Saving The 20th Century!

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On the First and Second Attentions


“It is essential that you have Knowledge.
It is also essential that you escape the Known.”
— J. Krishnamurti


What we pay attention to informs the content of our minds; how we pay attention informs the quality of our minds. Two types of attention demonstrate these distinctions (hereafter called “first attention” and “second attention”). The first attention refers to that awareness linked to language, thinking and the automatic assignment of labels and meaning. The second attention refers to that awareness linking to presence, energy, and phenomena without any assignment of meaning. Both attentions are important and necessary for different reasons.

The primary purpose of the first attention involves solving survival problems, such as figuring out where to find enough food, water, and shelter to stay alive. Once these basic problems are solved, the first attention continues its automatic processes of labelling the objects, and the people in our immediate environment. At some point, this labelling attention turns inward to analyze the type of work we can do to solve the money problem of assuring future survival. After entering public education systems, the first attention sophisiticates its labelling processes beyond the concrete concerns of survival priorities through an increase of abstract thought, ie., philosophy, mathematics, history, etc. Abstract thought disconnects attention from the immediate environment and redirects attention into the strata of mind alone. Whether our concerns are concrete or abstract, the first attention continues its automatic (unconscious) inner activity of labelling and assigning meaning.

The primary purpose of the second attention involves the simple act of seeing, of witnessing without assigning meaning to whatever is being perceived. As the aperture of perception dilates and opens, we perceive more reality — not our ideas of reality or what that reality might mean — but the existing conditions of the way things actually are. As more reality is perceived, the second attention dialtes to a more direct experience of certain immutable principles of existence, such as uncertainty and impermanence, principles that do not require any assignment of meaning. When the second attention activates, we become more aware of uncertainty as a creative state where possibilities replace certitudes and a spirit of discovery guides the way. The second attention sophisticates with any direct experience and acceptance of the state of impermanence — the fact that everything changes and undergoes death and rebirth in perpetua. As we awaken to impermanence, we awaken to our mortality — not just our own but others’ and not just as an idea or concept but a reality.



These two attentions function separately and/or together at various degrees. Left alone, the first attention fixates awareness on survival issues — such as security, status, analysis, money, problem solving, and social needs. Left alone, the second attention fixates on “post-survival” luminosities such as ecstasy, rapture, clairvoyance, telepathy, sources of inspiration, intuition, creativity, and the imaginal powers of dreaming.

The first attention expresses a function of physical sight and intellect; the second attention links to the energetic body and intuition with biological correlations in the pineal gland. The two attentions are linked the way external sight is linked to insight and clairvoyance. Though both attentions are linked, their mutual interaction remains for the most part latent and rarely made conscious during daytime waking hours. Discovering and developing meaningful interactions between both attentions involves a kind of double vision for 1) seeing through appearances and into underlying infrastructures and essences of reality and 2) developing truthful interpretations of these insights.

The first attention stabilizes awareness; the second attention destabilizes awareness. First attention stability feeds on the pursuit of certitudes such as fixed beliefs, ideas, preconceptions, assumptions, and dogmas. The more unstable second attention comes alive as we permit more uncertainty and when we find that inner stillness of being unknown to ourselves. The second attention opens and/or narrows according to each person’s anxiety threshold or, how much uncertainty we can permit before anxiety sets in. Anxiety expresses a natural response of the nervous system when we reach the limit for how much uncertainty we can bear.

Both attentions can be strengthened through different types of concentration. First attention can be strengthened by concentrating on the meaning of an event or perception. Second attention can be strengthened by a concentrated merging with the energy or phenomena of whatever is being perceived. First attention creates a picture and assigns a story, a message or meaning to it. The second attention attunes to the signal, frequency or vibration of the energy. A message is the ordering of a signal. Second attention gets the signal, first attention organizes it into a message.

This interplay between signal and message happens by itself – unconsciously and beyond our control — at the speed of light. The second attention absorbs luminosity and is light-sensitive; the first attention translates energy (light) through pattern recognition. The second attention acts like a radar dish receiving raw signals from inner and outer space, whereas the first attention is like the computer program that translates incoming signals as readable data and then, outputs the data



The first attention can act as an anchor to the second attention, as the second attention can act as a catalyst or shock to the first attention. The first attention anchors the second attention when we learn to find words, images, and ideas that most truthfully serve the authenticity of the second attention signal. The second attention shocks the first attention awake with the experience of more uncertainty and the option to experience the unknown firsthand. If the second attention fails to anchor itself in the first attention, the absorption of luminosity can accelerate and overstimulate the nervous systems; the brain heats up and we are overwhlemed with psychic energy and images. Not unlike a power surge through an electrical wire without a ground, the energy sputters, disperses and fails to deliver.

Whenever the first attention consistently avoids uncertainty and resists the unknown, our thinking processes can rigidify, grow brittle, and become overly literalist. Eventually, this over-literalization of thinking can result in claustrophobic sensations, paranoia, and imagination death. Educational systems of western civilization have assigned the first attention with a priori status by giving out the highest grades for how much knowledge we can retain. The problem with this is that we learn to equate not knowing with Failure. The “knowing mind” belongs as much to the first attention as much as the “not knowing mind” belongs to the second attention. First attention secures itself by accumulating knowledge and plans, as much as the second attention thrives in a spirit of discovery and open minded uncertainty.

To accelerate perception, relax the urge to label and to define. While these reactions may temporarily secure our sense of certitude, their hypnotic influence can overwhelm the inner action of seeing.

If basic survival problems remain unsolved — when security, status and/or territory becomes threatened — survival anxiety naturally ensues. In an attempt to alleviate this anxiety, the first attention can begin fixating on absolutes as an, albeit unconscious, attempt to restore a sense of security via certitude where no certainty actually exists. In its extreme, an insatiable appetite for certitudes can mask the suffering of frustrated survival/security needs. This dillemna can also drive us crazy by trying to make sense of everything or spin out in a nonstop rant of rationalizations. First attention cannot solve the problems created by the first attention. Attempting to solve problems with the very mechanistic mindset that created them in the first place perpetuates a kind of mobius strip of mental looping. Mad, mad, mad Monkey Mind.

The mad reign of King Monkey Mind can be overthrown by shifting the focus towards the second attention. The second attention can be cultivated by relaxing the search for meaning. This can be experienced by relaxing the tendency to project, interpret, and/or assume meaning onto whatever is perceived, in lieu of paying more attention to whatever presents itself before our eyes. This shift can be expediated by refusing to label or name or narrate whatever you are perceiving or experiencing. This begins a process of flexing a perceptual muscle that was at one time active and vital before it weakened, corrupted, and/or atrophied.



To review, the first attention attaches to day-to-day survival concerns, solving everyday mundane problems, and making sense of things by automatically assigning labels and meaning to experience. The second attention links to presence, energy and phenomena, allowing direct engagement with the autonomous forces of creation and even the living archetypes governing existence. As these two attentions recognize each other and find ways to work together, an important bridge develops between them allowing us to traverse freely between worlds.

This article developed from STATE OF EMERGENCE, Part 5
A Paratheatre Manifesto by Antero Alli

Paratheatre, F.A.Q.

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