Attention and prayer

“Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.”
Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
This closes a circle that I’ve been pondering. A friend has enlisted me in her research project on the nature of attention. Soon, she’s interviewing me about an example of bringing strong attention to bear on a concrete situation. The examples that came to mind were all times of extreme stress, mainly to do with conflict. In such times, I remember the most strongly what prayer can do. If something has disturbed me in the day and go to bed without addressing it, I wake at 3am and can’t sleep any more. If I manage to dwell in the problem, describing it to myself, trying to understand, and then taking up the attitudes of the fourth and fifth subsidiary exercises in a prayerful mood, I can get to a place that is beyond the mixed concerns that make my soul restless. I think this is what John Taylor was describing in The Go-Between God, which I’ve blogged about here.
Is this consciousness — which Simone Weil seems to have been striving for — what Jesus had? Constantly aware of the reality of the broken world, whilst not being deflected by it from his vision of the oneness of all things? Simone Weil’s life demonstrates that we’re not quite ready to bear such a consciousness yet — we veer over into fanaticism, described beautifully in terms of transpersonal psychology in this article.

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