Attention as a guide

I notice that my attention naturally goes to knots. To beliefs and their consequences (drama, tension, a sense of separation, supporting stories and so on).

And I also see that I can work against or with this natural tendency.

In some specific situations, it seems appropriate to work against it. For instance, when I do a stable attention practice, I can work against that tendency by noticing when attention goes away from its practice object (breath or something else), and gently bring it back.

But in most situations, it seems to make more sense to work with it. To notice that attention naturally goes to knots, and take this as an opportunity to find the belief behind the knot (creating the knot), inquire into this belief, and also allow and be with whatever experiences are associated with the knot (mostly emotions).

If I get stuck in seeing distractions as a problem, I continue to battle with it, and also miss out of the valuable guidance in the wanderings of attention, naturally going to knots.

If I take the wanderings of attention as a valuable guidance, I am led to knots and have an opportunity to work with the beliefs creating them.

If I am free to do both, in different situations, it may be even more valuable. I get to practice a stable attention, gently notice and bringing it back whenever it wanders. And, at other times, I get to use attention as a guide.

As a side-note: Why is there a tendency for attention to go to knots?

A couple of possibilities…

First, it comes from love for this human self and its circle of us, which is also expressed as fear. A story comes up, which is really just a question about the world. In many cases, it is helpful to explore this to some extent – at least as long as it has some practical value for our life in the world. The tendency for attention to go to stories is helpful in a practical sense.

When the story is taken as true and clashes with life as it shows up, this tendency is amplified and often leads to an obsession with the belief. This is less helpful for our life in the world, but it is still helpful in bringing our attention to a belief and the knot created from this belief. It gives us an opportunity to notice the knot, and – if we are so inclined – invite it to unravel.

And finally, attention goes to knots because we know – somewhere – that knots obscure who and what we are.

It obscures who we are, as a human being in the world, with the clarity, ease and receptivity that is here when we are not caught up in beliefs.

We know that any story is just a story. We know that the belief is not true, so we are drawn to find what is more true for us. (And we are also drawn to maintain it as a belief, of course. Which ones comes up more strongly just depends on circumstances.)

And it obscures what we are, that which this human self and anything else happens within, to and as.

We know, somewhere, that what we are is that which left when beliefs – and their consequences – fall away. This, as it is right now, without being identified with stories and the sense of an I-Other  created by this identification. The discrepancy between what is created when we take a story as true (sense of I-Other, drama, inside-outside, center-periphery) and what we, somewhere, know we are, draws attention to the knot, as an invitation for us to notice it and create conditions for it to unravel.


  • attention goes to knots
    • can see as a distraction and work against it, which can be appropriate in some situations (for instance if practice stable attention)
    • or can see it as a guide and work with it, use it as an opportunity to find and inquire into beliefs, and be with/allow experience (including the emotions triggered by that belief)
  • why does it go to knots?
    • from fear/love, to help our human self
      • is a question about the world, taken as true, so obsess about it – partly helpful and partly not (helpful to explore to some extent, less helpful when it becomes obsessive and repetitive)
    • so we can see the knot, and work with it (heal/mature, wake up)
      • know somewhere it is not true, and what we really are (that it clouds/cover up what we really are, makes it difficult for us to notice)

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