Monday, October 13, 2014
Step 10: Attention, Attention, Attention
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. KOAN: HERE'S AN OLD ZEN STORY: a student said to Master Ichu, "Please write for me something of great wisdom." Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: "Attention." The student said, "Is that all?" The master wrote, "Attention. Attention." The student became irritable. "That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me." In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, "Attention. Attention. Attention." In frustration, the student demanded, "What does this word 'attention' mean?" Master Ichu replied, "Attention means attention."
For "attention" we could substitute the word "awareness." Attention or awareness is the secret of life and the heart of practice. Like the student in the story, we find such a teaching disappointing; it seems dry and uninteresting. We want something exciting in our practice! Simple attention is boring: we ask, is that all there is to practice?
First, the student asks for “something of great wisdom”. Here we are, sitting with Step 10 and it’s great wisdom and all that it has to offer – when we pay attention.
The teacher says “attention” once, twice, three times. Oh how it is when we don’t pay attention. Sometimes it takes three times. This reminds me of one of the meetings I go to where the secretary announces, “Only bottled water is allowed in the room.” Then it’s not uncommon, during the rest of the meeting, to see people amble in from the kitchen with a cup of coffee in their hands. I was thinking if maybe I ought to give this koan to the secretary.
There’s a lot to pay attention to with Step 10:
· By going about my day, and really paying attention to what’s going on regarding my actions and behavior.
· There’s that section if the Big Book beginning with “When we retire at night, we constructively review our day.” This requires attention.
· By paying attention to what others are saying and noticing their body language.
· By listening.
· By noticing this relationship with others.
· By noticing, perhaps I can head things off before a situation goes bad.
Master Ichu reminds me how it is when I’m not paying attention, how he eventually had to tell his student “attention -- attention, attention -- attention, attention, attention.” By not paying attention I have missed out on things, missed hints and clues of what is happening right in front of me that would point to the next right thing. Instead, I take a different direction; make a different choice, usually something to do with selfishness, which causes a problem to others (and myself).
There is great wisdom in Step 10, which allows us to make things right with the world. When I am paying attention, this wisdom is right there and readily available…to promptly admit my wrongs.