The Nature of Attention – Attention is the SpotLight of Awareness

We hardly ever sit down and pay attention to attention. It’s actually an amazing phenomena; it directs the envelop of awareness to wherever we point it.

Note the nature of attention. It is a funny thing. Attention doesn’t multi-task. It may hop quickly among several things, but we already know we don’t multi-task. Have you ever been behind someone who’s driving and on his cell phone? Then you know we don’t multi-task.

The Nature of Attention - Attention is the Spotlight of Awareness
photo credit: I Am Content

Whatever we give attention to expands. If we give attention to the content of thought, the mental stories and mental movies we play in our heads will expand. If we give attention to thought as a witness, just noticing, without participating or judging, attention will diminish though. If we give attention to the content of an emotion, say anxiety, it gathers up a storm. But if we give attention as a witness to the structure of anxiety, noticing the body sensations and associated thought stories and the energetic feedback loop between the two–when we give attention to the whole thing, we see it for what it is and it disperses.

There is a whole slew of new-age thinking that says that we shouldn’t give attention to anything that’s ‘negative’. This is silly and most unhelpful. What we resist, persists. If we don’t give attention to what we consider ‘negative’ we cut off half the world from our Awareness. Forcing attention on only the ‘positive’ is the purposeful suppression of ‘negative’ thoughts and emotions. It is not healthy. Only the mind can judge something as negative or positive; reality is not negative or positive, or good or bad. If there is something external that we deem as ‘negative’, it is really always just a reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. Turn attention inward to why you deem something to be negative. We have to give attention to anything and everything that goes on inside of us. We just have to do it as a witness, noticing and not participating, so that we can see the entire structure.

The external world is a reflection of our inner world. That’s why some people see the world as good, some as bad, and some as a struggle. When it comes to war, starvation, homelessness, the financial crisis and the like—we have to give them attention. We just have to give attention to solutions, not the problem. Being anti-war doesn’t help; being for peace does. Mother Teresa was asked if she would march in an anti-war demonstration during the Vietnam war; she said no, but she will march for peace.

We use attention to point awareness in two ways. We either see the whole picture directly, or we see it indirectly through the mind. Try it out. Listen to a sound—any sound. If you label it and interpret it, you are giving it attention through the mind, through thoughts. Now just hear it. There is no time-delay between hearing the sound and sensing. It’s a sound in awareness. Attention in this case is direct, not through the filters of the mind.

This is the power of attention. Attention is the powerful spotlight of Awareness.