Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Maintaining Vision, While Focusing

--by Ajahn Thanasanti (Sep 14, 2009)

It seems that the key to the practice is maintaining vision and focus. Vision keeps an overview of what one is doing and the greater context in mind. Focus is concerned with the specific task at hand. The whole thing is too big to focus on at once but I can start with one simple thing, the floors. I like sweeping the floors. I know how to do it. I don't feel anxious about it. I find it relaxing. And most days, people haven't taken away the dust pan and broom so it is actually possible to do. When I'm sweeping the floor, I enjoy it. I relax into the movement, feel my body and breath and focus on the bit of floor I'm sweeping. But I keep the whole floor in mind. So the vision is the whole floor and the focus is the little bit I'm working on. […]

One of the problems with vision and focus is that they can get out of balance. When there is too much vision, then you get stuck in ideas. […] And the mind gets so stuck in everything that needs attending to, it becomes worn out just from thinking about it; there's no energy left to do anything. On the other hand when there is too much focus, the mind gets obsessed with the particular task at hand, like repairing something or building something, and the whole world becomes separated into that which helps me do my job and that which obstructs me. So if someone interrupts by asking a question, it's easy to snap or to dismiss them because; - they're interfering with my work. - People are growled at, [services] get missed, sometimes people can't even make it to the meal because they're too busy getting their work done. But one thing is for sure, the work is never done; there are always more things that need attending to.

So the challenge is to work in a way that keeps the vision alive, maintains the aspiration as well as the buildings, and strengthens faith and confidence in the practice. When we keep the vision alive, our hearts rest in the purity of pure awareness. There, one finds joy, peace and easefulness of heart. This is the real work we are doing here.

--Ajahn Thanasanti

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Previous Reflections:

On Sep 15, 2009 zona paz wrote:

truly God is great he does not leave you empty ins pite that you are awy from your love ones and doing alone the ministry to which you promise to Him

On Sep 15, 2009 Suzanne wrote:

Vision can become very wide, there are so many good ideas to pursue and things to do.  I am at a place like that.  I keep thinking that it will all come together of Life's own accord to a focus for my life.   But, perhaps not.  Perhaps I have to choose.  Oddly enough I think I should choose something that all the other things have been distracting me from.  Perhaps that is why there are so many things, to keep me very distracted. 

On Sep 16, 2009 vaibhav wrote:

hence this is truly said

With small target completed, one gets a lot

(much in magnitude than a big target)


Hence one should have small focus

which gets one to the desired goal


On Sep 16, 2009 Conrad wrote:

Thanks much > this  is beautiful  AND INSPIRING. It will help me balance my life better.

With much gratitude.

On Sep 16, 2009 sf wrote:

I am greatful for the reflections. You keep reminding me of purpose... being as fully in the now as my consciousness permits. I can relate to the desirability of balancing vision and focus. It has been easy for me to get lost in the grand schemes of vision and the delliciousness of focus.

Writing my goals for the day or next period of time, and taking small baby steps, allowing for change along the way, is a life's learning. I have accomplished many things I never could have imagined by letting go and focusing on the task at hand. The challenging part is to find my true vision, not a response to shoulds.

On Sep 17, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

The heart of the piece is the awareness of attachment to vision or focus. Awareness is what can enable us to realize that we are decision makers and not slaves.

It can be very useful to discover implied vision from the activities we're currently focusing on. For instance, as a student, I might be totally focused on obtaining the best grades possible. The implied vision would be a degree holder who looks good on paper. But that vision is not very comforting, so I try finding a higher vision. Maybe it is about being able to apply knowledge to practical problems, so I can help companies and be gainfully employed. But I could step it up some more. Maybe my vision should be about being a better human being. The kinds of things I'd then focus on learning as a student, and the attitude with which I'd approach knowledge would be very different. 

An experience last week helped me see the switch point between focus and vision. Some researchers from another country were visiting, and I was asked to join a meeting to help them out. As I was a bit late, my colleague welcomed me and said, "Their research is in your area. Why don't you tell them about your work?" I was about to, but something told me, "hold on!" In the past, I have spent a lot of time talking about myself, but at this point, I found myself checking my vision - it wasn't to educate others about my work, it was to help them. So, I started asking questions to get to know what these researchers wanted. As I got totally focused on what they were saying, it became clear that they were going to get into a trap very soon. I brought it up and showed them a way out - by changing their frame wherein, all of their initial questions would vanish. They loved the solution, and the meeting ended in 10 minutes. They had found their vision for the next two years. I was fascinated by the whole process of letting go of my ego, and focusing on others, and how quickly the insight came. If I had started talking about myself, it would have been a waste of time (in retrospect). So, in terms of efficiency, cross-checking with the vision and focusing on things that help the vision is so much better. And of course, the satisfaction of having helped someone cannot be measured.

