Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Attitude, from Above

Walden Pond near Thoreau's Hut

We think we may be beside ourselves in a sane sense. By a conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a torrent. We are not wholly involved in Nature. I may be either the driftwood in the stream, or Indra in the sky looking down on it. I may be affected by a theatrical exhibition; on the other hand, I may not be affected by an actual event which appears to concern me much more. I only know myself as a human entity; the scene, so to speak, of thoughts and affections; and am sensible of a certain doubleness by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another. However intense my experience, I am conscious of the presence and criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part of me, but a spectator, sharing no experience, but taking note of it, and that is no more I than it is you. When the play, it may be a tragedy, of life is over, the spectator goes his way. It was a kind of fiction, a work of the imagination only, so far as he was concerned. This doubleness may easily make us poor neighbors and friends sometimes (Walden, Life in the Woods, Ch. Solitude, Henry David, Thoreau, 1854).

The most relevant aspects of our life on earth are often the most subtle, however,  we hardly pay  attention to them. This is even more true with regard to what Henry Thoreau tries to point out here. What does it mean to be beside ourselves in a sane sense? What kind of sublte awareness is he pointing to? In the beginning he refers to an effort of the mind by which we can stay desidentificated from the distractions of life, as simple spectators, but he ends up being more explicit, mentioning an enigmatic doubleness. And experience tells this sense of doubleness implies much more than the mere action of our daily mind. What we look for belongs to a deeper ground; it is “contemplation from Above”,  namely, above the level of conceptual thinking and daily emotions. Seemingly, it only reaches down to us when our being opens up like a flower, welcoming pure impressions. 

Yet, all those truly involved in an inner practice know that the mind and the body together are many times unable to establish contact with such “depth”, because the organism lacks some energy. That´s the point where we should wonder: where do we put our attention? how do we spend the energy? in which situations do we waste it? Surely, if we lived as we should, the necessary “psychic fuel” would be more available, specially when it is more needed, and then the required quality of attention of the mind to itself, to the body and the world in general, would be possible. 
Some wise man said once we never ponder enough, that we never contemplate enough. For this reason, reflections and realizations are something to be always remembered.
Curiously, after a new infusion of life, we may feel eager to continue with silent contemplation and meditations daily, but even then we tend to forget there is something more important, and it is not exactly an effort of the body or the mind but a "lucid attitude" before which human life suddenly appears full of vanity and trifling delusions, that theatrical exhibition  alluded by Thoreau. A “right attitude” was precisely one of the eight aspects of the eightfold path shown by a teacher called Siddharta. Now it is our task to find and cultivate such a humble attitude. Perhaps it is the only way to access the “right attention” and “right understanding”. Needless to say, this attitude has nothing to do with “gaining”  or “achieving” some ideal peaceful state or any other gift for us. The distorted idea we have of ourselves is precisely the root of our delusions and selfish attitudes, which in the end are self-destructive. With them we can neither grow inwardly, nor forgive and bring light in the middle of an insane world. Reasonably, ancient myths and tales insist on telling that only the purity of the heart can lead to Reality.

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