Attention, and its cousin, attitude, are the architects of our lives. A focused attention unleashes the energies of Soul, the creative power of our very beingness. Unfortunately, even when we know the truth about the power of attention, we make little effort to work on mastering it. More’s the pity. For you see, all aspects of our lives are affected by our ability to harness our attention: our educational goals, success in our work life and in our personal relationships, our health, and our ability to reach our spiritual purpose.
Of course, without the illumination of self awareness, the conditions or circumstances of whatever we have our attention on can toss us about on a sea of emotion and distraction. And worse, a residue of wherever we have focused on will cling to us, often without our knowing it, like lichen on a rock. Think, for example, of all the violent television programs you have watched. Do you think you just walk away from those unscathed? Sorry, friend, but the what of where you put your attention is the forming substance of your world.
Yes, the forming substance of your world. Let’s take this a step further and say that it’s your attitude toward what you have your attention on that creates your life in any moment. I didn’t catch onto this principle for a long time. I figured it was the conditions outside of myself that made my life what it was. I couldn’t see the connection between my life and the attitude I held toward whatever I had my attention on. Need an example?
Let’s say an accident up ahead has snarled the traffic. You start to think thoughts such as: I’m having my life affected by someone else’s careless driving. Idiot! People who don’t know how to drive in the snow, shouldn’t be driving in the snow! The police, those morons, have blocked all the lanes unnecessarily. Incompetent baboons! Your attention on and attitude toward the accident has just made you one sorry blob of humanity. Your anger will probably carry into the rest of your day.
What about adopting an attitude of gratitude toward the police and medical personnel who are there to help? What about using the down time to say a few non-directed prayers for the victims of that accident? What about taking this time to place your attention on love and contentment or set your creative imagination to finding a solution to a problem or settle into your soul self and unlock a mystery of the universe. With the right attitude toward what you have your attention on, your life can be a happier one and, for those of you who have a lifelong quest for spiritual unfoldment, it can move you closer to your spiritual goals.
So lesson one in all of this is that you may not be able to control everything that happens around you but you can control what you choose to put your attention on along with the attitude you adopt toward whatever you have your attention on and thereby create a better life for yourself.
Ready for another aspect of attention? There’s a well-worn phrase that comes to mind: attention to detail. Wiping off the sink after you used it in a public restroom is attention to detail. Bringing your mother-in-law her favorite flowers on Valentines Day is attention to detail. Taking the time to correct a few typos in a work report before turning it in is attention to details. Why is attention to detail important? Because it arises from an awakened consciousness and leads naturally to excellence in everything you do and to acts of love. What can be more important than that?
How about these two well-used words? Pay attention. If you are walking around, allowing the workings of your mechanical brain to look without seeing and hear without listening, there are moments that you’ll miss: teaching moments, contributing moments, divine moments—moments of service when others need our presence and care, moments when we can act out of the real self in a state of knowingness, even moments when the Divine speaks to us through the life around us. It takes a precise alignment of time and matter, movement and stillness, births and deaths to create such moments. Will we miss all that colossal orchestration because we are too unaware, too shut down, too preoccupied with desiring a moment other than the one we are in? I suspect that most often we do miss out, leaving the moment behind with only a glimmer of the possibility we foolishly let slip by us because of our inattention.
Another point to consider in our attention conversation is the relationship between focused attention and spiritual growth. Let’s use your spiritual practices as an example. You can sit for an hour in meditation and chant sacred words until you run out of breath and all the while be thinking about what you are going to fix for dinner. Practicing like this, your efforts are a near-meaningless rote act during which the real you is essentially absent. You have let this precious time to commune with Spirit and God seep away like water on sand.
Try chanting with your attention focused on a holy personage or on God, directing every breath toward the light and sound of God. Let your consciousness rise to new heights, let love burst open within you like a flower in the sun. Then, when it is time to leave your meditative stance and prepare supper for your family, you’ll do so with an attention to detail that imbibes that food with divine love because you are in a state of love, you are love. You can observe yourself and see if it isn’t so.
So how do we train the ever-wandering attention? The answer: practice! Practice focusing your attention as you go about your daily life. More specifically, try this simple exercise. Focus on an object. It can be an object outside of yourself or something that you place on the blank screen of your mind, the third eye, the place between and slightly above your eyebrows. Observe the object. When the mind wanders, and it will, gently draw your attention back to the object. Practice this for however many minutes you can, as often as you can, until you get better and better at it.
As we come to a close, take a second or two to examine the attitude you may have adopted toward the exercise given above. For those of you who have decided that the exercise sounds too simple to have any real value, you now have an excuse for not trying it. So there you go, your personal status quo maintained by an attitude toward something you put your attention on. Is that what you want?
One last reminder before I move my attention elsewhere. If you are a person who puts your attention on what is lacking in your life, you are a person who is lacking. If you place your attention on the abundance you have in your life, you are a person of abundance who will become ever more so. Go for it!
Jo Leonard is a spiritual adventurer. Her passion in life is sharing the knowledge she has garnered after a lifetime of searching for God. You are most welcome to visit her website and blog and join in the journey at www.jeleonard.com You can also find her book, The Would Be Saint, on Amazon.com