Stop Counting

In dreams we approach a form of knowing that we find difficult to access while awake. We tend to discount the sensation that there was “something to it.” Or, we displace our fascination within the dream in a vain attempt to narrate its dramatic particulars. As this fails to match our original wonder, as we bore ourselves and others with our recounting, we find reasons to discount what was there as something trivial, of no account.

What are we missing?

Another door to something other than our habitual conditioning comes to us in the moving meditation of Qi Gong. For me, a persistent theme of these moments has involved dropping the convincing fiction that we need to control our bodies with our will. Discovering that by willing our movements we are at best doing things twice, while blunting our body’s intrinsic ability to regulate and move itself without our willful imposition riding on its back. One quiet, yet powerful conviction arising from this is an intuition about number and counting. I’ve written about this before. There are ways our organism has of knowing number, rate, and measure that have nothing to do with any deliberate accounting.

As with any other imposition of a layer of willful control onto our innate abilities, when we distrust our organism’s ability to tell how many, or how fast, or how much; we lose much more than our striving after certainty and verifiable quantification would suppose.

It is as if some uncertainty principal was at work. We can either measure or be. We can either be right, or believe we are right. We can navigate with surety, or we can have assurances.

There are reasons we adopt a crutch, a technique, to get around an actual or perceived deficiency. One way to look at the differences between our dealings with technology and craft could be that we see technologies as crutches, as ways to overcome deficiencies. Craft presupposes an attitude that we have strengths that we may articulate with conviction. An innate conviction, not needy for some bolstering intoxication provided by a worship of a disembodied technological prowess. We turn to technology out of a fearful desire to be assured. We craft with a quiet confidence.

This path towards an ever greater imbalance between our sense of our capabilities and our infatuation with technological power takes us farther and farther from an ability to achieve what would otherwise be well within our grasp. This engine has powered our descent into collapse. Another case of crossed-controls.

What happens when we stop counting?

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to sort out all the assumptions and buried beliefs that tie us to civilization. These knots that bind us to its sinking carcass are many. They are hard to reach. Many hide in plain sight.

There are practices that give us an access to other modes of behavior. Letting go of number is one of these.

It’s hard. We are going against all that conditioning. As with working on an unfamiliar physical movement, or immersing ourselves in different surroundings, this sort of difficulty shows us our weaknesses, and cuts through familiar, binding ties as we become aware of their dysfunction.

We are also thrown into confusion, our reliance on the fiction of certainty cast in relief. Our abilities to abide, to cope, to trust direct access to our emotional states – without the fiction that others make us feel a certain way – all provide a wonderful tonic. A turn away from our accustomed displacements.

So much of what is going on – internally as well as with our attempts to sort out our perceptions of otherness – is hidden from our view. It passes from raw input – open to a myriad of interpretations – to a stereotypical, rutted, reaction faster than we can perceive.

We talk about slowing things down. Our culture refuses to slow down, intoxicating us with speed. What happens when we slow down is that we become aware of how much each moment actually holds. Flowing through a Qi Gong movement, slowly, slowly, we become aware of how every part of the body is working to maintain our balance, to carve an articulation of form in space. We feel the slightest pressure of air against the hairs on our skin. We sense the pull and push of Qi – as a palpable sensation of proximity felt between our hands, between our hands and the rest of our body. We sense the form of the movement. How form shapes our movement. It is not our willing of an arm to go this way, or a leg to push over that way, that brings us to this level of immersive flow. Movement takes care of itself. Our body in communion with a form. We witness this as our core vibrates with a palpable connection to all that surrounds us. We become our attention.

This embodies the fact we so often hide from that all we have is our attention. Practice providing opportunities to strengthen and focus our attention.

Though, not at will!

Willed attention is not attention. It is wishing. It interposes intention on the action of attending. This imposition gets in the way.

Here is the fine grain of where so much of what we do goes wrong, gets lost in our mishandling of opportunities. This is true in every action we might take, from the most privately internal to the most public social act. We miss this pivot on which our interactions turn. We blunder on. Blind to our mistakes. Unaware even of our having made them, projecting blame for our unintended consequences on some other.

Attending is slow. It is quiet. It has no intention beyond the intention to value attending.

Making something without intention?

We scoff at the very idea! It appears to be the height of futility. What could be more useless?

What if we examined why we discount this offhand?

We do discount it offhand. We do not consider that all of our intended actions prove themselves to be futile at best, when not actively destructive. If this seems to be coming “out of nowhere,” I suggest you dig deeper into the entire project here at Horizons of Significance. Every insight and concept here has some relevance to this. Has led to these assertions.

We discount action without intention at root because the beliefs we have inherited insist that denying our intention is heresy. Civilization controls us by manipulating intention. It does not reach direct attention. It can only subvert it by maintaining us off-balance, away from our center. We are pressured from all sides to stay this way. We have internalized these pressures. They have usurped a greater value in our supposition than life itself. Any life. All life….

Disaster provides clarity. We have these opportunities in spades today.

Why do we insist on finding disillusionment dispiriting?

It isn’t. It is, disillusioning. A dropping of scales from before our eyes. How can that be dispiriting?

What we feel at such moments is guilt. The guilt holding a slave to its master. We are caught between beliefs that destroy us and our loyalty to those beliefs. This discomfort we mis-perceive as dispiriting. It is the final barrier between us and access to joy.

Here again, our customs of understanding, the ways we have inflected language, twist Joy into something else. We hear a voice discounting our heresies, claiming, ” Oh! Sure! Let’s all go off and dance around doing whatever pops into our heads! It’ll be fun!”

There is fear behind that sarcasm.

There is nothing undisciplined about acting without intention. There is nothing sordid about finding true Joy.

This quiet suggestion. This whisper in the ear, “Stop counting.”

It holds all the terror of losing our accustomed shackles. It is vertiginous in its implications. It is a profoundly revolutionary call.

It is also the simplest, most private act. No one need even notice that we are doing it.

It is dizzying, a note of how much of a change is in play. Everything changes. We change. Like that. Not by trying to change. We are changed when we stop counting.

Joy fills the void of not enumerating these changes, analyzing outcomes.


Doves live by flight. Flight has two meanings, to soar through the air unimpeded. It is also escape. To fly is to flee. To recognize danger and, using intent and will, to make our escape.

Yet, when attacked by a falcon, diving on them from a great height, they respond by dropping. They fold their wings. They stop flying. At such moments they live by not doing what otherwise appears to hold their very being. They drop like stones. They do not fly.

Letting go of intention a dove leaves the flying to its attacker, who loses the advantages of height, of speed. In that instant, as they drop out of their pursuer’s trajectory, they survive to fly again by stepping outside intention, letting the force of gravity work on them unimpeded. At such moments of crisis a dove lives by what it does not do.

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Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

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