2022-08-07 Five Faculties of Attention
1:41AM Aug 8, 2022
And then I'm probably clear to speaking this way. Not so muffled. So. So welcome everyone Nice to have you here and be together this way. And to be there for a little bit of a celebration about, you know, the whole pandemic time to see so many people coming back to IMC this way and coming sitting in community. And I really appreciate the chance to practice together and be this way. So thank you for being here. So the central feature of this mindfulness practice is attention. And attention is maybe a number of different faculties, we have different capacities we have that come together under this umbrella term attention. And I'm aware of, in this modern kind of technological, Lee centered world that many of us live in, there is a fair amount of conversation now about how there's a lot of a lot of money and a lot of effort and a lot of intelligence that goes into tricking human beings attention, and capturing people's attention, the more clicks you can do, or the more you will serve, the more you'll then be consumed, or the more all kinds of things that happen. And so to get people's attention and keep it on their monitor and their screen, there's a whole industry for it. And many of us participate willingly with that whole enterprise and maybe spend hours a day sometimes on the monitor and, and sometimes even, you know, caught by the News caught by this meet Social Media caught by, you know, the advertisements are what you know, searching for something. And there's a feeling among some people who are studying this, that it's, it's a problem for our society that so many people's attentions are captured and, and be pulled along. And if you go along willingly, can even feel like you're so free, I can just go along it just anywhere where I'm going to go I can just go freely into the surfing the web and but in fact, it's not that free the mind. In a sense, the Buddha 2500 years ago was addressing the same issue. But what was capturing the mind was not social media, but in monitors but rather was desire desires in the in the human mind. The desires in one form or other would hijack our attention, take it over, or it was the tension get pulled into sometimes a black hole of desire of wanting something or not wanting something kind of Flipside. And from a Buddhist analysis, the, we don't want to put the responsibility or the blame on those people on the other side of the monitor who are dreaming up all the ways to capture our attention. And from Buddha's point of view, you're responsible for your attention. And, and certainly, probably there should be a lot of changes in what social media media and computers are presented to the world. But still in Buddhist point of view, is we're responsible for it. And we probably the same problem as it was time to the Buddha and it somehow or other desires, were aversions were caught in the grip of it and pushes our attention. Sometimes our attention is hot, held hostage or hijacked by the strong forces of the mind. And as I said earlier, it can be feel the same way that if you, you can give yourself over to your desires, your aversion so completely, that it can feel I'm so free. It's like given an you know, an unlimited credit card to spend, you know, you can feel like so free to go into the shopping mall and just buy, buy, buy everything you know, and, and it's too much for your carry, that's okay, because you have a credit card, you just buy gets Sherpas to carry everything for you or the equivalent by the robots, they're going to kind of follow you around and carry everything back with you. So just because you're so free, right? It's so great to be free. When you sit down to meditate, you discover that that kind of mind is not that free. You find that the mind sits down, you want to just do the simple thing of sit down and be present in the present moment. Maybe be present for the breathing. And in fact,
the mind doesn't want to do that the mind has a mind of its own. And in a certain way, it's not your mind anymore. It's not the mind that You have some control over some authority over some choice over, you can pull away pulled away pulled away. And it's a powerful lesson to meditate to see that, to see how not free the mind is. Whereas we thought we were free the other way. Now, do you have a choice, one choice is to go back to the old way. You know, and in a sense, when we are on the web, if you have a monitor to look at, and the web to be connected to, it's almost like you have unlimited, you know, credit card, you have unlimited, and no money, you can't buy anything, certainly, but you just think you have unlimited ability, just search, search, search, search, and feel free but but hopefully, when people meditate, or another kind of ways, even just going for a walk in a park or just having a Sabbath day and doing nothing, we start reclaiming our capacity to be be at home and ourselves and not have the mind incessantly searching, wanting doing. But mind becomes some profound meaningful rest and ease. And it's a kind of reclaiming the mind rediscovering the mind or the heart, if you prefer, even ourselves. And some people are really out of touch with themselves because of the monitors before you know they work on monitors, they spend all their time on monitors and, and this kind of a way of being disconnected. And to reclaim ourselves or reconnect to ourselves to find ourselves discover what freedom means in some deep inner way. Where we feel like the mind has become our friend, the mind has become our companion, and, and support for the fullness of our life. So disk, so attention then becomes the medium, the means for freedom, because it's how we use