Article: How The Two Attentions Work
Copyright © 2008 Antero Alli
What we pay attention to informs the content of our minds; how we pay attention informs the quality of that content. Two types of attention will be addressed here to demonstrate these ideas. The first attention is that awareness linked to language, thinking and the automatic assignment of labels and meaning; referred to hereafter as "first attention". The second attention is not linked to language, thinking and/or meaning but to presence, energy, phenomena. The first attention looks but cannot see; the second attention only sees. Most people know the feeling of being looked at, as if on display; far fewer know the feeling of being truly seen. Or of seeing. Both first and second attentions are important and necessary for differing reasons.
The underlying purpose of the first attention is survival; to figure out how to stay alive. The underlying purpose of the second attention is creativity, of directly engaging the autonomous forces of creation. These two attentions can function separately and/or together at differing degrees and consequences. Left alone, the first attention fixates awareness on survival issues -- such as security, status, analysis and problem solving, social needs -- with minimal access to the "post-survival" luminosities of rapture, clairvoyance, telepathy, and the various powers of dreaming.
The first attention expresses a function of physical sight and intellect; the second attention conveys a function of the energetic body and intuition with biological correlation in the Central Nervous System. The sense of sight (first attention) is linked to insight (second attention) by way of stimulation of the light-sensitive, serotonin-rich pineal gland via the optic nerve. This stimulation occurs naturally during the onset of sleep, resulting in the hypnogogic state of shifting imagery that bridges waking and dreaming states. Though both attentions are linked, their mutual interaction remains for the most part latent and rarely made conscious during daytime waking hours. Developing meaningful interactions between both attentions expresses a function of the power of dreaming (more on the power of dreaming in Part Six).
The first attention is stable and stabilizes awareness; the second attention is unstable and destabilizes awareness. First attention stability is maintained by the pursuit and attainment of certainty with such certitudes as fixed beliefs, ideas, preconceptions, assumptions and dogmas. The unstable second attention is maintained by permitting more uncertainty, residing in silence and being unknown to yourself. The first attention closes the mind as a cocoon; second attention opens the mind as a butterfly taking flight. The mutual regulation of both attentions dilate and/or narrow the mind according to each person's anxiety threshold, of how much uncertainty can be permitted before static nervous energy contracts and closes the mind.
A message is the ordering of a signal.
Both attentions can be strengthened through different types of concentration. First attention concentrates by fixating on an idea, image or concept; second attention concentrates by merging with the energy. First attention creates a picture and assigns a story, message or meaning to it. The second attention attunes to the signal, frequency or vibration of the energy before its organization into a message. A message is the ordering of a signal. Second attention gets the signal, first attention organizes it into a message.
This process already happens by itself, unconsciously without our control, and it happens at the speed of light. The second attention absorbs luminosity and is lightsensitive; the first attention translates energy (light) with pattern recognition and is form-sensitive. The second attention acts like a radar dish receiving raw signals from outer space and the first attention is like the computer program that outputs incoming signals as readable data.
The first attention can act as an anchor to the second attention, as the second attention can act as a catalyst or shock to the first attention. The first attention anchors the second attention when we can learn to find words, images and ideas that best serve the authenticity and truth of the signal. The second attention shocks the first attention as we can learn to permit enough uncertainty to experience the unknown firsthand. If the second attention fails to anchor itself in the first attention, its absorption of luminosity can overwhelm the individual ego; all lit up with nowhere to go. Not unlike an overheated electrical wire without a ground, the forces of creation are engaged but sputter, disperse and fail to manifest in time and space. If the first attention consistently avoids the shock of uncertainty and unknowns, the thinking processes can rigidify, grow brittle and turn dogmatic and paranoid. Both types of attention need each other; both are necessary to increase the power of dreaming.
In much of the educational systems of western civilization, the first attention has gained powerful a priori status which has regretfully inflated its sense of importance. This inflation has resulted in a kind of mental tyranny over the body/psyche by the mechanism of over-thinking. This compulsion further complicates itself by nonstop, dualistic comparisons and associations of this image with that, or that system with this one, etc. etc. Over-thinking turns any psyche into a tool for an inflated, arrogant intellect until that psyche begins using the intellect as a tool; something becomes a tool when it can be put down after its use.
The first attention can be called "the knowing mind", as the second attention can be called "the not knowing, or unknowing, mind". Our public education systems have sanctioned over-thinking by assigning the highest grades and status to what can be proven, justified and known. We are not assigned high grades for not knowing. However, without the cultivation of the second attention -- the unknowing mind -- the psyche remains severely limited and tyrannized by the agendas of the mundane survival-oriented first attention. Claustrophobia sets in as the first attention dominates the psyche with its compulsive data and proof gathering habits, filling up more and more inner space with the cluttered detritus of random information.
Without an active second attention, the intellect's insatiable appetite for proofs and certitudes continue to mask deeper, unmet survival needs for more security, status and territory. If basic survival problems remain unsolved, the first attention can begin thinking in absolute terms as a misguided and unconscious attempt to alleviate the underlying survival anxiety. This can manifest as a fixation with trying to make sense of everything, nonstop rationalizations, and trying to solve problems created by the very mechanistic mindset trying to solve them. This type of mental looping expresses first attention out of control. The mad, mad reign of King Monkey Mind can be overthrown by shifting the focus towards the second attention.
The second attention can be cultivated by relaxing the search for meaning. This can be experienced by relaxing the tendency to project and/or assume meaning onto whatever is perceived, in lieu of direct perception of the phenomena. This can also occur by dropping labels through an agreement to experience the world without naming what you are experiencing. Infants and very young children see this way most of the time. This begins a process of flexing a once active perceptual muscle before it weakened and/or atrophied.
The education of the first and second attentions turns into wisdom when both awarenesses can work together. To review, the first attention is attached to day-today survival concerns, solving everyday mundane problems, and making sense of things by automatically assigning labels and meaning to experience. The second attention is linked to presence, energy and phenomena, allowing direct engagement with the autonomous forces of creation, the archetypes governing existence. As these two attentions recognize each other and find ways to interact and work together, an important bridge can be built between their worlds.
from STATE OF EMERGENCE, Part 5
a paratheatre manifesto by Antero Alli