Primal Zen

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  Table of Contents

1) Introduction
2) Words
3) Silence, Feeling, and Attention
4) Thought
5) Forms of Attention
6) Essential Practices of Silence - Still Attention
7) Essential Practices of Silence - Active Attention
8) Zen & Primal

Chapter Five: Forms of Attention

The practices presented in this section are based on Zen techniques. For a person on the Primal path, they can be used as a tool to uncover the real self and whatever ugly stuff keeps it hidden. They need to be integrated with emotional release techniques for those times when pain is revealed and rises to expression. This is not a smiling, incense-filled religious escape. This is a vital, all-hands-on-deck approach to coming alive.

One cannot practice silence, as if to improve it. Silence is silence. It cannot be improved upon. There are certain activities (or non-activities), however, that facilitate full attention and allow the "gap" of silence to appear. With further attention, these moments of silence will increase in length and frequency.

Thousands of such activities exist. Every religion or "spiritual" discipline has them. In spite of many outward forms, the "practices of silence," like the universe itself, have one intent (silence) that appears with two qualities - Energy Expression and Style of Attention. Each of these qualities are further described by another dual pair.

Practices of Silence

Style of Attention - Focused or Open
Energy Expression - Active or Still

Every activity, historically intended to "develop" spirituality, will fall under these simple categories. Each have their specific qualities and results. When choosing any practice of silence, whether still meditation or vibrant dance, all you have to do is place the "activity" in its proper category and adjust it to your personal style and needs.

Style of Attention - Focused
Any practice that attends to something limited assists in focusing attention by narrowing the field. Generally, this is recommended for beginners, but is of great use at any time one needs to focus on something - perhaps a feeling or a symptom. Many people also use this style at times when the mind is exceptionally busy or overloaded. When one's attention is jumping about wildly, the most useful thing is to focus on something specific so it can settle down. Traditionally the practitioner attends to the breath, a repeated phrase, a candle, a sound, etc.

Style of Attention - Open
Open, unfocused attention is broad and unspecific. It is attention that "watches" or "feels" everything at once, or whatever happens to happen. It does not shut anything out, whereas focused attention definitely does. This is difficult for an active or agitated mind and tends to have a dissolving effect on the false Self. It is best for those who are quite stable, as it can have an emotionally disturbing effect on those who are not. If you feel at all emotionally weak, unstable or ungrounded, focused attention is preferable and will help to solidify, strengthen and "ground" you. Open, unfocused attention is intended to loosen you up, so that whatever you discover can rise up and out.

Energy Expression - Still
The most familiar form of still practice is "sitting meditation" or zazen. Essentially it is any form that involves a minimum of physical activity. It is a deliberate attempt to allow the return of silence, and the practitioner is usually fully aware of this intent. For some people with high energy levels, forcing the body to sit still can cause the mind to race even faster. In this case, active practice may be more suitable.

Energy Expression - Active
Active practices of silence are as varied as activity itself. From attentive stretching (yoga) to walking, chanting and dancing, there seems to be an active form to suit everyone. Unlike stillness, activity can often silence the mind without the individual's intent or initial awareness. Most active practices of silence involve repetitive acts that gather the attention of the mind and allow it to settle - even in the midst of the intense activity of dance or music. For such forms to be effective, they must have an intrinsic simplicity, otherwise the mind will jump about as usual. These practices are ideal for energetic or agitated people, but can be harmful for those with a variety of physical weaknesses or ailments. They can also be disturbing for those who love quiet or need limited stimulation.

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© January 2000 by Sam Turton.