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Writings in Progress:
Excerpts about Attention
Copyright J.D. Chielli - Director of Summa Foundation - Philadelphia, PA
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The Fourth Way Version 4.1 is about psychological work of a self-developmental nature. The system is designed to awaken sleeping humanity. It is not based in imagination or belief. It makes special use of attention. Learning to use attention in new ways is what creates the possibility for the personal transformations that can lead to awakening. Special use of attention is the key that can unlock the secrets of one's true nature and make it possible to attain the higher conscious states that transcend personal identity.
The Fourth Way Version 4.1 is essentially work with attention. It is based in attention and begins with a special use of attention.
The very first step in the work is to understand what is meant by attention. This involves bringing your attention to the phenomenon of attention. What is this stuff we call attention? What does it feel like? Can we control it? What is the experience of moving attention from one thing to another? Are we typically in control of our attention? What is our level of control over our attention? What is the existential significance of giving our attention to something or someone? What are the consequences of not being in control of our attention?
Students in the Work are led in exercises that involve the exploration of attention by moving attention from one aspect of the environment to another, or from one part of the body to another. For example, you, reader, bring your attention to the sounds in the space where you are sitting as you read these words ............. Now bring your attention to the overall posture and position of your body and any muscular tension............ Now bring attention to your hands ......... now to your breathing ........ to your heartbeat ...... back to the sounds in the environment ....... What is happening? What is your experience? Repeat this exercise and try to grasp the nature of this phenomenon. What is it that moves? What is it that does the moving? Notice there is nothing here to believe; only to experience.
Exercises like this enable you to directly experience the fact that something is being moved from hands to breathing, and from the sensation of heartbeat to perception of sound. Something is being moved. What is this stuff called attention that is being moved, what is moving it, and what are the consequences of being able to control it?
One of the extraordinary things that one can verify about attention is that it has some very "God like" characteristics. It has a fundamental attribute that religions tend to ascribe to their "God". Attention functions like a creative force. It brings things into existence for you. It is like "the hand of God" creating reality wherever it touches. It is attention that delineates reality for you. It is attention that selects meaning out of the chaotic "netherworld" of inattention. If you go beyond belief mentation and look more closely at the "creator" archetype you can begin to see the whole archetype of "God the creator of the universe" as a symbolic and allegorical representation of attention as it relates to the existence of the All and Everything.
Reader, experiment with this now! Bring attention to the sounds in your environment. Experience attention bringing into existence a sound, that a moment before, was nonexistent for you.
Bring attention to seeing what is in your environment. Do you see something that you didn't realize existed until you brought your attention to it.
Try thinking in a new way. Think relativistically. Understand that relative to you, your existence, and your awareness, objects and sounds do not exist until you bring your attention to them. Try to verify with experience that your attention is what brings these things into existence for you. In this sense your attention acts as a creative force.
This can be held as an assumption for now. It is important for you to try and verify these assertions and begin to think in a new way. You must understand the power and importance of attention. You must respect and value this very extraordinary phenomenon.
Later we will point to something bigger than attention as the prime creative force of the universe (still to be found within your own psychology). In the model used by The Fourth Way Version 4.1 that something is called "The Self".
The Fourth Way Version 4.1 is not a philosophy or a religion. It is a technique, a practice, a way of life. Therefore rather than philosophizing, we must always return to the source of direct experience. You must to verify for yourself that the only phenomena that exist for you in the present moment are the phenomena that the "light" of your attention falls upon. The all important operational and practical qualification of this proposition is that it holds within the limits of you and your attention.
So, this does not mean that the person picking your pocket does not exist because he or she does not come within the scope of your attention. Standing in a crowd you suddenly find your wallet gone. You think maybe you left it home. But perhaps a bystander's attention brought the pickpocket into existence for her and she shares her perception of reality with you. The bystander tells you she saw someone stealing your wallet and you call the police.
The first step in The Work is to consider carefully the nature of attention. You must verify how attention pulls things out of a dark, hazy limbo and into existence for you.
You reader, must make the effort to verify that attention not only brings objects, sounds, smells, and sensations into existence, it also brings thoughts and emotional experience into existence as well.
Think of thoughts as birds landing on a backyard fence and then flying away. Think of emotional experiences as music in the distance. If they attract your attention when they occur in your mind they exist for you. If not, they occur unseen, unnoticed, and in a practical sense for you, do not exist.
The reason we are not aware of our thoughts and emotional feelings as they occur is the same reason we are not aware of the pickpocket stealing our wallet, or the keys we lock in the car, or the dog shit on the sidewalk that we step in. The intensity, scope, and direction of attention is the critical factor.
Consider the different aspects of reality that your attention brings into existence
for you, and how they function like stimuli. Consider how your own psychological software programs (typically false personality and features) mechanically process these aspects of reality to create your responses. Without working to develop higher possibilities, the nature and quality of your whole life is a mechanical function of these two factors. What you attend to is your being and your becoming. How you respond is your fate. This is the nature of every manifestation you make. According to Gurdjieff, human beings are stimulus response machines.
The Fourth Way Version 4.1 incorporates this central Gurdjieffian idea and elaborates on it by using concepts and models derived from developments in silicon intelligence.
The computer, along with the development of artificial intelligence and robotics provides an excellent way to model the mechanicality of the human stimulus-response machine. Gurdjieff most likely would have used to full advantage the development of the "silicon mind" to impress upon his students the mechanical nature of their functioning, and to point out where the higher possibilities exist.
Sorry, nothing here to believe. Think about it. Experiment with it. I could be trying to deceive you. I could simply be wrong ... and Gurdjieff, well, he was very strange.
What you attend to is your being and your becoming.
You may be a very musically gifted person but because your attention keeps bringing into existence the memory of your father's repetitive insistence that "the life of a musician is unstable", "you'll never be a success as a musician, never make any money"... (word birds landing on a fence in the mind that attract your attention). You partially bungle your life by never developing your musical abilities and being able to do what is in your essence.
What you attend to is your being and your becoming.
If you cross a street with your attention too tightly attached to the remembrance
what the waitress said when you told her the eggs were cold, attention may not bring into existence for you the speeding auto, and you can easily be killed.
Because we live in a world where a single human being is able to control huge forces with bare hands, even the twitch of a finger, attention is more critical to survival now than ever before. The huge forces and physical velocities that are part of contemporary living make momentary lapses of attention potentially devastating.
Learn to respect Attention. Learn Reverence for Attention.
To learn more, you can contact Summa Foundation for the full text of this writing or to participate in the work going on there.