Focus your attention on the man who pours the wine, he matters, not the cup. – Rumi –
Your attention shapes the world! The intensity and quality of your attention has the magical power to penetrate matter and feed it with life energy. You can take this both literally and figuratively. Albert Einstein said: It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer... Wim Hof, known as the Ice Man, has proven that he can influence his immune system with his attention. He can literally breathe life into cells where life has withdrawn from the cold. He does this through his attention. Something we all can do!
What is attention?
Before you read on, I invite you to investigate what attention is. The first tendency may be to start thinking about what attention means. This is not my invitation. I ask you to take the time to experience attention. You can observe how attention is moving right now. Where it goes. How it feels when attention rests in the body or is focused on thoughts. What is the effect of a strong narrow focus, or a wide focusless awareness? By playing with this in this way, you can try to describe what attention is, based on your own experience. I invite you to investigate which relationship attention has to consciousness. Is this the same as consciousness? If not, what’s the difference?
Habits in attention
Through our history, culture and education, we develop habits of attention. For example, our attention can be very much focused on our thinking. Or very much outside. Or turned inward. You can imagine that each of the previous examples results in a different experience of the world. Your attention habits have a huge impact on the quality of our lives. Being curious about this and playing with it creates awareness of these habits. This may also present options for breaking through patterns that do not serve us. For example; because you notice that you are in your head a lot and you experience stress because of this, the interest arises to be more in the body. You notice the effect of this and invite yourself more often to feel your body. Or look for situations where this becomes easier. As a result, the habit of attention shifts more and more towards the body. Another example is that attention shifts from negative thoughts towards positive and realistic thoughts.
Hard attention and soft attention
A very valuable distinction for me is the difference between hard attention and soft attention. Gentle attention is pure attention. It does not want and does not need anything. This gives it the ability to be with everything, and to meet everything exactly as it is in the moment. Sensations and emotions that demand attention feel met by this softness and can therefore complete their function. This is healing attention. Healing for ourselves and also for others. It is attention that invites you to embrace and love. In fact this is actually love.
Hard attention is attention plus a judgmental belief. It has an agenda, it wants something. It is possible that our attention is focused on a sensation, emotion, thought or a person and this immediately triggers a belief in us: I do not want this. This has to be done differently. Am I still not cured of this? All examples where there is a judgment on the object of our attention. This causes cramping in our body. And also contraction in the object. This can be an emotion, but also a colleague or a friend. Take a moment and imagine: what is it like when someone wants to change or improve you? What is it like to get the message that you are not good the way you are now. Is love pouring in you or are you cramping? To what extent is it now possible to open your heart, to be vulnerable and to show yourself.
The man who pours the wine
Rumi invites us here to focus on the source. From where the nectar of life flows. I invite you to focus your attention on the source of attention. Perhaps this is mind-boggeling for you. Do not try to understand this with thinking. Sit down and observe the attention. Familiarise yourself with this. In what does the attention arise? In other words; what is aware of attention? Be that and remain that! This is the ultimate liberation. For many this is a process that takes years, for others it is a little faster. Don’t be impatient. Leave results to entrepreneurs. Develop love for exploring love. Your harvest will go beyond all numbers.
For a direct experience of freedom and love, and awareness of attention, I invite you to join a Conscious Meeting evening in Amsterdam East.