by Tim Furneaux

In the Tayu meetings, after a session of sitting and co-meditation, the teacher asks this question to each individual gathered: "How has your practice been this week?:

Each time this question was posed I noticed the same reaction inside myself. It was as if my attention to presence would swoop down and enclose me inside my solar plexus... as if, with a grinding of gears, massive doors swung noisily shut and I am hidden behind them. I have also noticed this phenomenon throughout my entire life.

After attending a couple of meetings and this questions was asked again I described this withdrawing as it was happening in present time. It was pointed out to me that it might be very interesting for me to focus attention on this phenomenon. I was also strongly encouraged to, within the school, practice expressing what was inside me without censorship or control of what gets let out and what doesn't.

Time passed and all this was seemingly forgotten in my day-to-day life, remembered only in the meetings themselves. As those of you who practice meditation might have experienced, it can be difficult just to remember one's intention to practice.

A student of sleight-of-hand for many years, I've learned about what magicians call misdirection. Misdirection refers to when your attention is compelled to where another's gaze is directed or when attention is attracted to something glittery and shiny, all the while a "lie" is being performed, some unseen activity.

In spiritual life one might become attracted to shiny, glittery "spiritual experiences" while the true field of one's spiritual work, the place where Real Work might take place is ignored.

Recently I was challenged to find three ways to remember my intention to focus attention on this "closing off from life." I found I already had such tools at my disposal. It took a direct challenge for me to intend to use them. It became easy to remember to observe this phenomenon, hard in witnessing what was happening without being able to change it. Something happens outside myself (a person says something, for example) or inside (a thought) and the automatic reaction is triggered and I've found myself in a deadened place, wondering "how the hell did I get here?"

There have been side effects to the observation of this automatic behavior. Without intending to change them, relationships have become transformed in most unexpected ways.

I'm on stage, it's near the end of the song. Suddenly the fiddler spontaneously begins to improvise, carrying the song to a new place and I join in the fun. Afterwards, the bass-player complains of being thrown off by the unexpected. He wished the well-worn pathways of his familiar grooves and standard licks not to be deviated from...

The doors which seem to swing shut inside myself have well-worn grooves from a lifetime of use beginning as a child. I have no need to automatically do this anymore. Yet I watch myself doing this still...

Hey, now that we've broken the ice together and I (hopefully) have your attention and interest I'd like to take this opportunity to say just a few things ...

If you've found an authentic teacher and there is real work going on for you, then please stick with it until you see the process through. Remember the saying "perseverance furthers" from the I-Ching? It's not just a saying. And besides, I need you. I need authentic human lives around me.

And if you don't have a spiritual teacher I encourage you to find a true one. Even if you could do it all by yourself, what's wrong with using some help? Help is available. Why not make use of it this time?