I’ve been experimenting with my attention lately. When do I want to distract myself? What just happened to make me want to reach for my phone or get on Facebook?
Is it boredom, is it mental strife, is it something I don’t really care to see in myself or my surroundings?
These are questions I’m looking to incorporate into my daily practice of what I’m calling “full attentional living” (like intentional, only wider and more open). By full attentional living I mean: returning myself again and again, as often as required—fully inhabiting this place and time and body.
How often could it be said of me: “The light’s on but no one’s home?” I was a spacy child. Going AWOL (absent with open lids) was my special superpower.
I still value my dreamy drifty nature. But now I find I want to “space out” not by going elsewhere in fantasy, but by being in the spaciousness of my own self.
I find that I have more ease in my tasks and assignments if I regularly take time to sink into a state of deep relaxation and just…attend. Just be.
This might require couch time with zero stimulation. It might involve sitting in the back yard listening to the wrens calling back and forth. It might mean a consultation with a tree friend. Even a few minutes like that can restore me.
The between-times, when I’m “on,” challenge me to stay in that state of flow and ease. Can I find more relaxation in my body as I go about my tasks? Can I release my eyeballs from their tendency to grip? And still do what I need to do? Usually the answer is yes.
And I’ve begun asking myself, Where is my attention drawn right this moment? What am I noticing? What is the meaning behind it? Where is my soul leading me? What experiences or lessons does my soul need next?
And more than that: What wants to be born in this moment, in this creation cycle of my life? Instead of feeling driven (my old pattern) and using all my willpower to make something happen, I’m playing with a softer way.
I don’t want to clench around my dreams anymore. Instead, I’m seeing if I can feel into an idea, hold it gently, and allow it to unfurl.
All this personal work might sound irrelevant in the face of all that’s unfolding on the wider world stage these days. Yet I don’t think it is. I think that the quality of our focus reverberates far beyond our little spheres.
Could full attentional living make change on a wider scale? I don’t believe, as one of my Facebook acquaintances suggested, that hurricanes and earthquakes arise in part because our collective focus is riveted on these disasters. I do believe, however, in the power of holding gentle attention on the hurting places in myself, on the planet, or in a client or loved one (all the same!).
To be clear for each other, we must clear ourselves, and one place to start is through compassionate attention.