My Life in Two States and Some Ways to Return Home

I reflect on my experiences on the “way” (道) and summarize in this article:  my life which seems to toggle between two (cognitive) states and some ways that I have found helpful in finding my way home back to the second state.

The two states are described in the first figure below.  In the first state (on the left), “I” am lost in thoughts.  There tends to be a well-camouflaged stream of thoughts including expectations, analyzing, judging, resisting to what is and wishing that things could, would or should different.  There is a tension and stress in the mind, eyes, throat, neck and shoulder for me.  And there are automatic reactions and habits in response to events in life.  This is where I tend to reside most of the time each day. Two States 20210907r1

In the second state (on the right), there is an awareness of the thoughts – as if light reveals their hitherto hidden presence.  Like the fish who discover they are immersed in water.  There is the acceptance of what is.  Less or no more resistance or judging.  Less or no more tension or stress.  More peace.  And there is the experiencing of the here and now, awareness, acceptance and surrender.  This is where I rarely reside.  Though when here (there), it is wonderful.

There are continual back-and-forth transitions from one state to the other:  going to sleep and waking up.  Though I tend to reside mostly in the first state, I do wake-up from time to time to return home to the second state until of course I go back to sleep and slip back into the first state. 🙂

My interest in the “way” is in freedom from tension, stress and suffering by residing at home or by returning home especially when the going gets tough.

A serendipitous by-product of this discovery of the way is its utility in kendo and other areas of life.  For example, it is very helpful in really seeing an opponent and in being present, capacity and space with no judging for another.  It is also liberating to become aware of patterns of self-talk and behaviors that may be debilitating and a source of stress to myself and others, respectively.  The awareness of such patterns is the first step for me to no longer buy-in to such inner thoughts and change such behaviors.

In the figure below, I’ve summarized some ways shown as categories that I have found helpful to find my way back home to the second state.*  The categories are defined by two concepts:

  1. The focus of my attention:  Narrow Focus vs. Open Focus.
    1. The former, also referred to as Focused Attention, is with tension, strain and a narrow view.  The latter, also referred to as Open Monitoring, is tension-free, soft and with an expansive view.  These concepts can be found in articles on this website using the keywords:  Soft eyes, Open Focus and/or Mushin.
  2. The initial object of attention:  Thought(s) or Sensory Input(s) such as sights, sounds, tastes, smells, textures etc.

On the left hand side, my attention is focused on a particular object of attention – a narrow focus.  The direction of attention seems to flow outward towards objects including thoughts, sights, sounds, tastes, fragrances etc.  This category of ways relate to articles on this website on meditation resources / techniques with the attention illuminating an anchor (such as the breathe) and the experience of movement (kendo, surfing, mountain climbing…), beauty (art, music, theater, dance,…), friendships and life.  On the right hand side, the focus of my attention is reversed towards the opposite direction to “that” which is paying attention to the object of attention.  Towards awareness, spaciousness, consciousness.  This relates to the articles on this website on “Awareness and Who is this I?”,  “Where is My Attention?”, “The Mirror in the Heart of Swordsmen” and Self-Inquiry.  This, for me, helps bring into consciousness a broader “view” or experience of the senses – an open focus.

The top half of the figure is for initial objects of attention that are thought-related (e.g. self-talk, images).  This relates to articles on “Meditation related to Thoughts and Thinking.”  The bottom half is for initial object of attentions that are not thought related – encompassing the sensory inputs listed above.  This relates to Meditation techniques where the attention is aimed at some anchor such as the breath, a mantra or taste and articles on this website on “Deep Belly Breathing and the Wim Hof Method”, Progressive Relaxation and “The Whispered Ah”.  I use the term “initial objects of attention” since the object of attention can change with time and since the experience can eventually shift to Open Focus and/or awareness where the object of attention and that which experiences merges [KendoNotes_NonDuality].

In closing, my life in the two states seems like an abbreviated version of this beautiful poem

Portia Nelson, “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters,” from There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery, 1977.

May you enjoy the fragrance of the flowers along the way 🙂

* Please note that this list of ways home is not intended to be exhaustive as there may be many other approaches and categories of ways home.


  • Sept. 7, 2021:  Updated the first figure and its description.


[KendoNotes_NonDuality] “‘…ing’ and Non-Duality,”, Aug. 4, 2020.

Copyright 2021

Keywords:  Reflections, Meditation

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