attention is a measure of where the freedom and the lack of freedom is. And so attention is mindfulness. And so we're developing this capacity to be mindful for the purposes of this freedom, that is a reclaiming of ourselves of coming back to ourselves and being able to breathe easily again, freely again and openly. And I don't know, maybe I shouldn't say again, because some of the ways that we the deeper ways we discover select for the first time that we find this way. So for the cultivation of this attention, the in our practice, we consider that it's an ecology of the mind or ecology of the heart that's operating, meaning there are different faculties, mental faculties that are operating, that are cooperating and participating in this endeavor in this task of setting the awareness free or reclaiming it. And appreciating that this, there's an ecology, there's all these different pieces of the mind, that are support that support attention, and which attention cultivates and develops. And so this, what I'm going to talk about today, the ecology is something called the Five faculties. And the five faculties are five functionings of the mind five, kind of processes of the mind or of our inner life if the mental world seems to mental, a very inner inner life that we all operating. In fact, they're operating for you right now, just like their strange, mystical kind of states to be listening to me these are operating. And, and you know, your capacity, be attentive, is being tested here as I give a talk. Because you're either attentive because you want to be or because it's so fascinating. What I'm saying is you're captivated and caught. I mean, this this story I'm telling and the drama and the muscle, you know, you're just waiting an edge of your seat for the resolution of this fantastic talk, right? And you're just kind of caught, maybe. But, but, or your mind is drifting off in thought.
And your mind is lost. Or maybe you've decided that you're thinking about the really good Jeopardy questions. And that's the best use of your time sitting here. Not listening to me, but you know, coming up with a Jeopardy question. So you've made this choice. That there are this very thing I'm talking about the ecology of attention is operating here, while you're attentive while you're living here. And you might want to listen just enough to us to then reflect back. How's it operating for you now? Are any of these factors? How are they living in you now, as you're listening. So I'll first kind of just name the five faculties. And then I'll kind of talk about them in different ways, maybe more creatively than just the classic language, how they're described. So most commonly, in English, they're described as a faith, energy, or effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. And what I want to highlight first, is that the importance that appear mindfulness is in the middle, it's the third factor. And the first two factors, faith, whatever faith is, this energy or effort, they're considered to be activating energizing. Faith is meant to be inspiring to bring energy. That's the function of faith in this practice. The fourth and fifth than the other side of the middle mindfulness is concentration, and wisdom, both of which are supposed to help with a settling with a freeing with a relaxing with a distressing. And, and so they're activating and settling kind of qualities. And it says that mindfulness in the middle helps the bouncing those into balance. As mindfulness develops, these other four qualities can follow in the wake, they get stronger as mindfulness gets stronger. But also works the other way, that the other four are the foundation that we create that we bring in, that supports mindfulness, like scaffolding we built for have a lighthouse on top, so the lighthouse can see and spread light in all directions. So these four other four, as they become strong, helps her support and hold up the awareness. So it becomes strong, and for us as well. So it begins and so on the on the big of the list begins with the Pali word saddhā, which is most commonly English is translated as faith. I like to think of it as wholeheartedness, what you put your heart into, you know, what we put our heart, what we put our heart into doing, what we do wholeheartedly what's what our heart wants to do in our life is really important. I don't think if you really asked your heart to wait, what are you going to put to wholeheartedly put your heart into, because you really would love it are really meaningful for you. It's probably not going home to your monitor to your device. And in search Amazon, for the wonderful things you can buy. And what's on sale. That's probably you might the desire might want to do that there's energy there for it. But it's not the whole if you really tap into the what you you want to put your heart into, it's probably not that what we put our heart or what we do wholeheartedly when we put our kind of to, you know, our whole self into what's really valuable, what feeds us and makes the heart sing. What is that? And so that's what I associate with this word saddhā Faith. There's some idea that in the centuries before the Buddha, the word saddhā meant hospitality, which also is a very nice and the idea that what you're willing to be a host for what you're willing to be present for invite come here. So what you have put yourself into a wholeheartedly with your attention. Where do you want to put your attention at what's important for you? And and what do you want to be the host for that kind of goes hand in hand because the idea in meditation at least is to put your your attention wholeheartedly, to be claim yourself, to be here for yourself with yourself.
