Interest & Attention

I began this morning’s session working on the week’s theme:  Concentration. And I thought to concentrate on something “outside” of myself. I sat facing my little meditation table stacked with an eclectic assortment of incense holders, rocks, malas, and statuettes. And a burning candle. I immediately began to chuckle because I couldn’t decide on what I should focus my concentration.  The dancing Shiva is lovely, but quickly became too meaningful. The little green elephant incense holder reminded me of my son and how he was so obsessed with elephants as a small boy. The little bronze Buddha was given to me by a friend and that holds all kinds of connotations. In other words, everything I had to focus my concentration was so loaded that my mind and imagination quickly jumped to memories, associations, and became caught in the stories they held. I settled on a rock – not a smooth, pristine, white, nor black marble, but a run of the mill rock I absent-mindedly picked up one day and plunked there for no better reason than to put it somewhere.

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I concentrated on the rock.

I stared at the rock. Nothing.  No familiarity. No associations. No recognition even that I was looking at something. There was nothing there.  And then I realized that nothing was becoming something.  No Thing. I was beginning to relate to the rock as something – which is no thing.  This brought me to what is called “emptiness”.  And I remember the heart sutra:  “Form does not differ from Emptiness; And Emptiness does not differ from Form. Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is form.”

Concentration has led me here.

As a performer I have some experience with concentration and how it works with presence.  Presence we often say is the result of interest and attention.  A person who is interested, and a person who is paying attention cultivates a kind of presence in performance.  It also cultivates a presence in the object of attention.  If I am interested in this rock, then the rock is interesting. This is dangerous territory I know, but I’m staying with the rock.  I quickly begin to notice the cracks, the chips, the dimples, the pockets of encrusted dirt.  I see the gray veins running irregular patterns, the blotches of dingy white and imperfect brown-blacks.  I begin to feel the enormous history impressed in this little rock.  How long has it been kicked around? How long did it take to be made? It was probably much older than I am.  Now the relationship was getting interesting and I was feeling something for this rock.  It was teaching me if only I could stay with it.  Am I caught in a story?  Maybe.  Am I still with the rock?  Definitely. Is it still a rock? Yes. The rock brings me back to my own attention.  In fact, all that is happening in here. It is happening in my attention.  All there is suddenly is happening out of my own interest and attention.

Maybe close my eyes and breath tomorrow.


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