I was fascinated by the comments that came up today. Viral shared a powerful insight (as he always does), on how awareness is a continuum, and when we take things out of awareness, we call it focus. When we add things to it, we call it vision. Someone else (I think Pavi) added to this idea - it is important to be focused with awareness of the vision. Sam had a powerful insight - he felt all his thoughts had been echoed by others - it was like hearing your thoughts come from so many mouths, and he felt a connection. Viral added another powerful one - we were focused on the center and holding the center together with our thoughts, and yet each one was bringing their own vision. 

I also loved Pavi's workshop story. Two people were asked to do the following exercise: one was asked to speak and the other was asked to listen. After some time, the facilitator would ask the listener to turn their head in a different direction. It turned out that the listener found it hard to listen, and the speaker found it hard to speak. Vision and focus go hand-in-hand.

Building on this, I would call it a symbiotic relationship. No vision can be carried out without focus, and focus without vision is going to get us nowhere. 

On another note, the idea of focus and vision also applies to meditation. I was reading a piece that was very critical of a certain meditation practice. The critic had been asked by the teacher not to get stuck with specific experiences in meditation and to develop equanimity. The critic instead felt that his wonderful experiences were what he liked and wanted to stay with them. It seemed as though he was so focused on his experience that he'd gotten attached to it, and lost sight of the vision of meditation - which is to break attachment and develop equanimity. The critic later claimed to be enlightened, but in the entire piece, there was only abuse for other teachers and no sign of joy. I felt very grateful to this critic because he is indeed a teacher. It is hard to get the lesson unless someone else makes a spectacular and visible error. That is when we get to recognize ourselves in the same spot at some point or the other.

On Sep 17, 2009 susan bradley wrote:

I had the pleasure of sharing another Wednesday evening in the company of like hearted people in the Mehta Family home in the south bay! I’m humbled again and again at the mindfulness of this community, the true consideration that many give to the thought for the week. Perhaps the best part is the joy and laughter that we share too, about the thoughts especially with Thoi, Bhoutik and even Pancho!

This passage makes me think of the vision the Mehta family first had 12+ years ago with the first meditation evening hosted in their home. Did they believe the group would continue these many years later, be in practice around the world, and having touched so many peoples lives? Or do they simply focus on the week in which the Wednesday falls. Preparing the lesson, choosing the food menue…

Interesting how the author simplified the processes of vision and focus to a housekeeping chore- sweeping the floor; something we all can relate too, in one fashion or another. The repetitiveness of sweeping, the necessity of the act, and the strategy of the focus on the task. The analogy is able to be used in regards to so many different things in our lives from our jobs and the companies we work for, to our personal lives and families , mates, children and parents and all we do each day in this circle of people. The process transfers to a students plan for education whether it be for secondary education or post secondary education; the need for a vision or a goal and for focus on the achievement of this goal.

This Wednesday evening the number in attendance allowed for a bit longer sharing when passing the mic though the input and the thoughtful nature of the group was par for our weekly gathering. Several different analysis of the ideas of “focus” and “vision” were shared in ways that we all could understand from the perspective of a software engineer and the constant bigger picture of applications running in the background and the immediate use application in the foreground, to focus & vision compared to a volume button of a radio; all interesting and thought provoking.

Our community welcomed newcomers and returning members alike… I’ve been very focused lately on a particular project of importance, and when I step back and gain perspective of my vision again, I am able to breath a sigh in the realization, that the tasks are doable and that my vision remains reasonable and attainable.






On Sep 17, 2009 susan bradley wrote:



the measure of time given to a task at hand

or the need to be fulfilled

or a desire held deep within


giving equal measure to each

learning to be comfortable

with incremental gain


a fullness of pleasure

observing a wholeness of self


sb 6/20/09



On Sep 18, 2009 Shilpa Kapadia wrote:
The key to achieving the balance between vision and focus is sheer happiness. Think about the times that your mind has been happy and how well you have been able to focus on just any thing and achieve what you really want to.
It's easier said than done, but not all that difficult :) The article also reminds and reflects me of the epic stories of Arjun and Eklavya - on how well-balanced was their vision with archery while focusing on a target placed in front of them.

On Sep 21, 2009 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and you might think that I don't know you, but I'd like you to know that I love you all...

