Tao and Zen of Paying Attention

“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.” – Keanu Reeves

For me there are two places from which to notice and pay attention. One is paying attention to what the sense input registers. The moon in the windy night, the sunrise, the joy animals take in life, that bit of orange fungus on the rock, the way a person communicates silently. There are many ways that I can directly experience my life just by being in the vicinity of my body and taking in the environment. The smell of honeysuckle doesn’t need a label for me to fall in love with it, just take it in. Nor does it need a label for me to reject it, that will be apparent on inhale.

The other place is attention on our stream of thought and what it relates about the senses. I don’t see the moon, I pay attention to the internal stories about the moon. The attention is on rising thoughts about experience, not the experience itself.

The first is direct attention to sense input, the second is a detour that sense input takes through the stream of thought where we absorb labels, opinion, conclusions, attitudes, and conjecture.

There are no right and wrong ways to perceive. In Zen and Tao the emphasis is on direct sensing that opens up a wide attention to everything in proximity. Everything is the way it’s perceived with nothing added. But that doesn’t mean it’s superior or better than experiencing things filtered through the stream of thought. Both are viable ways to experience. I think that balance between the two is what’s missing, and it’s why Zen and Tao evolved. To make sure we don’t leave our wonderful ability to directly sense that exquisite miracle that life presents when we are paying attention.

Life is so worth paying attention.

Be well,

Bryan Wagner

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