training. In this blog we are exploring three pairs of opposites students often confuse with each other, and that can get in the way of our getting out of our own way. The three pairs of opposites are ignoring versus suppressing or pushing away, surrendering versus giving in, and faith and belief.
In advanced meditation training, we learn to clearly delineate what we call the scope of our attention, which is how wide or narrow the attentional focus is. For example, our focus of attention can be wide, when it includes the somatic sensations in our whole body, or narrower, when it includes somatic sensations in the left foot only, or somatic sensations in the whole body related to the breath only. This variation in focus size is the attentional scope. To delineate it clearly, we not only need to cultivate the powerful intention to strongly aim and then intensely sustain our attention on the focus. We also need to ignore distractions that want to ‘knock at the door’ of our attentional scope, in order to intrude and monopolize attention. Here is where confusion sometimes kicks in, as students don’t know the difference between ignoring on one hand, and suppressing, repressing or pushing away on the other.
Ignoring only means not giving the distraction any energy, and it does not mean investing additional energy in making it disappear or push it away. Metaphorically, we only make sure that people with a parking card can access our parking lot, and don’t worry about preventing them from checking it out and trying to get in. The subtlety is profound, because it maintains the focus of our intention on what we can control, intending to aim and sustain attention, not on what we cannot, the appearance and strength of distractions. We stop making unnecessary mental noise as we calmly observe.
We can only control how we pay attention and what we pay attention to, not what appears in the awareness field. By not trying to interfere with what arises in the awareness field, a futile endeavor anyway, but simply anchor ourselves in the power of clear view, we get out of our own way by allowing the energy and information flow to unfold unfettered before our alert eyes with curiosity and acceptance.
What I just described is a form of surrender – to the wise principle of only controlling what in fact we can control. From this observation it becomes clear that surrender is an active act of wisdom designed to align ourselves with the laws of nature and not fight against them. Surrendering means to not try to push the river you cannot push anyway, and use your precious energies for what you can influence. It comes with strength and a peaceful state of mind quite free from suffering. This active act of wisdom entails knowledge of course, a contextual, left-right-brain-integrated knowledge of reality’s complexities we call faith. Surrender and faith are twins and reinforce each other. To have faith means to know the unseen, be transparent to the non-conscious and be informed about the limitless human capacity for self-deception. We then realize that what appears is never what is, and engage in the task of surrendering to the totality of the context that is larger than ourselves.
Giving up is quite the opposite of surrendering. It is the consequence of exhaustion due to the foolishness of trying to control the uncontrollable. It is a suffering state of mind created by misinformed, deluded and distorted views of reality that never match what we aspire to. When we give up, we passively accept defeat in the face of ignorance, instead of actively learning from retreat when it is the wise thing to do. Suffering is ignorance, of course, invariably based on erroneous beliefs. Giving up and belief are also twins that reinforce each other. To believe is the act of disavowing wisdom for the convenient shortcut of conditioned ignorance, giving one’s power up to an arbitrary external authority. We remain stuck in confusing the appearance of things for reality, and therefore condemned to a relentlessly painful tunnel vision.
Ignoring distractions for the sake of alert clarity and surrendering to the inevitable laws of existence for the sake of harmonious peace, both contribute to the basic process of getting out of our own way for the purpose of Being.
Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Stéphane Treyvaud. All rights reserved.