As the mic was approaching this Wednesday, I had flashes of the big picture and the local picture, think globally act locally, think locally act globally... and it all merged into think/actglocally/lobally. Is this a part of the same wholeness and oneness of life, only seen from a different perspective? Is this some sort of awareness of our worldwide interconnectedness? I think/feel so. Here are the 3 points I shared with you this week:

1. A Fractal of Courage, Compassion, Love and Wisdom.
2. Gandhi's Fractal.
3. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Fractal.

1. A Fractal of Courage, Compassion, Love and Wisdom.
The part is a model of the whole and the whole is reflected in their parts. Fractals are abundant in Nature. If we are surrounded by they beauty of the Cosmos and all those awe inspiring fractals, what if the Grand Human Family embodies a fractal of courage, compassion, love and wisdom for the survival of humanity?

2. Gandhi's Fractal.
"The very right to live is only afforded to us if we fulfill our duty as citizens of the World. Nationalism is not the highest concept. The highest concept is a World Community."

The Mahatma have a beautiful vision of living in harmony in a World community. Living as citizens of the World. And yet, swadeshi (localism, self-sufficiency) was one of the core values of the movement of his time. Swadeshi is a call to the consumer to be aware of the violence he/she is causing by supporting those industries that result in poverty and harm to workers and to humans and other creatures. It is localism and self-sufficiency but at the same time interdependence and, in Gandhi’s time, finally independence, as British control of India was rooted in control of her indigenous industries. From Gandhi’s perspective, swadeshi was the “center of the solar system” of the independence of India.

While he had the vision of creating a harmonious Earth Community, he hold at the same time the principle to focus on that spirit in us which restricts us to the use and service of our immediate surroundings to the exclusion of the more remote (if he only knew about Global Warming and how we ship avocados from the other hemisphere of the Planet when we can get them locally!). Why to focus on the local? Because it is empowerment at its best. No one is responsible for our happiness but ourselves. No one is responsible for the happiness of the community but the community itself. This is the ultimate empowerment.

Another guideline of Gandhi's fractal in both, small and large scale, is: hatred dissolves in the presence of love. He stressed the principle that our means are our ends in the making, knowing that our thoughts, words and deeds will ripple out all over the community. What are those means? Kindness, fearlessness, courage and love.

So, a single be-the-change person ripples out love into her/his family; then the family into the community; then the community into the region; and then the region into the Planet.

These are citizens of the World forming the Beloved Earth Community.

3. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Fractal.
Inspired by Gandhi's teachings, Martin Luther King Jr. followed his steps: "If we are able to have peace on Earth we need to develop a world perspective..."
For me, what is most incredible about this idea, is that he made it on December 24th 1967, right after the publication of the first color photograph of the whole Earth ever taken in November of that year, but before the photograph taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts on Christmas Eve of 1968 which had a special resonance in humanity's imagination. The contemporary poet Drew Dillinger explains the magic of the picture taken of that Christmas Eve:

"...perhaps because it was taken by human hands and not a satellite; perhaps because it included the edge of the moon in the foreground, providing the element of Earth as seen from the perspective of another celestial body."

The oneness of Martin Luther King Jr.'s fractal and his prophetic insights can be felt in here:

"As nations and individuals, we are interdependent. It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality... Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

As Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. understood that our means are our ends. He was clear that in order to have a sustainable social change, a personal transformation needs to occur. What I call the inner revolution. Perhaps this is one of the most beautiful quotes I've ever understood from him:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

If we want to bring harmony to our communities, it is indispensably to embody the changes we are advocating for. It is because of this fractal of courage, compassion, love and wisdom reflected all over the structures and reality, that our means must be our ends. To overcome falsehood with truth and hatred with love.

In the 1960's we didn't have the outer technology to spread these messages in a fast efficient way. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged us to Planetize the Movement:

"Although it is obvious that nonviolent movements for social change must internationalize, because of the interlocking nature of the problems they all face, and because otherwise those problems will breed war, we have hardly begun to build the skills and the strategy, or even the commitment, to planetize our movement for social justice."

Now we have the tools to do it. We have the inner technology and the outer technology. In this moment, I'm writing a comment that will be available, at the speed of light, to anyone in the Planet who has access to a computer and/or a mobile device.

The kindness fractal of Wednesdays is spreading all over the World, one Wednesday at a time.

Let's Planetize the Movement of the Ahimsa (R)evolution to all corners of our round borderless country... the Beloved Earth Community. Let's start with our own heart and mind.

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

On Mar 28, 2012 iyke wrote:
when focus on your focus,,very soon, you will become a focus