Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Attention Is Inseparable From Interrogation

--by Michel de Salzmann (Nov 05, 2018)

Our attention is much more than we generally think. It is much more than a simple mental or cerebral mechanism. It concerns our whole being. If its potentialities are far from being fully actualized in our usual life, maybe it is precisely because it is not recognized as a multidimensional keyboard and as the unifying principle of our being. 

Paradoxically this basic act of knowing, which is attention, is only actualized when we don’t know -- that is, when there is a question. Its level and, so to say, its degree of “totalization” are proportional to our questioning. You have surely noticed that when a question is vital -- when it takes us in the guts, as you say -- it suspends all unnecessary movements, emotional and physical as well as mental. It clears the way for real awareness and sensitivity, which are components of my total power of attention. It is only between my not knowing and my urge to know that I find myself present, mobilized, open, new -- that is to say, attentive.

Attention in its active form is therefore inseparable from interrogation; it is essentially, in its purity, an act of questioning. This act is the privilege of our human existence. An animal contents itself with being. The responsibility of man is to question himself on the meaning of his being.

In our society, mainly concerned with production and efficiency, the drama is that our capacity for questioning, still so vivid in early childhood, is very quickly eradicated or pushed aside for the benefit of our capacity for answering. When a child has a real question, most of the time he is immediately given a stupid answer. In the best cases the educator goes to the dictionary to he sure his answer is accurate, but anyhow unconsciously, if not proudly; he closes the question. From school to the end of our life it is always necessary to answer. We are compelled to learn how to answer, If we don't know how to answer, we are just no good. So little by little we become some kind of model machine able to all answer to all situations with the necessary blindness as regards its own contradictions. [...]

Is it possible to keep alive in ourselves our most authentic and precious capacity, which is questioning? This is the whole problem confronting us, actually. But are we strong enough, free enough, concerned enough to really question ourselves while answering? [...] Can we at the same time neither affirm nor deny, neither resist nor follow, assume that we neither know nor don't know, that we are able or unable? Can we be acutely present to what is, without judgment or indifference, without any solution or escape? It would mean being aware on all fronts, renouncing the known for the unknown, withstanding the inevitable principle of repetition, staying still within our movement. 

From, "Two Essays," by Michel de Salzmann, a psychiatrist and a spiritual teacher revered within the Gurdjieff tradition.

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On Nov 3, 2018 david doane wrote:

We have the ability, not obligation, to respond to our being by inquiring into its meaning. Though I don't agree with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living, I definitely think it's worthwhile to inquire into the meaning of our being.  I usually feel free enough to question myself while answering.  I usually even enjoy it.  My most significant questions have only partial answers at best and trigger more questions, which I'm fine with.  My answers aren't complete but they become fuller over time.  Rilke said to love the questions, live the questions, and live into the answers, and I've become more that way over time.  Questioning has helped me in my life by feeding my hunger for knowing and providing meaning, fascination, satisfaction, and growth.

On Nov 3, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of my being here in this world? What hppens to me after I die? These questions often have come to me at different stages of my relatively long life. Glimpses of answers come when I keep my mind open knowitng that I do not have full answers.Such act of inquiry requires my total presence and my full attention to my being. I become quiet and still to listen to my inner authentic voice. Such a stance clears the way for real awareness and sensitivity. I tend to relate to what Michel de Salzmann Says," Paradoxically this basic act of knowing, which is attention, is only actualized when we don't know-that is, when there is a question."
Recently, I had a dialogue with a lady a little younger than me. She asked me what will happen to her when she will die. I had thouht  about it deeply and have arrived at some understanding of my own question. As  I was responding to her question, I was also eploring with her by addressing and questioning different layers of this profound inquiry. This is  an ongoing process for me helping me to know what is the meaning of my being here in this world. It provides me a path to walk with awareness and sensivity.

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On Nov 6, 2018 Czech Jobs wrote:

 Nature versus nurture. Why we always raise kids to be brainwashed in our image rather than theirs. By the time they are young adults, most  self thinking about the world has been drained out of them. This is reflected in society as well as how they behave in their jobs, friend circles or future careers.

On Nov 6, 2018 Quacinda Jodyne Topkok wrote:

 Attention Is Inseparable From Interrogation

Response to title: 
What a play on words...
How POWERFUL a word can BE..
Q.) How do you relate to the notion that our responsibility is to inquire into the meaning of our being? 
A.) Not much.. because everyone must ask that question.. I believe that all we are alive to do is to enjoy ourselves, but we are taught to please others - authority, the voice of experience, the educated voice, tradition, etc. 
We all do well to ponder that question time to time because we do forget to keep focus - Who am I? What am I alive for? We loose the meaning of our existence. 
'Responsibility' is a heavy word for me and in that respect something I want to avoid. So.. If someone tells me I should do this or that or not do this or that.. What they suggest tends to trip-me-up; because I know in my heart already.. I don't need the voice of knowledge to tell me. 
But anticipating a joy-filled existence, and an exciting life.. this is a MUCH more looked-forward-to existence. 
I just am. As a baby I was completely authentic, but as I grew older I begin to live to please others to try and make them happy, and even to fear them as well. I begin to live for the approval of others instead of my self. I guess we might say our first responsibility is to be our selves and it's easy to do when we were mere children but we are also weak and powerless, and we learn to loose our focus on our self and to live for others instead. 
It is my understanding that we have all that we need within us. We can make the right choices in life. No one was created that cannot not know truth or recognize it. Our hearts contain the blueprint for successful existence but our minds are prone to lead us astray. 
Q.) Can you share a personal story of a time when you felt free enough to question yourself while answering? 
A.) In solitude is where I learned to be aware and to dream dreams and develop vision, a goal. A choice is often all I need and that creates volition and energy. Creator God helps me along the way.  
Q.) How has questioning helped you in your life? 
A.) When I am still.. I can know.. 
I then remember to trust God to lead me, to guide my thoughts and actions. 

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On Nov 12, 2018 shane mark wrote:

 We have the ability, not obligation, to respond to our being by inquiring into its meaning. Though I don't agree with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living, I definitely think it's worthwhile to inquire into the meaning of our being.  I usually feel free enough to question myself while answering.  I usually even enjoy it.  My most significant questions have only partial answers at best and trigger more questions, which I'm fine with. quickbooks error code 6176

On Nov 19, 2018 Johnny Potter wrote:

This was a great post. Very helpful that is for sure. Some things I did know and other I had no clue. Thank you very much!