To reclaim this attention, this is important. And then in doing that, because be the faith to have the faith that it's appropriate to be the host to be hospitable to all things that occur occur. Faith is kind of since I use the word wholehearted for it. It's the more the emotional, most emotional quality of the five faculties. So there's an emotional quality of inspiration. It's very that's why it's energizing. We're inspired By this, wow, I can't do it yet. But if this is what's going to, I'm going to find my freedom, set my attention free, reclaim my attention for myself. That's good, I want to do that this is important. And then the next one, the effort part is to work is to put some energy into this, you do not to have a good idea, I think this is a good idea to be wholeheartedly present. But yeah, I'm going to do this, I'm going to, you know, really give myself to it. So the engagement, the non conventional idea that I like to associate with this word is to inhabit, to inhabit our aliveness to inhabit what we're doing. And I like this for myself, because then it's more than just a mental thing. You know, meditation just bring your attention to pay attention to know what's happening. But to inhabit for me is to be embodied, to kind of be present in a fully embodied way. I'm here with this experience. And there's more faculties of attention than just what's goes on in the mind. The part of the faculty of attention, it are all the sense endings, the nerve endings that tap for sensations in our body. And they're just as important for embodied fully developed attention is any capacity of the mind to recognize, oh, that was a sound, that there's a sound outside, for example. There's also the whole embodied sensory apparatus that takes in that sound. We haven't had it for a while, but occasionally, it's really great to have these cars strike down to have the really deep bass boombox, because then it really feels like this is embodied listening. You know, the whole body shaking and even the building shake sometimes. And so in the ancient language and the Buddha, the I don't think he associated with effort or engagement with energy, with you know, really in a beating and habit and habit, your experience, he associated with courage. So to do something to his courageously, and sometimes this practice requires that to some learn the kind of little courage. And then I love the idea that courage comes from the French word heart, so that we're not, don't get that we don't feel like we're striving or anything, you know, or kind of overriding what's happening, but to really creatively show up for ourselves and feel what's here, be with it. And that's hard sometimes, right? our emotional lives are difficult and challenging, and, and so to do this practice. So that's what we put energy into. Then on the other side of mindfulness, there is concentration. And concentration is probably not the best translation for Samadhi. Samadhi is often associated with tranquility. It's also associated with letting go, a lot of letting go. So one of the first lessons I had when I went to Thailand to do this practice here. Like the first evening, I was first there to engage in the practice, I was at a monastery and I was talking with some of the monks and and they were a little bit critical of concentration practice. And they were saying, oh, that's, that's just about letting go. As if that's nothing if a small thing. But the idea was that to develop deeper states of concentration has more to do about letting go than it is about laser focusing your attention. And so this letting go. And the word that I like to associate with concentration, that's a translation of an ancient teaching is to be settled.
