Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
It seems to me that one reason that pursuing an end leaves me enchained is that, as most of us soon learn, often what I think I want, ends up being not what I want at all! If that’s true, no wonder I suffer not only when I don’t get what I want, but even when I do.
In our last meeting someone brought up the relation between this principle and attention (what is now popularly referred to as mindfulness), or “being in theme” (being present), i.e. if you are walking, walk. If you are laughing laugh. If you are eating eat, and so on. As a slightly irreverent version has it:
‘never whistle while you are pissing (just piss)”.
This becomes clearer when I try to pay attention. “Try” being the operative word. If you’ve done this experiment (of trying to simply pay attention) than I suppose that, like me, you quickly discovered that normally you don’t pay attention. Worse than that, if you are honest and persistent, you may have found —like I did— that you can’t! At least not for more than moments, and it takes a very long time and very consistent work to get any better at it. On the other hand, with some careful and sustained work we can manage to gain clear registers of these varied but persistent states of inattention.
One might object: of course, I pay attention! How else could I do my job, or even cross a busy street. But in those situations I pay attention automatically (and still only briefly). It’s as if the attention is called out of me by the stimuli. It’s a very different proposition than when I try to reverse all that, i.e. rather than the stimuli reaching me, I want to go out toward the stimuli. Not because these demand my attention but because I wish simply to be attentive — to be present if you prefer. Personally, I prefer the term attention though it is misleading in certain respects (more about that another time).
Sleep and Awakening.
I think that it’s only with such attempts and then only gradually that this idea expressed in Chapter 6 of the Inner Look really starts to make sense: “Only rarely do I perceive reality in a new way, and it is then that I realize that what I normally see resembles sleep or semi-sleep”.
That verse concludes: “There is a real way of being awake, and it has led me to meditate profoundly on all that has been said so far. It has, moreover, opened the door for me to discover the meaning go all that exists.”
Step 1. The theory of reverie becomes more than a theory.
Paying attention in this way — without strain but gently focusing on what is going on, simply trying to be aware, you very soon, discover that stray images, ideas, internal dialogue, etc. quickly intrude. An uninvited thought, or image, initiates a chain of associations that takes my attention, and soon I’m lost in full blown day dreams. Let us call those images (with the underlying climates and tensions which they translate) “reveries”.
In Hot Pursuit of the Veggie Burger
If I study these reveries, as Silo taught us (see Self-liberation by Luis Amman), I discover that some are just passing images. We call these situational, or secondary reveries, because they compensate a temporary situation. For example, I’m hungry and an image arises to compensate the situation — in my case perhaps I find myself thinking of a veggie-burger (à chacun son goût) and jump to my feet to go out and find one. In this way resolving the sensations of hunger.