My martial arts teacher once told a story that I have cherished since the first time that I heard it.
There was once a great teacher in China who was dying. His disciples gathered around his bed as the master teacher grew weaker and weaker. Each of his students knew that the end was near so they approached their master to ask for one last lesson.
“Teacher”, they said, “you are nearing the end of your life and when you are no longer with us you will not be able to share your wisdom to guide us. We ask for one last lesson to guide us on our way. What is the one thing that we must do in order to reach the level of wisdom that you have been able to achieve?”
The students waited in anticipation for their master’s response. At this point he was too weak to form the words so he motioned for a scroll and a brush. On the page he wrote a single character. The character meant, “Pay Attention”.
“Oh yes, teacher.”, the students replied. This is a lesson that you have taught to us many times and so we have learned this lesson. In addition to this, though, what teaching would you share with us so that we can continue to learn and grow in wisdom long after you have departed from us?”
The teacher weakly took the brush from his eager student once more and with great effort he wrote three characters on the page before he breathed his last and was gone. The students felt a sudden emptiness as their master was now gone. At least he had left them this one final gift of wisdom to guide them. They turned the page in order to read what had been written. The page simply read, “Pay Attention. Pay Attention. Pay Attention.”
It is said that awareness is the beginning of change. If that is the case it is no wonder why the last lesson of the teacher would relate to this important practice. To pay attention. To be present. To be mindful. It is a skill and a discipline. Like any skill it takes effort to cultivate. Perhaps most of all, though, it requires diligence.
Since awareness is the first step towards change, since there has been a tremendous amount of change in each of us throughout our Master Key Experience, it stands to reason that there have to have been major increases in our awareness. And it’s not wonder. So many of the exercises that we have been doing have centered around improving our ability to pay attention to what is going on around us as well as inside of us.
Perhaps the phrase that we have heard most often to bring us to this new level of awareness has been the call to, “Be the Observer!” which we have heard over and over again. Be the Observer… Pay attention… Take notice… They are each calling us to the same thing. Mindfulness.
This was such a beautiful part of the exercise in silence. I spent three days with no electronics, no speaking and no entertainment last week. When all of those distractions were stripped away I found that I was able to pay attention and observe at a deeper level. Personal insights abounded as a result and I learned lessons about myself that have already helped me to form new habits thereby improving my life.
And it all started by paying attention. Committing to the discipline of paying attention and removing the distractions that would interfere with the process… Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it. What if it really is the key to this whole journey; that first all-important step.
If my observations are any indicator, I do believe that may be the case. All the best to you as you grow in your capacity as the observer. And remember… Pay attention!