Dear Integral Meditators,
The theme of this week’s integral meditations article is quite simple, but at the same time often difficult to do. It is this; if you can control your attention then you can control the way in which you experience your life. We can’t always choose the way our life turns out, but we always have a choice with regard to what we are paying attention to in our life at any given moment. Exercising the power of that choice is the essential discipline of attention training.
Yours in the spirit of the empowering power of attention,
Your Attention as Your Object of Mindfulness
Any advertising executive will tell you that the most important thing you need to do in order to sell people your product is get their attention. If you can get their attention then there is a chance you can convince them to buy your product. If you cannot get their attention then you can’t sell anything to them.
Consequently, when you go out onto the street or go online, you are not going into a neutral environment, you are going into a ‘hostile’ environment where people are trying to get your attention all the time. By controlling your attention they control the way you think, the beliefs you have, the way you behave, how you act and what you consume.
The corollary of this is that whatever you yourself choose to place your inner or outer attention upon at any given time affects how you think, what you believe (about yourself and your world), how you feel and behave, and what you consume.
From this it is easy to see then why it is crucial if you are trying to lead any kind of considered, evolved and directed life that you learn to be aware of what you are placing your attention on, and be as sure as possible that it truly where you want it to be.
To give a simple example if your attention is entirely consumed by ideas from the mainstream media, then your ideas about what “happiness” is will not actually be your own, but rather simply a reflection of what the mainstream media sources tell you happiness is.
How are you ever going to be really happy if your idea of happiness is a product of what someone else wants you to think?
Another simple example is that we have a strong tendency to pay attention to what is wrong with ourselves, or with our life, without regularly placing our attention on appreciating and enjoying what is right with ourselves and our life. Training in attention in this example involves definitely focusing on what is going well and positively in our life.
Controlling your attention is one of the keys to living a self aware life where you are the one making the choices about how you think, feel and act rather than these things being an unconscious product of ideas that you have been fed by someone else.
Practising mindfulness and meditation are major ways of developing the capacity to consciously control your attention.
Beginning to consciously control your attention
You can start to become aware of, direct and control your attention by doing the following short exercise once or twice a day over the next week, and then subsequently whenever you feel the need.
- Pick a quality that you wish to develop within yourself that is pertinent and helpful to your life right now. For the sake of an example I’m going to choose “the qualities of lightness and playfulness”.
- Ask yourself “What has my attention been focused on for the last hour or two? How much of that time have I been consciously integrating the qualities of lightness and playfulness into my life, and into my attention training?”
- Then ask yourself “Where is my attention placed right now? Where can I focus my attention in order to regain or enhance my experience and development of the qualities of lightness and playfulness?”
- Finally ask “How can I focus my attention on for the next hour or two in order to continue integrating lightness and playfulness into my life?” Your answer to this final question gives you your “attention training” for the next hour or two of our day.
© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com