Concentration is to be settled on your experience. And so now you feel how it's the idea of settling, letting go relaxing, the tranquility, how concentration is, is the calming effect of the five faculties. So we inhabit and engage, we're inspired. But that can be too much sometimes. And that comes into balance with relaxing with the settling with letting go and bringing those into proper balance is the art of mindfulness. If we let go and relax too much, you fall start falling asleep and the mind wanders off too much. We need the engagement we need the ends abrasion, the clarity. And so we're navigating the psychology, inner ecosystem and figuring out which one to bring forth. And then the fifth one is wisdom, which has a lot to do with having insight, or really seeing in the present moment, not wisdom that you carry with you. It's like you read a book. And now you think you have all the wisdom you need, because you have this knowledge, though, it's really think the word insight probably works better to translate punya in the sense that it emphasizes what you're seeing and understanding in the lived experience of the moment. So that's where the wisdom is in the lived experience of what do I see now. And one of the primary forms of insight here and now that this is an enterprise is about is to be able to recognize the difference between stress and not stress, the difference between when we are adding stress to our mind, to our body to our heart, and to know that the possibility of not adding that stress, stress is not healthy, healthy, and long term. Stress is not where freedom of attention is discovered. We don't reclaim the fullness and the ease of ourselves by being stressed. And so rather than thinking of wisdom as being this complex, you know how to get it, get a book on Buddhist philosophy to understand the ins and outs, the depths of, you know, Buddhist wisdom, it's actually it's always something very simple what's being discussed here, but wisdom, so maybe we can see and know for ourselves. And one of the primary ways to say it, and modern, simple ballistic terms, is to be able to have wisdom insight to see clearly, when what we're doing is stressful. And to know that we don't have to do that, we might not be able to stop it. So don't add stress on top of stress. But didn't see that to know that is to start having wisdom. Oh, I'm striving and pushing, I'm resisting here. All that is stressful. Okay, so now I have to be aware of this, be attentive to that, to know that at least, I have wisdom. I don't know what to do about it. But at least I have wisdom about it. Another form of wisdom is to that becomes more and more important as the practice becomes as the capacity for attention becomes stronger, is to have more and more clarity, about how moment by moment. And you want to emphasize that moment by moment. Our experience is constantly changing. And why that is important, is then we're really see that, then we're willing to kind of maybe surf on it, as opposed to hold it like it's one way this is the way it has to be. This is the like one of the Mayas, my delusions has been sometimes I've arrived. This is how it is supposed to be, you know, in meditation, for example, okay? Finally, I'm concentrated, this is it. Or finally I feel, you know, feel some sense of calm and relaxed and happy. I've got it made. Don't breathe, you'll mess it up.
And, but really, life is more like being on a surfboard, you finally caught the wave. You don't say this is it, you have to be very attentive to the changing natures of the wave to be able to stay on the board or on a bicycle. Maybe that's better example for some of you that are surfboard is, you know, you don't ever say like, now I got it made on the bicycle. Like don't move. You know, it's, you know, you're constantly navigating, negotiating and shifting your weight and justing the, you know, everything. It's so to really start appreciating the the, the intimacy of changing nature of experience here and now, then attention, this whole enterprise of the five faculties are involved in not fixating on anything, because any fixation is stress. So, as if the faith is in the forefront, this is a so I'm so inspired by this, or this is what I realized now what's most important for me and what I'm willing to put my wholehearted attention in, not necessarily the activities you do, but rather how you do those activities. And that's the secret of Buddhist practice, I think, is not what you do. But how When you do it, that's where this inner freedom is really found. And that's why when we do mindfulness meditation, it's not exactly the meditation that's important. Like, don't think you have to become a great meditator. But rather, it's what you're learning about how you use attention. And as you learn how to use your attention and meditation in this simple laboratory, then it'll start spilling out into your life. And then when you go home to wash your dishes, or clean the kitchen floor, it isn't about the kitchen, getting the floor clean as quickly as you possibly can, so you can get back on your monitor. It's discover that you reclaim yourself, your freedom