Compassion is Attention

Attention is Compassion

One of the first things we encounter on beginning some form of meditation, any way for us to empty out the rush of unbidden thought and pause to see what might lie behind it all, is the question of compassion.

Does this come directly from our confrontation with attention in and of itself stripped of means and ends? Is it because we are led to the question by those from whom we seek counsel?

One way or the other – most likely some combination of effects, after all nothing has an isolated cause! We run into this connection again and again.

After a long stretch spent looking to experience and delineate the complexity of our situation I seem to be entering a phase in which synthesis and unification is coming to the fore. To reach this place it was necessary to be disabused of all sorts of reductivist arguments. Reductive world views have given simplicity a bad name!

But there are ways complexity can be seen simply. What is a chaotic swirl from within can be seen as a clear spiral vortex from without. Varying our framing and changing our perspectives can bring about an illumination that clarifies complexity without reducing it to a dead, stultifying category.

This requires a mental discipline, an aspect of the hygiene I’ve been on about. Unless we have some comfort in uncertainty; unless we are ready to find more reason to fear certainty than doubt; we risk taking any insight, any moment of clarity, as an excuse to precipitate out of life itself into a reductive, un-dead state. Jeff Shampnois points at this sea-change in his comment on the last post.

Now we actually want to feel the push of that inaccuracy, the way words can never house that power. We flex these sails playfully now, using them knowingly as theory, as metaphor, abandoning completely the need for solid ground, for permanence. Everything is an assumption. The infinity of thought is assumption. An infinity that is also limited.

Let us look at this connection, this identification, of compassion and attention from within this spirit in which we find joy in paradox instead of frustration. Let us also look at Ivan Illich’s Practice of Friendship.

Violence is the result of sin: The willful failure to attend to the moment and a refusal of the Practice of Friendship.

paraphrase of Ivan Illich

For a long time it seemed that attention was a path to compassion. But this seemed to insinuate an unnecessary extra step. What kept returning was this sense that they are the same thing.

Now, this could be explained….

But all that would do is kill it. Turn words into weapons in a battle to show that someone is smarter than someone else.

I’m offering this as a description of what I have seen.

It’s fruitful to remain with this question; inhabiting it; looking for the way each formulation of this unity feeds the other. Watching the dance between them; how they hold each other in motion. This seems sufficient.

This works as a heuristic. One we can apply in all manner of circumstances. It helps us cut through so many traps and tricks of Ego as we work to find ways to act, not just react.

This brings to mind this quote, brought to my attention by Julien Matei at Mirrors of Encounters:

Pure action, always proceeds from a contemplative silence in which we are able to listen anew to what is really happening.

Without some degree of silence, we are never living, never tasting, as there is not much capacity to enjoy, appreciate, or taste the moment as it purely is.

Richard Rohr

This shines a light on attention/compassion, bringing in the all-important question of efficacy:

How do we act without futility?

How can attention and compassion bring us to what is also called Right Action?

Holding these questions in mind brings us to a dynamic clarity. A simplicity that is not simplistic.

Not a bad place to be at the end of the year…

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