To the idea “Show up, pay attention, give it your best, and let it go,” I want to add the word “repeat”. The idea is that one doesn’t just sit passively through whatever event you attend, but that you participate repeatedly. Living well isn’t like watching a movie, it’s interacting with the situation and presenting your personal experience, what specific things you have learned from your experience, and then offering the best of the wisdom you have arrived at by thinking about what you have learned.
The other people will have their unique relationships to whatever the situation is that’s being dealt with and therefore it is necessary to pay attention to them, and to blend their ideas into what you know. When something triggers a new thought, instantly write down a couple of words so you don’t forget it. A new idea is easily forgotten as there isn’t a previously existing mental link. A new idea is floating in an intellectual vacuum, and it will evaporate back into the universal vacuum until it is put into a form that can be seen later.
If there are several people at a meeting you will usually be required by social convention to wait for an opening to present your ideas. This wait presents a problem because most people don’t stop with one idea, but drift from one idea to another and by the time they stop your new idea is no longer relevant to the current conversation. This flow of other people’s ideas conflicts with the basic concept of “pay attention”, because by doing so there will be a multitude of thoughts and only a few can be held in the mind. Which one is going to be attended to and responded to becomes a serious problem, especially when another person talks for a long time and about many subjects, almost all of which are increasingly tangential to the original one. If you have an original idea it will require some backing up to the point in the conversation where it was relevant, and that will be off topic of what the other person has drifted around to, and therefore you and your idea will seem to be the distraction.
“Giving it your best” becomes irrelevant to the other people in a group conversation of a dozen people or more, because your best will require developing some background materials before a new idea can be even expressed. This problem of exploring a truly new idea can be coped with best by having the group size quite small, about four people, so there is little need to wait through some non-stop infinite-speakers. Keeping a notebook handy and writing down short notes has an additional advantage when returning to a subject, in that it permits coming back hours later and reviewing the new idea that would ordinarily have evaporated. Later, in the quiet of your own study room you can reread and rewrite and develop the idea more thoroughly.
“Letting it go” in the moment is important because we can get tied into mental knots if we fixate on one thing and then fixate on another, and another. That is the reason why writing down a short note is valuable, because it frees the mind to then attend to what new ideas are arising within the group. Ideas take flight and can lead to the most wonderful adventures, but they can and frequently do go to crazy places, so it is essential to bounce between fantasy and reality, between the grand general-view and the functional specific-view, between what is possible in general and what we can actually do in specific.
“Repeat” the whole process, and showing up and paying attention often means more than showing up physically to the event; it means frequently returning from one’s own inner thoughts to the external thoughts of the group.
Show up, pay attention, give it your best, let it go, repeat and repeat!