is found in being fully present for Washington, the kitchen floor, as if there's nothing else to do on the whole world. There's no stress about the next thing. There's no stress about why do I have to do the kitchen floor? You know, I didn't I do with last week. You know, it should, I should choose what somebody else should be doing it. These are all ways that interfere with just inhabiting. Being wholehearted, being relaxed and settled, letting go. Not adding stress, seeing where the non stress is, and washing the kitchen floor, being present with attention for this activity. And by the time you're finished doing the floor, it's like wow, that was great. Not because the floor is great, not because the pinnacle activity is like the greatest thing invented by human beings. But because of what you brought to it, how you were with it. That's the trick. And that's what happens after a while this, the freedom of mindfulness practice is portable, into anything that you do, where what you do is less important than how you do it. And it's unfiltered, what you do is important. And you might love doing some things more than others. But the wholeheartedness the faith, the where we inhabit. Where we where we are settled, is in how we are with our attention, how we are present with our attentiveness for what we're doing. So you might consider how there's a way of being wholehearted in the attentiveness you bring to what you do. That's easier to do. If you don't equate what you're doing with the attentiveness. Some things are hard to be inspired to do in and of themselves. But what's inspiring is the attentiveness by which you engage with them. Some of you have probably have been parents. Some of those things we have to do are not inspiring. At all
the things I had to do as a parent I never dreamt that I had to do. I remember one day I should have made maybe shouldn't tell you this, but one of the big surprises was when my kid was really young and he was still sick and he started throwing up, I quite got to know what to say, without any horror, any disgust, I just put my hands together in the cup them to receive the vomit. It just seemed like the most natural thing to do. Anyway, so occasionally, occasionally, you know, occasionally we have to do things which you know, are not necessarily something you would think ahead of time wholeheartedly, but it's the, it's how we do it. That becomes you know, so to be present for whatever wholeheartedly. To be proud to inhabit the energy factor. To discover to be attentive to really attend to I like that the attention kind of means to attend to to really attend to with our capacity to be present to know to do it in a way that's at ease for them. I like the word ease and this is almost a synonym of koan. It's a tradition, to do it with relaxing and ease, letting go. Letting go of what letting go of what we learn with our wisdom. Letting Go, wisdom shows us where there's stress that we carry. And over time as the practice develops for us, we see more and more. We're all the stress lives in our body, and our eyes and our jaws, and our hands, in our belly, in our minds, and our brains, all these different places. And we learn to not give into that stress, we learn to relax it. These are five faculties that you have that whether you know it or not, were somehow present here listening to this talk. Maybe some of them were in short supply. Maybe they're all present in a wonderful way. But I hope that it at least gives you some idea of what we're, you know, the landscape of what mindfulness is about kind of the terrain, the map of the different faculties that were coming into play. It might seem like a lot to keep in mind five different things. But you're using them all the time. Anyway. And as you become more aware of this, and first, it might be like riding a bicycle, it's awkward, and feels like you're now even more stressed out because you have to keep all these things in mind. But as you keep doing this practice, you'll see these things become stronger and become more second nature. And it becomes so sometimes it becomes like, Oh, this one's a weak or this one's overdone. I think I'm trying too hard here. Or I think I'm, you know, I could use a bit more inspiration here. Where's What do I what do I feel wholehearted about what's really important for me? And realizing what that is? Does that bring me some more juice to being here, attentively finding my freedom in my attentiveness. So that's my talk. May the five faculties be a treasures be five treasures for you, that you realize are in you can be your wealth. So thank you. And it's we have a few minutes before the official attending for the talk, we can maybe take five minutes or so if any of you have any comments or questions. And then afterwards, after that, I'll invite all of you is will go out in that and continue having a discussion in the in the parking lot outside, we take the folding chairs out and sit in a big circle. And we can take off our masks out there if you want. And, and we just have an open discussion. But before we go out if any questions, comments now that many of you would like to ask your.
