Paying Attention

by Mary Rocamora, M.A.

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     Paying close attention all the time is the most important element in achieving a sustainable free state of awareness. Being aware only when we are grabbed by the throat when our most painful patterns are up is really insufficient for Personal and Transpersonal Journey work. But how can we best cultivate this all important skill?

     Initially, the issue of paying attention is focused on being able to recognize contrasting states — when we are trapped in something that feels old, familiar and repetitive, and when we feel free and present and can recognize more about what is really there to be lived in the moment. The way we want to pay attention is to slow things down so more can be seen. It is by recognizing contrasting states, especially if the context is the same, that we develop the ability to exercise choice and willingness. For example, Judy gets notice of an unanticipated audit from the IRS and the old fear and anger pattern strikes. The next time news of the upcoming audit arrives, she is present and takes the news in stride. From the contrasting states in the same context, she can see which feels trapped and which feels free, and which feels more natural.

     Then it’s on to paying attention to explore and expose the larger and pervasive Ego pattern. Paying attention to Ego involves slowing down even more and turning up the volume so we can hear exactly what we are telling ourselves, even the subtle voices. Paying attention to Ego also requires us to see how life is being limited by our beliefs, judgments, stories, and mind chatter. Paying attention when we’re present is the key to developing sustainability.

     It becomes even more challenging to pay attention when we voluntarily begin to explore the view from the open heart. To offset the tendency of Ego to co-opt what Awareness has seen, each moment has to be felt into as a fresh, new moment so the real feeling in the heart can be experienced right now. For example, if the heart feels like love a lot of the time, Ego might decide, “Oh, an open heart always feels like love.” Then other heart feelings could be missed. Paying attention also involves catching Ego’s sneaky attempts at bargaining (“I’ll be open with Sam but not with Joan because she’s so needy”), resisting (“This work will turn me into a doormat”), asserting the right to pick and choose (“I want to feel joy but I don’t want to feel grief”) and other such distortions.

     The ultimate purpose of paying attention is to get us to the point where we are in a sustainable free state. Then more can be seen about how the free state is constructed and what is actually there. A deeper sense of what Now is about emerges and the journey of the heart expands and refines. The uniqueness of each human being becomes more fully accessible.