World Work - Part 2
(Post Continued from HERE)
My awareness includes all of the beauty and all of the suffering in the world.
My attention is where I can focus on my World Work - the small but essentially important work I can do to lessen that suffering and to create more beauty.
It is a constant practice, this expanding of awareness and focusing of attention. Before delving into the dance, though, it is important to know the steps.
So what IS "awareness"? To me, the ultimate form of awareness is a form of enlightenment. It is being able to see and embody all perspectives in a nonjudgmental manner. It is Rumi's field.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
Of course, most of us will not achieve this form of awareness in our lifetime. So when I discuss awareness in the practical sense, it is a growing awareness. It is practicing seeing others' points of view and understanding them in a nonjudgmental manner. (i.e. their point isn't good nor bad.) It is delving into our own minds and seeing our memories, our actions, our expectations and everything we discover "in there" in the same nonjudgmental way.
*Note: I feel it is important to clarify here: "Nonjudgmental" means not getting attached to the "good, bad, or neutral" of a stimulus. It means being able to see the consequences of an action and existing in accordance with the consequences we desire (and likewise avoiding actions that create consequences we don't desire). In some ways, it is "being the change we wish to see in the world" (Ghandi). The depth of understanding this goes far beyond this post, but was important to clarify on some level.
And what is "attention"? It is a mindful focus on What Is. It is holding awareness - knowing that people are going hungry, that your mortgage payment is coming due, your friend is still struggling with their story, that you have a vacation coming up, that the fight you had with your loved one still isn't resolved - but not letting any of these things unconsciously guide you in this exact moment. It is a mindful presence with the only thing that truly exists - this Here, this Now.
This mindful attention is something that is noticeably lacking in our culture. I am far from being able to attend to the moment - as, I'd guess, are you. (If you don't believe me, try closing your eyes and breathing. Start counting your breaths ... 1 (inhale, exhale), 2 (inhale, exhale), 3.... Try to make it to ten simply focusing on your breath and the number. If you notice yourself thinking, start back with one. Most of us will not be able to make it to ten....or even three.)
This is something of which I was made painfully aware during a recent media fast. Without the constant stimulation of Facebook, websites, t.v., or even music, my mind started going crazy. I needed something - anything - to play with my attention. It was like a restless child that simply couldn't hold still and was whining for the next toy.
My World Work involves both awareness and attention. It involves integrating these practices with the practical world...not escaping from it. It also involves YOU. I am called not only to practice on my own, but to find and strengthen those who are ready to journey on this path as well.
This means that we must understand one another. We listen to stories and share our own. (Even kids can do this.) We don't judge whether that story is good or bad. It is ok to feel averse to or resonate with a story, but the second we hold judgment, we create a division. (If the story is negative, we see it as "other", "bad", and try to avoid that person or that story. If the story is positive, we often lose ourselves in it - trying to cling, attach to that person or that story.)
"There is not a single person who doesn't like to be listened to. This is why Twitter came about. They had this brilliant idea, if everybody can enter this space together and it can be like a machine gun of feeling like your voice is being expressed...this will take off. (*laughs*)" (Why (Not) Meditate?" with Ethan Nichtern and David Nichtern Part Two, http://theidproject.org/media)
This means that we must understand ourself. We become aware of our own thoughts and exist with them, again without judgment. We see what we consider our "failures" and "successes", we notice that which we cling to (our objects, where we want to be other than here, how much money or attention we want), and what we avoid (opinions of others that might be negative, physical discomfort). We find space and silence and move with all we discover.
This means that we must understand our world. We acknowledge our interconnectedness. We come to terms with that which we've had the luxury to ignore: that our trash doesn't "go away", that people are being abused and going hungry this very minute, that our natural resources can and will be completely depleted at this rate. We sit with the pain we discover. We see the beauty in the smallest blade of grass, inhale the breeze instead of rushing against it.
"...Having a sense of the ecology of your life, an awareness of what happens when you move through space. What happens when you decide you're hungry and I'll make a meal: Where did that food come from? And what happens to the dirty dishes afterwards? What happens to the water that washes those dishes?" (Explanation of Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows with Eric Spiegel, http://theidproject.org/media)
In this way, we practice awareness.
This means that we must be with What Is. The way your body feels right now, the conversation in which you are partaking, these very words that you are reading. Instead of trying to distract ourselves from discomfort, we learn to examine how it feels.
This means that we take responsibility for our actions. We understand that our actions - done unconsciously or not - have consequences. Those actions that we don't take also have consequences. We notice that every. single. moment. we are taking in and sending out energy into the world (via thought waves, our breath, words, simple presence, or actions). Because this moment is all we have, we don't fret over what we did before or over-stress about what we will do in the future. We focus on right now and clean the dish, eat the carrot, or absorb the words we are reading.
In this way, we practice mindful attention.
This is not an easy practice, this dance of awareness and attention.
And yet, it is a practice we must do. If our spirits are to come back to life, if our species is to stop destroying itself (and the environment around it), if We are to survive, we can no longer pretend that these concepts are luxuries.
Let's get a bit more personal: If you are ever to feel that what you have is enough, that you are contributing to the world instead of just taking from it, that who you are is a full and vital being - as is every other being on the earth - it is a practice you must do. No one else can do it for you.
Each of us, as our illusions fall away, come face-to-face with our World Work. We know who we are and what part we play in the whole. We understand what "now" is, even if we can't always stay with it. We feel the pain in ourselves - in the whole, interconnected body of who we are. And perhaps most importantly, we start to understand what we can do to ease that suffering.
"It becomes very much less about me versus them and much more about participating in the continual energy of life - such as the seasons, such as the tides, such as birth and all the stages of life and death." (Explanation of Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows with Eric Spiegel, http://theidproject.org/media)
I want to continue this conversation with you, much like it will be continuing within myself. I hope that you will find ways to make this information practical, much like I am working to strengthen and develop my own World Work through LifeUnity.
Every day, every moment - including the one you are having right now as you finish this post - is the only one that Is. We practice - expanding our awareness, mindfully focusing our attention, stumbling and trying again.
As always, here's to the journey.