The Primacy of Attention

Fear makes you stupid. Fear swamps intelligence. Fear takes us out of Being. We resort to strategies in an effort to re-establish certainty. Fear drives us to reject what-is in favor of any expedient that feels as if it will deflate our fear. We lose track of whatever may have initiated fear, whether an actual threat or a projection. This drives us away from attending. No strategy can resolve this. The only response, so long as this condition persists, is to attend to fear as opposed to remaining in a state in which fear is seen as a monolithic presence with an independent existence. For this to happen we need to know the primacy of attention – not by being told, we need to Know It. We need to develop a reflex to supplant the reptilian reflex to notice nothing but the fear – and place it out there. The neural pathways required to do this need to be called on and they need to develop and then we need to keep re-enforcing them.

Being is never, can never be, a steady state. Any condition that reduces the flexibility of attention by flooding attention with sameness erodes our capacity for attention.

This is always true. On top of this we suffer from an atrophy of attention and exist in a reduced default condition in which pathways that could metabolize fear are not only underdeveloped but are often beyond the scope of our limited capacities for attention to allow us to even notice that there can be any response other than reacting.

Life’s innate buoyancy is there so long as there is life. Tapping into this buoyancy and sharing attention to this integral vitality gives us a way forward.

Within each life’s trajectory there is a movement from undifferentiated attention through an Ego-dominated drive to control existence without any understanding of how attention works – during which we turn away from attention in a frantic effort to maintain an illusion of Ego-existence – and on to the development of and a deepening capacity to attend to life.

In a broken culture – anytime there is a disruption when trauma and damage accumulate before attention can be developed – means that this cycle of development is disrupted in ways and in degrees that make what is always a difficult development even more precarious. These disruptions ripple out from this psychological base to manifest as a physical reality that reflects disruptions brought about by incoherence between what-is and our capacities to respond. The magnitude of these manifestations increase exponentially in a chain-reaction of projection/reaction cycles. This increase in danger increases the urge to react with urgency and vehemence. Justifications proliferate. Suffering increases and generates, through the reactions it triggers, further misery and deeper and deeper trauma, resulting in a vicious cycle that cannot be escaped.

There are no answers. There is no answer. All we have to counter the Enormity this has unleashed is the continually ever-renewed potential available to us when we are able to make even the slightest contact with vitality by attending to this cycle of reaction itself.

Each such instance/instant dissolves fear and unleashes a Quanta of Joy. In our traumatized state, in our fearful confusion, these instants are easily discounted; ignored as the habits of self-numbing and distraction re-assert themselves; as the strategies of Ego in its efforts to defend its non-existence kick-in. But, we have nothing else to rely on. This only becomes clear when we begin to know that attention is all we have. Once this door has been opened there is a way forward. At this moment we recognize what it is to be serious….





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.

2 thoughts on “The Primacy of Attention

  1. The two words that stuck me are; ‘…increase exponentially’. Its just happened. I have just-five minutes ago – paused the film ‘Matter of Heart’, after listening to Marie Louise Von Franz explain how we are caught by the devil (ie: the collective shadow) VIA our personal shadows. Through our personal fears, its easy to then do terrible things bigger than we would normally. Its a follow on effect. Listening to her say that has pushed away my excuses about some recent behavior of mine. Its exactly what happened. My fears of losing something, led to me unleashing something which has in fact operated exponentially -for myself and some family.
    Then immediately i have read your post whilst checking my morning emails.
    Undeniable. Coming at me like one-two punch.
    Good morning Antonio-its morning in Australia – and God help us all.
    Thank you for your post, tjough I feel ill. Sooz


    1. Sooz,

      I’ve changed your original comment to reflect the correction you sent in.

      These moments of realization can be powerful. They can provide a window, an opportunity to apply a fresh clarity to how we see, not “the world,” but the justifications we habitually use to, well, to justify behaving badly.

      There is a lot to take in at such times. If we can avoid being defensive – to ourselves – we can not only make some specific change; we can see how these blind spots feel; and be more capable of cutting them off the next time they rear up.

      A related thought that comes to mind is the way the infrastructure of our lives, the things we surround ourselves with, affect how we behave. In my Qi Gong practice I recite a series of affirmations. The last one is, “Let us massage the Earth with our feet, spreading seeds of Joy and Peace with each passing step.” Now, this is one thing while walking barefoot and another thing entirely when we are behind the wheel of a car….

      It is easy to be overwhelmed by a rush of realizations too. We do need to counter the effects of reactions that can send us off into further bouts of fear. Attending to our condition and practicing attention so that we can experience that fear is neither a viable justification for acting badly nor something out there that we must attack back; we find ways to navigate these incidents and become stronger.

      More on this soon, I hope.


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