As an example, it would be good to know a few things about the pupil of the eye. When you go out in the sun, the pupil contracts because there is no need for so much light to go in. Less light is enough for you to see; hence the pupil contracts and the focus is narrowed. When you come out of bright light into a dark place, the pupils dilate and the focus is enlarged, because in order to see in the dark more light needs to go in. So according to the degree of darkness and light it is exposed to, the pupil of the eye keeps changing its focus – the same way we keep adjusting the focus of the camera lens while shooting pictures.
Just as one’s eye is flexible in every moment, so is one’s attention. You walk along a street. If the street is familiar your attention will be tenuous, unfocused; if the street is unfamiliar your attention will be dense, focused. You need not be alert if it is a street you cross every day, because even in an unconscious state you are sure to make it. If the street is totally unfamiliar, one you have never crossed before, you will cross it with alertness. Because of the unfamiliarity of the street, great attention will be needed.
Hence, the more a man lives in security, the more unconscious he will be. In security everything is known, familiar. The more one lives in insecurity, the more alert and conscious one will be. So ordinarily, except for the moments of danger, we are never alert, we are always asleep. If I suddenly point a dagger at your chest, you will become alert in many ways that you are not right now. With the dagger being pointed at your chest, there will be such a state of emergency, such a critical situation, that you cannot afford to be sleepy. No, at such a moment you cannot remain unalert. If you remain unalert in such a dangerous situation you will be risking death.
In that threatening moment your whole being will come to the point of crystallization, your whole attention will become condensed. Your whole attention will remain fixed on the dagger, you will become fully aware of it. It is possible this situation may last only for a second; nevertheless the fact is, your attention ordinarily becomes crystallized only in critical moments. Once the danger is over, you go back to your previous state, you go again into an unconscious state.
That seems to be the reason danger has an attraction. We love to take risks. A man gambles, for example. You may have hardly given a thought as to what makes him gamble. It is the element of danger that draws him to gambling. At the moment of placing his bet, he is more attentive than ever. A gambler has placed a bet of a hundred thousand dollars and is about to throw the dice. It is a very critical moment. In the blink of an eye, a hundred thousand dollars can go this way or that. In this moment he cannot afford to be sleepy; he will have to be aware. That moment of betting is certain to crystallize his attention. Now this may intrigue you, but in my view a gambler is also in search of meditation. Whether he knows it or not is another matter.