Posted by: scintillatingspeck | April 3, 2013

Paying attention.

It seems that so many of the “problems” in myself that I bewail (not accomplishing tasks, feeling disorganized, finding it hard to complete projects, struggling to plan ahead, not having achieved total omniscience, not having achieved much degree of “peace” or “balance” or “radical self-acceptance”) could be remedied fairly simply, by paying attention.  Why is this such a difficult task?  I almost chose to title this post “Discipline” but the mere thought of the word made me shudder, and I opted for “Paying attention” instead.  It seems friendlier, less punishing.  I’m hoping I can circumvent some automatic negative responses that way.

But before I do any circumventing, I’m going to pay attention.  The word that first came to mind was “discipline,” and I ran away from it, and I’m damn well going to note it.  And I’m going to note that I circled back, and took a gritted-teeth sort of tone.  The tone is a thread that I can pull on endlessly, with all of its attached threadlings of old messages that sound like this:  You are incompetent.  You had better not do a half-assed job.  Why can’t you figure things out already?  Why can’t you be productive?  Nothing will ever get done unless you yell at your lazy self.  You are so undisciplined.  When you muster up some discipline, you get things done, but that hasn’t been happening lately, so the only conclusion that can be reached is that you must be pathetic.  I could continue, but I think that’s enough.

The problem with having this inner drill sergeant is that she doesn’t help me, at all, and keeps obnoxiously insisting that she’s the only one who can whip me into shape, and makes everything worse.  There’s an inner stubborn voice that is snapping back, not quite as loudly as Inner Drill Sergeant, but audibly, now that I’m paying attention: Go fuck yourself.  You want me to not do a half-assed job?  Then I’ll do a no-assed job.  I’ll shut down.  I’ll run away.  You don’t like me very much.  You treat me like shit.  I hate you.

Yeah, Inner Stubborn Kid is clearly not very mature.

I didn’t do any circumventing at all, did I.  But that seems to be the point.  I didn’t circumvent.  I let the old voices speak.  I paid attention.  I invited them to speak, I listened, and I even recorded it here in this visible place, even at the risk of feeling flooded and wanting to run away more.  I am practicing something, and I could choose to call it discipline, or paying attention, or not running away, but the words don’t matter: the attention is what matters.  It’s the kind of attention that is not a tirade, not a berating soliloquy, not a defensive rebuttal, just looking, listening, being curious.  That’s all.  Not seeking to change anything.  Not seeking.  Being still and open.  What keeps happening is if I give it a chance, that stillness, that openness, I’m awash in compassion and it’s enough.

Inner Drill Sergeant thinks that if she can just exert tight control through mental/physical/emotional discipline of an individual self, then everything will be okay.  But everything is not okay.  She does not really have control.  She is scared.

Inner Stubborn Kid is driven by anger and resentment and spitefulness.  She is trying to exert control through sheer spite.  She does not really have control.  She is scared, too, and sad, and hurt.

Their fear and pain melt my heart.  My heart?  Our heart?  A collective heart?

The collective heart, if it can be called that, seems like the only place to re-energize and re-inspire in the face of daunting loads of historical baggage, mine and everyone else’s, and the loads of future not-yet-baggage.  The collective heart doesn’t have “answers,” per se, but it feels like the antidote to loneliness.

This may seem like a non sequitur, but as I write these thoughts, I’m reminded of other thoughts I’ve been having about community.  Ah, Community, that slippery word, that Thing that so many people I know say they want, which I’ve certainly wanted and worked towards and to which I’ve donated the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears.  Again and again, I return to questions in my mind which never seems to get resolved: what is this “community” that people say they want, that I say I want, no, not just want, but need and crave?  Are we talking about the same thing when we use the word “community”?

It came to me, just now, a possible way for me to define this impossible, frustrating, tantalizing word community.  Community is not about feeding disparate little individuals.  It’s about directing focus into the collective heart.  Community is not about running away, but paying attention, allowing the illusion of separation to dissolve until the preexisting communion can be perceived.

I’m open to paying attention to you, as well.

Photo on 2013-04-02 at 23.51 #2



  1. “Is there ever a doubt in my mind that it is virtuous to give alms to the beggar, to forgive him who offends me, yes, even to love my enemy in the name of Christ? No, not once does such a doubt cross my mind, certain as I am that what I have done unto the least of my brethren I have done unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least of all brethren, the poorest of all beggars, the most insolent of all offenders, yes, even the very enemy himself–that these live within me; that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I am to myself the enemy who is to be loved–what then?”

    Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

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