Supple, Enduring Concentration

“I’ve enjoyed some time not only on your blog but also the other pages that have come up. The music playlists are a welcome addition to the early morning hours. Sitting quietly with your thoughts on information, consumption, and curious about how that all fits into morning contemplations… It seems like for years now I’ve carved out more space in the mornings when I feel alive and alert to play with ideas, yet find myself with some query over the idea of how that plays into overconsumption or even what the term means.”

I admit to being a fan of the idea that evolution, of anything, really, but especially a human being, requires some intentional linearity, what Buddhists sometimes call supple, enduring concentration. That can open into contemplation, a wonderful word:

“1: The action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time; 1.4: A form of prayer or meditation in which a person seeks to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the divine.”

However you want to word it, how one engages time without allowing oneself to be pulled in different directions is a crucial factor, for example, in “it takes both proclivity and application to look beyond what is given into where it came from and where it might be taken…” or even seeing clearly what’s right in front of us.

Grandeur, I believe, in any field of work or play, comes mainly through staying with something longer and more attentively than is usual, after others have turned away and moved on to something else. I also believe that limitation (and suffering in general) – personally and relationally – is most often self-created by various forms of internal fidgeting, which so often is simply “Right, got that; what’s next?” leading to unending superficial missing of the entire point yet not noticing and having a lot to say about it anyway. That impulse – “What’s next?” – is often the preference for consuming the next thing, and that can even be a question, “On to the next question, then…” The problem is, the first question was never really explored, not completely, not to its roots and flowers – its meaning and imaginative possibility.

A pianist acquires all the information she needs to play a complex sonata by reading the sheet music in three minutes. Then there are the three months of setting aside other appealing distractions and impulses to allow the music – in practice and contemplation – to drip out of her head and expand into illuminations so as to know it and embody it. She then has something unique to say, something to give back that will move someone else into a new experience. That’s a sophisticated process in many ways, but the simplest part of it is just “I’m going to stay here with this one thing until I know it.” Back to our Buddhists, that’s basically what Buddha did. But if you follow the trajectory of anyone who is really exceptional at what they do, you’ll find a similar ethic.

Just obscure musings from a silly blog. Thank you for the comments and questions.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

~ Albert Einstein


Photo of a Tibetan sand mandala

One Comment Add yours

  1. original comment says:

    “Just wanted to express a few things concerning your last blog, even if a bit clumsy, realizing more and more how any of the threads you give us can be taken and explored in so many directions if one has enough curiosity and endurance, so that our world expands rather than contracts…

    The first time I read your last blog I felt some kind of tremendous elation and joy for all that was presented and rushed to write you a note, then had a second thought, that I should take more time to stay with it a bit longer.

    I went back reading and revisiting the hidden jewels links this morning, I noticed a link that I missed the first time: “seeing clearly what is right in front of you.” I started to watch it and burst into tears, not quite sure exactly why, I felt so deeply touched and nourished inside and was amazed at the art you created, the care, attention to details, original presentation with so many angles and possible directions to explore further, you taking the time to present something unique even though many things could very well go unnoticed, just like real life. But when you stay a little longer with things (the grand noticing) the beauty and complexity of things start to hit you back and you find yourself in a very different place…marveling at the beauty of life.

    As you say with the pianist, it still takes time and creativity to process (to mature in the barrel), integrate a piece of music so completely that every part of us is then able to give it back with the appropriate qualities and spirit so that it has more meaning and impact at delivery.

    For me reading your posts always puts me back on the right track, keeps me awake, provokes wilder, broader thinking, encourages new discoveries and gives me a deeper sense of purpose staying focused on what truly matters. Your posts are like a beacon of light when lost in the darkness of a threatening sea, and the lighthouse is always sending its light.” – R.R.

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