Hi, thanks for your talk. So what I've been thinking was, I feel as my practice deepens, I start to notice more things. Maybe when talking to people, we start to notice patterns of thoughts that they have. And they're not like asking for help, or anything. But you can tell it seems like a trap somehow. And I still don't know how to navigate that. Like, they're not asking for advice. And is that something that you should like? Tell them? So they are aware of
or? Oh, I see. So what you're saying is that you're as you're becoming more mindful in understanding your inner landscape better, you now understand other people better. And you see, for example, that they're whatever they're doing now how they're talking or how they're engaging, that they're involved, for example, in a stressful way. And so should you, you know, poke them and say, Hey, you
not that way.
Yeah, I understand. I know, I know. I apologize. I didn't I wasn't at all implying that you're not all pipelined yet. You were you were that that's what you meant. But so the first thing that occurs to me to tell you this is the story when I was I was first doing this practice regularly. I saw how people were so caught up in their game Ego games, you know, and wanting to wanted to get some people wanted to be get praised or back then the language was stroked. And, and, and I didn't want to play the games anymore. So I had a girlfriend, and wonderful woman who wasn't the practitioner. And so I didn't want to, you know, play those games. And so the relationship ended. And many years later, what I realized was that I had some wisdom axioms, I think how things were operated was some wisdom about not participating in it. But what I lacked was compassion. And so I didn't, I didn't care for her, I didn't understand her suffering and understand how, what how I was being was actually, because she wasn't a practitioner, she had no idea what was happening, that it actually probably added suffering to her rather than talking her way. So you want to be clear with if you see something and others, that they're ready to hear it that they want to hear it that it's welcomed, almost invited, that it's useful. And you're doing it out of care. And it's the right time to do it says things like that.
Thank you, that sounds kind of the answer. I've been found. I found, like with compassion, and it's almost like an art form on Yeah, when and how, yeah, thank you.
And don't underestimate how valuable it is to be present for people to listen to people. And, you know, the inner system of human beings, shifts and changes towards hell. When there's a lot of attention, we, when we give attention to ourselves, this whole thing I'm talking about today, of really growing attentiveness to our life tends to shift and move things towards health. When we bring a lot of listening and a lot of attention, just just listen to be present. For other people, it tends to move them towards health, too. So don't underestimate how useful that is, even though you might see that person is stressed out. Rather than telling them that offer them the kind of caring, simple, relaxed attention that maybe helps something in them to relax. And then they might learn eventually on their own, they'll recognize it's a very good question, but and I just scratched the surface of all the answers. So there's a question here.
Thank you, Gil, this was an extremely valuable session for me anyway, along the line of the threat as a gentleman initiated. There are times when people ask for advice, but they really don't want the advice. So I think perhaps part of the wisdom is recognize when there is a room for advice to be given. And when there is just simply supporting and actively listening and just being there for them. How do you feel about that?
I didn't qualify, let me see. So you're talking about when when people ask for advice, or when they don't ask for advice?
Well, sometimes they actually do ask for advice. But then you find out later that this really did not want the eyes, they just
say Yeah, well in there's in Japanese, then there's a little thing or instructions or something. When someone asks you a question that I think they mean, then that kind of dharma question like where the teacher but it's maybe good here, too, is only do 30% answer. And, and then see if they ask again. And like the Buddha sometimes would not answer the first time someone would ask, they have to ask three times. And it actually in Zen monasteries, they have that idea. It's kind of built into the ritual of the dharma talk. You don't no one sees it. But once before someone gives a talk, there's some kind of ritual ringing of bells and bowing that's offline, sometimes, where it's kind of meant to replicate the idea that the community is asking the person three times to give the talk. So you know, so just offer just enough that you're responding. But not everything you could say. And, and, and then see if they want more, and they'll come back with more and they'll come back with more. Thank you. Great. So what was your question? Let's to see if there's no question in the chat. Okay, well. So, thank you all very much. And into those of you like we can go outside and there's a cabinet just around the corner that you'll see if some people know where that is. You can take a folding chair McGrath in that parking lot and we can make a big circle and we're hovered and then chat for a while together. Thank you