Two birds of golden plumage sat on the same tree. The one above, serene, majestic, immersed in his own glory; the one below restless and eating the fruits of the tree, now sweet, now bitter.
Once he ate an exceptionally bitter fruit, then he paused and looked up at the majestic bird above; but he soon forgot about the other bird and went on eating the fruits of the tree as before.
Again he ate a bitter fruit and this time he hopped up a few boughs nearer to the bird at the top.
This happened many tines until at last the lower bird came to the place of the upper bird and lost himself. He found all at once that there had never been two birds, but that he was all the time that upper bird, serene, majestic and immersed in his own glory.
– Swami Vivekananda, Meditation and its Methods
Painting by Huang Shen (1687-1771)
“Attention is the quintessential medium to reveal man’s dormant energies to himself. Whenever one witnesses the state of the body, the interplay of thought and feeling, there is an intimation, however slight, of another current of energy. Through the simple act of attending, one initiates a new alignment of forces.
Maintenance of a conscious attention is not easy. The movement, the obligations of day-to-day existence constantly distract. With no base of operations, no home in one’s organism, the attention serves random thoughts, feelings, and appetites which conflict and tyrannize each other.
Sensation of parts or the whole of the body can anchor the attention; provide it with a kind of habitat. The structure, becoming more sensitive, helps to unify attention, so it is less liable to veer into mental channels that consume its power. In turn, perceptions and sensations are quickened, insights are multiplied.
Opening to the force of attention evokes a sense of wholeness and equilibrium. One can glimpse a possibility of a state of awareness immeasurably superior to that of the reactive mechanism, an awareness which transcends one’s automatic subject/object mode of response. Freely flowing, the concentrative, transforming effect of conscious attention brings the disparate tempos of the centers to a relatively balanced relationship. Thought, feeling, and sensing are equilibrated under this vibrant, harmonizing influence.