One day a man approached Ikkyu and asked: “Master, will please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?”

Ikkyu took his brush and wrote: “Attention.”

“Is that all?” asked the man.

Ikkyu then wrote: “Attention, Attention.”

“Well,” said the man, “I really don’t see much depth in what you have written.”

The Ikkyu wrote the same word three times: “Attention, Attention, Attention.”

Half-angered, the man demanded: “What does that word ‘Attention’ mean, anyway?”

Ikkyu gently responded, “Attention means Attention.”

One’s Awareness

Wise and enlightened person can only give you hints. Rest they will leave to you. When the man approached Ikkyu, Ikkyu saw his anxiety. Which needed man’s attention. He couldn’t understand the hint. So more anxiety and it turned in Half-Anger. More he worried, the more time Ikkyu repeated “Attention.”

By saying Attention what Ikkyu conveyed – You are carrying stones in your hand thinking that they are diamonds, I will not tell you to renounce those stones. I can say only one thing: ‘Attention.’

By saying Attention he said, ‘Be alert and have another look!’ If you yourself see that they are not diamonds, is there any need to renounce them? They will fall from your hands of their own accord. In fact, if you still want to carry them, you will have to make a great effort, you will have to bring great will, to still carry them. But you cannot carry them for long; once you have seen that they are useless, meaningless, you are bound to throw them away.

When Ikkyu was saying Attention he meant pay Attention towards yourself, be watchful towards yourself, means watch yourself.

Be watchful:

The only thing that has to be learned is watchfulness. Watch! Watch every act that you do. Watch every thought that passes in your mind. Watch every desire that takes possession of you. Watch even small gestures – walking, talking, eating, taking a bath. Go on watching everything. Let everything become an opportunity to watch.”

“Don’t eat mechanically, don’t just go on stuffing yourself – be very watchful. Chew well and watchfully… and you will be surprised how much you have been missing up to now, because each bite will give you tremendous satisfaction…”

Being watchful, being aware, being alert – those are all the same things. We can also call it mindfulness, a term which you may be more familiar with.

Mindfulness is defined as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Another definition: Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Awareness, mindfulness, watchfulness. Call it what you like.

Learning from the story Attention: One’s Awareness

Experience Learning

The Miracle of Awareness

“And the miracle of awareness is that you need not do anything except become aware. The very phenomenon of watching it, changes it.”

“Act, speak, with full awareness and then you will find a tremendous change in you. The very fact that you are aware changes your acts.”

“And when you watch, a clarity arises. Why does clarity arise out of watchfulness? Because the more watchful you become the more all your hastiness slows down. You become more graceful. As you watch, your chattering mind chatters less, because the energy that was becoming chattering is turning and becoming watchfulness – it is the same energy! Now more and more energy will be transformed into watchfulness, and the mind will not get its nourishment. Thoughts will start becoming thinner, they will start losing weight. Slowly, slowly, they will start dying. And as thoughts start dying, clarity arises. Now your mind becomes like a mirror.”

So, how exactly does awareness reduce suffering? How does it improve your life? How does it make you happier? What’s the point, basically?

The first thing to understand is that you don’t need to do anything in the process. You don’t need to try to change your thoughts, emotions, or your behavior. All you have to do is become more aware. Pay more attention. Be more alert, watchful.

The way positive change will happen is by the mere act of watching. As you watch something, it automatically starts changing for the better.

When you watch negative thoughts, they lose their power over you, they don’t disturb you so much anymore, and one day they’ll just disappear. When you watch negative emotions, the same thing happens. They lose their power over you and then they disappear.

When you watch your positive emotions, a different phenomenon happens. They grow stronger. As you keep watching them, you start experiencing them more and more often. In the scientific literature, this process of watching positive emotions is called savoring and it’s been shown to improve people’s happiness.

When you watch your behavior, something else happens. You will become aware that anger always makes you and everyone around you miserable. You will see that holding a grudge is a silly thing – all it does is make you miserable. Once you see what you get out of your behavior patterns, they will start dropping automatically. If you truly see that insulting people is silly, then you will automatically stop doing it. That’s the promise of awareness.


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