Attention and Experience

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Daily experience is made up of the things we give our attention to. You may say that the world/life is just there and what we experience is given fact. However there are layers of choice involved in how we experience each moment. All the stories and the engagement of mind with the world are actually optional!

Where we are in space depends on all the life choices that have brought us to be at home in a specific house, or at work at a specific job, or walking along a specific trail or street. Who is present with us depends on another long line of (possibly overlapping) choices. A beloved, a child, a dog, just ourselves or a whole group of people. Consciously and often unconsciously, I have made the choices that have brought me to this moment and populated it with a specific cast of characters.

Given a location and a scene, there are also many internal choices about how I experience this moment. Human consciousness is only aware of a fraction of what our senses take in. There are filters that make the raw sensory data manageable. Though in the moment, these filters are largely unconscious, we have trained them our whole lives. Some of that training was conscious, much was, and is, unconscious. What do you give your attention to? what in an experience is important to your mind? As we move through life, what do we notice and what do we pass by?

Another layer comes from our modes of participation. Are we looking, or acting? feeling or thinking? how much attention is outside at this moment and how much is inside? We each have propensities for how we engage with our lives. Each style gives a different experience. The sum of all these choices and options is unique to each of us.

The layers of choices are bound up with the story or stories my mind has made up about who I am and how the world is. My mind is proficient at focusing on things that feed these narratives and their associated emotional tone. This ability for the ego to find supporting evidence has always been true. In today’s world of media and the internet it is even more so. Somewhere out there is any opinion or story that you can imagine, and many that you cannot. We get to choose constantly what sources we are tuning into.

What we give our attention to feeds our experience, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. This is our power as creative human beings, to use our freedom of choice to create our experience. And yet mostly we give up that power, allowing our mind to direct our attention as the ego wills, as our habits and patterns dictate. Giving it up to family, friends, the media and the internet. Then we really are powerless.

The mind uses its stories, especially the emotional ones, to engage and keep my attention. This is how it runs my life, creates my life. I have watched it reaching out and engaging the world in ways that sustain its story, or current mood. It keeps me distracted and engaged in its story. If the world is a mess, or dangerous, my mind works overtime to find “answers”. This is job security. It is supposed to be about my security but in fact it often means I’m distracted from joy, or opportunity. I’m so busy following my mind as it chases its tail that I have little time to be, or to consciously consider, who I am and what I am doing in the world.

The good news is that if we have made all these choices, we can also make new ones. You can consciously retrain your mind to use your attention to support a narrative that is more in alignment with your soul, your heart, your inspiration and visionary creativity.

There are practices for freeing my attention, so I can make new choices. More on how we can choose freedom and a new experience of life next time.

(© 04/2018)

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