⏇ Zan. ⊱December, 2022⊰
⪽ 3 minutes
After listening to this YouTube video by Michael Ashcroft I've been thinking a lot about having better conversations. In the video Michael talks about non-fixation, a form of awareness where you attempt to foster fluidity and flexibility in the landscape of your mind. The state of non-fixation is the opposite of rumination, where the unquiet mind grasps to keep hold of a topic, coiling over itself like a snake trying to swallow its own tail.
Through meditation and fostering awareness I came to realise that I was very prone to fixation during conversation. Often I'd think of something I wanted to talk about and then I would hold onto that thing even when the conversation starts to veer into different territory. I noticed that while sitting there waiting to speak about the idea I'm holding on to, my receptivity to new information diminished. The object of fixation is like a fog obscuring my curiosity.
The seed that originally lead me to noticing this behaviour came from listening to this section of Anthony De Mello's Awareness[-1]:
"Awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness. What they trained us to do in that course was to become participant observers. To put it somewhat graphically, I’d be talking to you and at the same time I’d be out there watching you and watching me. When I’m listening to you, it’s infinitely more important for me to listen to me than to listen to you. Of course, it’s important to listen to you, but it’s more important that I listen to me. Otherwise I won’t be hearing you. Or I’ll be distorting everything you say. I’ll be coming at you from my own conditioning. I’ll be reacting to you in all kinds of ways from my insecurities, from my need to manipulate you, from my desire to succeed, from irritations and feelings that I might not be aware of. So it’s frightfully important that I listen to me when I’m listening to you. That’s what they were training us to do, obtaining awareness."
I find when I didn't pay attention to myself in conversation, I couldn't look past my own assumptions. I couldn't foster the openness required to integrate new information and consider the other person's context and perspective. I couldn't stop myself from mentally marking time—waiting to say my thing while the other person spoke—because I didn't consciously realise that I was doing it in the first place. Maintaining an open awareness in conversation is similar to the practice of noting in meditation. Thoughts and ideas are always arising within us. It's unproductive to try to force them to stop. However, simply noting when the thought comes up, noticing when I'm in a mental holding pattern, noticing that I'm about to speak from a place of insecurity, is enough to start reinforcing the behaviour to break the cycle.
The most counterintuitive part of this is that to see beyond myself in conversation, allowing the exchange to truly become greater than the sum of its parts, I have to look inwards. This made more intuitive sense to me after I realised that our perceptions of self, and the world around us arise in consciousness and are moderated by consciousness. The Sanskrit word for this is Maya.
Everything I see and experience is arising within this space. I'm not a solipsist, however, my understanding is that everything I see, hear and touch is mediated by my brain. The relative importance of everything arising in experience is directly coupled to how I feel, how much space I have within. Without awareness of the character and texture of that space, I won't be able to hear you in the spirit intended and our connection will forever fall short of sublime understanding.
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