Find New Strength in Awakened Attention
by Guy Finley
(Merlin, OR, USA)
Own Your Own Attention
A man is walking through his office when his boss walks by and gives him a blank look. The thought pops into the man's mind that his boss is criticizing him or doesn't like him. Now, as he starts to fear this idea -- a negative picture produced by his imagination -- his mind focuses its attention on this disturbing image. And the more he attends to this dark dream, the further into its labyrinth he descends, strengthening its presence and power to further irritate him. A heartbeat later, he has no doubt: the boss has it in for him! This thought grows in authority for him, tormenting him for the rest of the day and causing him to snap at his family when he gets home. And all of this suffering is born of what? The conjunction of a passing glance and a moment of misdirected attention!
From our vantage point, we can see how the man's unattended mind first animated a fearful thought, which leads to wrongly feeding it with his own life. We can also see that nothing can change for him until he sees the truth behind his trouble and withdraws his consent from it.
We suffer because we consort with painful thoughts and feelings, thinking somehow that not wanting them makes them go away. But our unconscious actions betray us: first, by animating what makes us ache, and then by binding us to that relationship through our resistance to it. Here's a simple way of saying these last few ideas: Not wanting our negative states actually nourishes them! I can almost hear the question that comes next: "Wait a minute! You can't be saying these dark thoughts and feelings are good, and that we should want what's hurting us, are you?"
Of course not! Negative states have no right to exist in us as they presently do. And that's just the point. We literally give them a place to live in our psychic system -- feed them, as it were -- by trying to rid ourselves of them in the usual ways. But there are other ways of dealing with pervasive dark states besides resisting them, suppressing them, or trying to change the conditions seen as being responsible for them. Instead of these acts of willfulness, we choose in favor of watchfulness. Rather than struggling with dark states, learning to be quietly watchful of them does two things at once: first, it separates us from being wrongly identified with our own thoughts about that troublesome state. Second -- by the light of our newly liberated attention -- we catch a glimpse of a powerful insight whose light helps set us free:
If we mistakenly give any negative state its "life" -- then the opposite must hold true: we can consciously withdraw that same life any time we so choose!
Here is a simple exercise to help you get started with this new kind of seeing that is the power behind freeing you. Several times each day, whenever you can remember to do it, deliberately disconnect yourself from your own thinking. Choose awareness of your thoughts over being absorbed in the sensations they produce as they carry you along to get what they want. The aim here is simple: reclaim your attention in order to be where you are, and then just quietly notice all that you can about yourself. The light of this new order of awareness empowers you to catch and release what your own unattended thoughts had been busy cooking up for you, using you as stock! Each time you remember to reclaim your attention in this manner, with it you regain your life.
(Excerpted from "The Essential Laws of Fearless Living" by Guy Finley, Red Wheel/Weiser)
Guy Finley is the best-selling author of The Secret of Letting Go, The Essential Laws of Fearless Living, and more than 40 books and audio albums on self-realization, including his brand new book The Secret of Your Immortal Self. Guy is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for self-study located in southern Oregon where he gives talks four times each week. Guy is a faculty member at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York and is a regular expert contributor to Beliefnet and the Huffington Post. Click here to visit the Life of Learning Foundation website and sign up for free to receive Guy’s 8-hour eCourse Seven Steps to Oneness on 8 MP3 downloads.