Jacques Lusseyran & the power of attention

The power of attention is one of the greatest powers that is available to us in the present moment.

To illustrate this, there is a remarkable story about a Frenchman called Jacques Lusseyran. As a child he was blinded in an accident. Later he became a member of the resistance movement in the second world war, which eventually led to his capture and imprisonment in a concentration camp.

This is what he said about the power of attention:

Because of my blindness, I had developed a new faculty. Strictly speaking, all men have it, but almost all forget to use it. That faculty is attention. In order to live without eyes it is necessary to be very attentive, to remain hour after hour in a state of wakefulness, of receptiveness and activity. Indeed, attention is not simply a virtue of intelligence or the result of education, and something one can easily do without. It is a state of being. It is a state without which we shall never be able to perfect ourselves. In its truest sense it is the listening post of the universe.

I was very attentive. I was more attentive than any of my comrades. All blind persons are, or can be. Thus they attain the power of being completely present, sometimes even the power of changing life around them, a power the civilization of the twentieth century, with its many diversions, no longer possesses.

Being attentive unlocks a sphere of reality that no one suspects. If, for instance, I walked along a path without being attentive, completely immersed in myself, I did not even know whether trees grew along the way, nor how tall they were, or whether they had leaves. When I awakened my attention, however, every tree immediately came to me. This must be taken quite literally. Every single tree projected its form, its weight, its movement – even if it was almost motionless – in my direction. I could indicate its trunk, and the place where its first branches started, even when several feet away. By and by something else became clear to me, and this can never be found in books. The world exerts pressure on us from the distance.

(Jacques Lusseyran: ‘What One Sees Without Eyes’ p.28)