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The Ten Commandments of Everyday Living: 1

Know where you are and what you are doing at every moment of the day - avoid drifting, daydreaming and fantasising.

People talking on mobile phones as they walk down the street give an eloquent demonstration of one of mankind’s great liabilities: partial attention. The motor function is moving their legs but their journey is reduced to a mere backdrop to their conversation which, as likely as not, is about events which have occurred or are to occur at a different time. When people are talking on mobile phones what is going on around them, the present moment, is without value or interest but if they are not here neither are they there. They exist in a limbo land created from their own thoughts, emotions and imaginings.

This is a place where we all spend a great deal of our lives as the preferred alternative to being alert in the present moment. Boredom is a lack of investment in the present moment and boredom is death to opportunity.

The point of these articles is not to inveigh against modern living, least of all in the name of some lost simplicity and innocence that was more supportive of a spiritual life- a sentimental conceit if ever there were one. Modern life is what we have, it has made us who we are and it is shaping our opportunities. We have to make it work for us. Our attention spans may be getting shorter but partial attention has existed for as long as humans have had two eyes, one to respond to objective, one to respond to subjective.

The person who is fully awake divides his energy between the two without loss to either. Divided attention is to be distinguished from partial attention. Divided attention is 1+1=2; partial attention is 1-x. Mostly we are in a state of partial attention where the process of receiving impressions from outside is interrupted from within.

Then the process reverses and reverses again and so on.  Our attention is fragmented by this process and attention that is fragmented is hard to control. It gets taken over first by one thing and then by another and so we lurch from one experience to another, and from one sensation to another, trying to get more of those that are pleasurable and to avoid those involving pain or discomfort. This strategy doomed to failure because, in truth we have no real control over what catches us up.

Down the ages spirituality has existed to help us gather up the fragments of attention, like drops of water in a cup, and raise it up to a higher level in order that we may become more consistent, more purposeful and less reactive and distracted. There are as many ways of doing this as there are forms of organised spirituality. The Buddhists encourage meditation Christianity encourages a mindfulness of others. This present phase of the Masters teaching encourages mindfulness of purpose. All will require us to be aware of what we are doing and thinking and feeling at all times. This is what it means to be in the present moment.

The present moment is the place where we make the decision that stands to change our lives. It is also the place where we will be challenged. If we do not remember ourselves every moment of the day how will we remember our intention? The answer is we will not and we will make decisions, which are counter to it. The dieter will forget why she decided she must diet and give in to temptation; the smoker will forget why he has given up smoking and light up; the spiritual aspirant will forget the suffering that has made him commit to a different set of values and lets himself down through the careless word, the untruth, the lack of consideration and the small meanness. All such slips make it necessary on some level to recommit to our intention, and recommitting takes additional energy. There will be a moment when we will either find the energy to recommit or we will abandon our intention. That moment is the present moment because all decisions are made in the present moment.

The third eye opens when the personality has achieved divided attention and is ready to look upwards as well as outwards and inwards, not occasionally but consistently:

1+1+1= 3. Three is the number of spirit in manifestation. 

Attention is the best ally that a person trying to live purposefully has. To be able to recall at any moment in any circumstances what is of importance to us and to see how we can use the present opportunity to serve our purpose; to be aware of ourselves as we react, to catch ourselves in the process of reacting and so learn something new about our habitual tendencies, something that may, in time, help us gain mastery over them: this is what it means to live consciously. Living consciously is not a level of attainment; it is a state of awareness. It does not involve walking around in a state of self-important gravity as many people assume when they meet with self- remembering techniques; it is, rather, a state of alertness which is light rather than ponderous. Being aware of self is not self-obsessing, any more than being observant when one is driving a car is evidence of an obsession with that car. It is a basic act of self- responsibility if we will acknowledge how dangerous to intention can be the unguarded moment.

How do we learn to stay awake and be appreciative of the present moment? One thing is certain: we never will unless we throw off conditioning that makes us perceive that the past which has gone, was more pleasurable and the future which is yet to come is more promising. By comparison, the present which we cannot adorn is dull, disappointing and demanding. We fill up the present moment with busyness and distractions, seemingly unaware that the reason the future never arrives as we expect because as it becomes the present it has to pass through this portal of negativity. And so the wheel grinds round.

The past having gone and the future having yet to arrive, the present moment is the only time we have and it contains all the opportunities that exist for us. Attention alone will make the present moment purposeful, because purpose is conferred by consciousness and attention will make the present moment purposeful no matter what it contains. Without consciousness our lives are a succession of random experiences, some pleasurable, some not, that stick to us like chewing gum to a shoe as we meander without direction between the cradle and the grave.

Like any skill being in a state of attention is improved through practice but first we have to consciously engage with the activity.

Identify your goals at the beginning of the day, commit to them and check out at frequent intervals during the course of the day where you are in relation to them. If you know you have slipped then recommit. To tidy something up at the same time– your desk, your room, yourself - or to perform a task, no matter how small, that you know you have been putting off,  is a good back up as it generates the right kind of energy.

 
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