the retention pond of mindfulness

A beloved friend of mine, Matt K., is currently working on an overview of phenomenological techniques for the online journal Purlieu.

As he has worked to accomplish his scholarship, he & I have taken up many conversations concerning Husserl’s phenomenology as it is understood by that great man’s diverse successors, e.g. Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty etc et al.

Of all movements to comprehend how we are in the world, Husserl’s practice of EPOCHE is one that often elicits varying degrees of disagreement from his philosophic progeny. Husserl’s phenomenological reduction, of which EPOCHE is one of two moments, “brackets” or “puts out of action” our untested presuppositions. “Putting out of action” everyday assumptions permits us to see ourselves as no longer captive to our currently acknowledged entirety–the world.

Because there are many approaches to any entity or process, we could say there are many kinds of EPOCHE. The most basic form is actually done without a lot of purposeful action: paying attention. When we give ourselves over to X (an item of interest), we are intwined with X precisely because we are stretching toward or reaching for X. In this instance, I am attending to EPOCHE itself.

In order for full attentiveness, I set aside what is not necessary for me to experience what draws my attention. I can suspend for the moment where I happen to be, the autonomic functions of my body, the time of day, etc et al. All that matters is, “What is EPOCHE.” In this instance of a simple format, it is an ability to suspend all else but what allows me to be present to something happening. EPOCHE is self-conscious absorption IN-THE-WORLD even when I am setting aside for the time being a good portion of the world.

A more complicated approach to the power of EPOCHE is actually going farther in consideration than mere attention would allow. To attend grants a first relation to how something is given to us. But having entered into a preliminary familiarity, should my interest go beyond a moment’s attention, I find myself desiring to comprehend a more profound affinity. That is achieved through a precise differentiation: I purpose my thinking as clarifying my focus upon X. Here I can see that EPOCHE is not just bracketing or suspension but is disclosure or retention. Attending long enough leads to retending, stretching-back, disclosing what is there even if I had no idea it is something I picked up in my initial interest.

A final consideration of EPOCHE is how attention leading to focused consideration then can give way to open contemplation of possibilities. As an embodied consciousness who expends existence accepting the ways things are, resolute comprehension requires an inquiry that goes beyond the status quo. Transcendence in this sense is not overcoming the physical or natural world but coming-over to where the life-world gives itself as the horizon of all possibilities. With my acceptance of the everyday world on hold and my disclosive retention activated, I have achieved to a broader rather than a narrower worldview.

Well, these are just some preliminary thoughts. I certainly welcome correction, amendment, and comment.


  1. Thanks for the kinds words, comrade. This current work is really wearing its great influence from your anarchocynical wisdom, in that its its conception of the epoche is ultimately geared towards the third sense you have pointed out here, where the epoche enables us to shake off the rigor mortis of totalizing conceptions and return to the practice of thinking and contemplation, which I now identify as the authentically perennial task of philosophy.

    And we must also remember that our fight today is even harder: where the counterphilosophical movements of days past (psychologism, intellectualism, empiricism, metaphysics) certainly narrowed the horizons of our understanding and hardened us to the flux of existence, those movements did then not have billion-dollar PR firms and advertising agencies, nor were they so cleanly connected with the mad rush for capital as they are when armies of white coats descend onto our television screens and entreat us to forget the lived sense of our bodies and the active grappling with the meaning of our lives in favor of a learned helplessness that only knows how to appeal to experts for knowledge and pills for happiness.

    This weekend I saw a work on Merleau-Ponty and Annorexia Nervosa which is very much in the same vein. Hopefully I’ll have something to show you soon. This work you’ve put forward here will help towards that end.

    Much love and hugs, brother.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.