The Power of Attention
“What we think of, we become,” Buddha said. So out of many things that enter into our mind, we need to choose what we would like to think of and ignore others.
The ability to dismiss unimportant things or distractions and selectively concentrate on one thing is simply defined as attention. It is an active awareness of the world around and in us. With greater attention, we are more likely to better engage the world, either focusing inward narrowly on a small object or outward, broadly spreading out to the vastness of the entire universe.
Is it hard to do? Maybe. Whatever your attention may be brought to, you may initially be indecisive on which one to pay true attention to. A passing train, a flying bee, the smell from your kitchen, the music on the radio, your back pain, a friend’s wedding, a bill that needs paying, a car accident, your weight, a promotion, or your trip to Disney… In time, your needs, preferences, and habits may instinctively dictate where your attention goes by default.
Interestingly which direction your attention automatically tends to go may impact your health and happiness. Studies show that those who experience a heightened degree of self-focused attention are more likely to suffer from psychological dilemmas and pain. On the other hand, those who give their attention to others and the world around them are happier and more appreciative of their lives.
Most of us tend to think of ourselves more than the world outside of us. For our health and happiness however, we may need to shift our attention to something other than ourselves. Having the skill to shift attention is quite useful in handling stressful situations in which your attention may go either way: in a negative direction increasing fear and anxiety, or in a positive way, revealing a new opportunity for growth. How can we change the default response?
There are two factors you can control to shift your attention: space and time. The power of attention heightens when your mind concentrates on here and now.
The most proximate and concrete here space is in your body. The most imminent time is between the past and future, now. In fact, when you intentionally bring your attention to any part of your body, you are instantly here and now.
Our mind tends to wander everywhere but the present, often settling more on regrets of the past or planning for the future. But the body is stuck here and now. This is a good thing because you can bring the mind to the body and anchor it. By paying attention visually and physically to a part of the body, for example to the middle of your open hand, you can contain your mind here and now. When you take a few deep breath, it solidifies the relationship between the body and mind which gives you the freedom to move your attention in the direction of your choice.
The power of attention heightens what we become when we think of I, here and now.