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Reader comment on Ajahn Thanasanti's passage ...

Maintaining Vision, While Focusing

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.

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