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The path to enlightenment, step 3

July 15, 2006

Becoming aware of your senses seems to be crucial if you want to learn to stop your inner dialog. As long as it’s active, you are not only speaking, but also listening to yourself, losing awareness of what reaches you through your ears. This provides a good opportunity to do something against the dialog, but in an indirect way. Instead of trying to stop talking, you should try to stop listening.

Listen to your thoughts being narrated inside yourself. Then realize that you don’t want to listen to them, don’t want to be constantly distracted by this voice inside your head, and imagine that it’s turned down. And to fill the silence that takes its place, turn your attention to what you really percieve with your ears. When you succeed, try to keep this state, but don’t hold on too tight to it, just remind yourself every once in a while to listen to yourself, (willingly) notice that there’s nothing to hear inside and instead turn to the sounds coming from the outside.

The same is, of course, true for the sense of vision. Close your eyes and take a conscious look at the picture “before” or “inside” your eyes. Make sure that it is real, the normal colorful noise you see when you close your eyes, and not pictures or day-dreams (there’s nothing “evil” about days-dreams in general, just do this as an exercise). Get used to this feeling of the vision flowing to the inside in a calm, relaxed stream, then open your eyes and try the same while looking around.

A pair of relaxed eyes should have a field of view of about 180 degrees from side to side, and everything inside this angle is actually making its way through the lenses onto the retina. But tension and distraction allow only a part of this information to reach the consciousness. Try to relax your eyes, let them open (in particular up- and downward, also become aware of things in the periphery, e.g. your nose) and “suck in” whatever it is you’re looking at. But relaxed eyes can only go together with the relaxation of the facial musculature, so let it hang loose, especially the muscles below the eyes and around the outer corners. Find a neutral expression, don’t smile or scowl. The interesting thing is, that once it works, there’s a slight pull from the eyes down to the chest and maybe even further, that also brings a change of attitude to one that i’d call more humble. It’s as if you’d lower a shield that you’re holding in front of you, though i don’t know if it works for anybody else as it does for me.

So the basic idea of this step is to replace the synthetic perceptions of hearing and vision, which are the inner dialog and day-dreaming respectively, by what is actually coming in from your ears and eyes. My explaination of that’s going on is that you only have a limited ammount of attention, and whatever part of it you focus on the inside, is missing for the perception of reality around you. To be fully aware of your environment may at first feel strange and alien in its full intensity, but don’t let it scare you, there is no danger in it. The sense of hearing, in my opinion, takes a special place, because in any normal situation you’ll always hear something, and paying attention to the sounds around you keeps you in touch with reality in realtime. Vision is different here, what you’re looking at can stay the same for a long time and therefore doesn’t give you the sensation of the passage of time. And opening your ears also reduces the tendency to fall into tunnel-vision if you mainly use your eyes as the interface with the world and fill your ears with thoughts.

Another “attention hog” is the drive to make a good impression on, well, everybody, including youself. Of course it’s easily understood that we all want to appear in a favourable light, feel strong and be the best. But by trying to be all of this at once, all we achieve is tension, because we, of course, realize, that we’re not living up to our own fantasy of the superior human being. And we never will, so why not just relax, accept you as you are, and make yourself clear, that everybody else is feeling just the same. We don’t need to isolate ourselves from the people around us, they are not our enemies, but have their own problems to cope with, that are similar to ours. If you get a nervous look or a rude remark from somebody, don’t strike back, he/she is feeling as uncomfortable about the situation as you do. The only way to deal with these daily hostilities is to show compassion. And relax.

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From → Human nature

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