“To be concentrated means to live fully in the present, in the here and now, and not to think of the next thing to be done, while I am doing something right now. Needless to say that concentration must be practiced most of all by people who love each other. They must learn to be close to each other without running away in the many ways in which this is customarily done. The beginning of the practice of concentration will be difficult; it will appear as if one could never achieve the aim. That this implies the necessity to have patience need hardly be said. If one does not know that everything has its time, and wants to force things, then indeed one will never succeed in becoming concentrated–nor in the art of loving…One cannot learn to concentrate without becoming sensitive to oneself.” Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving
Cultivating concentration can be so difficult because we’re taught to be something other than sensitive. The barrage of messages are many: “Toughen up, kiddo. Brush it off, move on. Let it roll… Go. Go. Go. Show the proof you’re worth something! Whatcha got? What’d you DO, MAKE, PRODUCE? What?! Do it NOW.” Life created by the industrial revolution is something a bit automaton, no? Even if we don’t succomb to the vibes, they’re there trying to assert destructive criticism as we reach to type out the next chapter of a book that surely no one will want to publish (says the vibe screaming, anyway). Now our technology makes us more “efficient.” The need to concentrate and cultivate sensitivity is critical only to the point the political or philosophical advantage is secured. What it could mean as a way of life, as the artfulness in our loving is an obscure song long gone for most.
Then some of us are just sensitive to the nth degree and we grow up feeling like a big baby with an alternate “tough guy” persona pulled out for the more awkward moments. A safe mask to keep people from criticizing who we really are. Until. Until we discover that sensitivity is something other than a bane on the landscape of soul. It’s the greatest fecundity of our fields, yielding fruit supreme beyond the briars of our toughest moments. Go back to those most sensitive moments when you were criticized hugely for “over-reacting” and love yourself to pieces. Discover what was awesome about that sensitivity.
Such discovery is essential to developing ourselves beyond the token “listening” and “communicating” in our closest relationship. Some of the more important layers of personal growth require we dig deep into self-awareness and damn the tough-guy programming. Why am I feeling this way right now? Why are my thoughts going in this direction? What do I believe of my own existence along these lines? How does it influence my dialogue with those I love?
And that sensitivity must include loving acceptance of what we discover of our souls and commitment to work through and manage the muck…