On the First and Second Attentions
By ANTERO ALLI
"It is essential that you have Knowledge.
It is also essential that you escape the Known."
-- J. Krishnamurti
HOW THE TWO ATTENTIONS WORK
What we pay attention to informs the content of our minds; how we pay attention informs the quality of our consciousness. Two types of attention; "first attention" and "second attention". The first attention refers to that awareness linked to language, thinking and the automatic assignment of labels and meanings. The second attention refers to that awareness linked to presence, energy, and phenomena without any assignment of meaning or labels or thinking. Both attentions are important and necessary for different reasons.
The primary purpose of the first attention involves solving survival problems, such as figuring out where to find enough food, water, and shelter to stay alive. Once these basic problems are solved, the first attention continues its automatic processes of labelling the objects, and the people and situations in our environment. At some point, this first attention turns inward to analyze the type of empolyment plans we need to solve the money problem of assuring our survival. After leaving public education systems, the first attention tends to dominate our awareness with its labelling processes after we've been trained in more abstract thinking with philosophy, mathematics, history, etc. Abstract thought disconnects attention from the immediate environment and redirects attention into the strata of mind alone. Whether our concerns are concrete or abstract, the first attention continues its automatic i labelling and assigning meaning to whatrever we become aware of unconsciously, without any conscious plan of our own.
The primary purpose of the second attention is spiritual. It involves the act of seeing, of witnessing, without assigning labels or meaning to whatever is perceived. As the aperture of perception dilates and opens, we perceive more reality -- not our ideas of reality or what that reality might mean -- but the existing conditions of the way things actually are. As more reality is perceived, the second attention dilates and we are exposed to a more direct experience of certain immutable principles of existence, such as uncertainty and impermanence, principles that do not require any assignment of meaning. They simply exist as actualities. When the second attention activates, the state of uncertainty can be experienced as a creative state where possibilities replace certitudes and a spirit of discovery guides the way. The second attention develops with any direct experience and acceptance of the state of impermanence -- the fact that everything changes and undergoes death and rebirth in perpetua. As we awaken to impermanence, we awaken to our mortality -- not just our own but others' and not just as an idea or concept but as a reality.
HOW THE TWO ATTENTIONS CAN WORK TOGETHER
These two attentions function separately and/or together at various degrees. Left alone, the first attention fixates awareness on survival issues -- such as security, status, analysis, money, daily problem solving, meeting social needs. Left alone, the second attention fixates on "post-survival" luminosities such as ecstasy, rapture, clairvoyance, telepathy, sources of inspiration, intuition, creativity, and the powers of dreaming.
The first attention expresses a function of physical sight and intellect; the second attention links to the energetic body and intuition with biological correlations in the pineal gland. The two attentions are linked the way external sight is linked to insight and clairvoyance. 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 involves a kind of double vision for 1) seeing through appearances and into underlying infrastructures and essences of reality and 2) developing truthful interpretations of these insights, ie., with language that doesn't attempt to explain the phenomena but invokes the experience of the energy.
The first attention stabilizes awareness; the second attention destabilizes awareness. First attention stability depends on the pursuit of certitudes such as fixed beliefs, ideas, preconceptions, assumptions, and dogmas. The unstable second attention comes alive when we learn to permit more uncertainty. The second attention opens and/or narrows according to each person's anxiety threshold or, how much uncertainty we can permit before anxiety sets in. Anxiety expresses a natural response of the nervous system. When we exceed the limit for how much uncertainty we can bear, we start acting like nervous monkeys.
Both attentions can be strengthened through different types of concentration. First attention can be strengthened by concentrating on the meaning and context of any event or perception. Second attention concentrates by a merging with the energy or phenomena of whatever is being perceived. First attention creates a picture and assigns a story, a message or meaning to it. The second attention attunes to the signal, frequency or vibration of the energy. A message is the ordering of a signal. Second attention gets the signal, first attention organizes it into a message.
This interplay between signal and message happens by itself - unconsciously and beyond our control -- at the speed of light. The second attention absorbs luminosity and is light-sensitive; the first attention translates energy (light) through pattern recognition. The second attention acts like a radar dish receiving raw signals from inner and outer space, whereas the first attention is like the computer program that translates incoming signals as readable data and then, outputs the data
IMBALANCE IN THE TWO ATTENTIONS
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 learn to find words, images, and ideas that most truthfully serve the authenticity of the second attention signal. The second attention shocks the first attention awake with the experience of more uncertainty and the option to experience the unknown firsthand, rather than trying to explain it away. If the second attention fails to anchor itself in the first attention, the absorption of luminosity can accelerate and overstimulate the nervous systems; the brain heats up and we are overwhelmed with psychic energy and images. Not unlike a power surge through an electrical wire without a ground wire, the energy sputters, disperses and fails to deliver.
Whenever the first attention consistently avoids uncertainty and resists the unknown, our thinking processes can rigidify, grow brittle, and become overly literalist. Eventually, this over-literalization of thinking can result in claustrophobic sensations, paranoia, and even the death of imagination. Educational systems of western civilization have assigned the first attention with a priori status by giving out the highest grades for how much knowledge we can retain. The problem with this is that we learn to equate not knowing with Failure. The "knowing mind" belongs to the first attention as "not knowing mind" belongs to the second attention. First attention secures itself by accumulating knowledge and plans, as much as the second attention thrives in a spirit of discovery and an open mind in the face of uncertainty.
To accelerate perception, relax the urge to label and to define.
While these labelliing reactions may temporarily secure our sense of certitude,
their hypnotic influence can overwhelm the inner action of seeing.
Perception is not the same as thinking.
If basic survival problems remain unsolved -- when security, status and/or territorial needs becomes frustrated or threatened -- survival anxiety naturally ensues. In an attempt to alleviate this anxiety, the first attention can begin fixating on absolutes as an, albeit unconscious, attempt to restore a sense of security where no certainty actually exists. In its extreme, an insatiable appetite for certitudes can mask the suffering of frustrated survival/security needs. This dillemna can also drive us crazy by trying to make sense of everything, spinning out in a nonstop internal rant of rationalizations. First attention cannot solve the problems created by the first attention. Attempting to solve problems with the very mechanistic mindset that created them in the first place perpetuates a kind of mobius strip of mental looping.
The tyrany of First attention - the Monkey Mind - can be overthrown by shifting our 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, interpret, and/or assume meaning onto whatever is perceived, in lieu of paying closer attention to whatever presents itself before our very eyes. This shift can be expediated by refusing to label or name or narrate whatever you are perceiving or experiencing.
The first attention orients around day-to-day survival concerns, solving mundane problems, and making sense of things by automatically assigning labels and meaning to our experience. The second attention links to presence, energy and phenomena, allowing direct perception of autonomous forces and the living archetypes governing existence. As these two attentions recognize each other and find ways to work together, an important bridge develops between them allowing us to traverse freely between worlds. Building this bridge between worlds is akin to the shamanic work of soul-making.
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