When I tell people to be present, or to get out of their mind, they understand it this way:
Be present to everything around you. The beauty, the ugliness, the sun, the wind, people.
Or alternatively, while doing guided meditation, pay attention to what the guide, the leader of the meditation tells you to pay attention to, your breathing, relaxing, whatever.
This type of notion seems to make it wrong when you are paying attention to what you are doing, thinking (as in problem solving), etc. Because you are present to one thing and one thing only.
There is a physical law: there can only be one object at any one place at any one time. You can only be present to one thing at a time.
When you disperse that attention, when you disperse that presence, your attention moves and scans the area really fast, and gives the illusion of attention being 360 degrees. It is an illusion. And if you have ever tried it, it is as hard work as working in the coal mines, you can sustain that type of attention for mere seconds, not even minutes.
Nature, Life is not wasteful and attention/presence are very much in short supply.
There is hardly anything that requires no attention, unless your machine-like self can take over the conscious self and do a good job.
We have all arrived home and we didn’t remember any of it… we have all crawled to bed at one time or another without having to pay attention.
How and what am I present to? Paying attention to?
I spend 80-90% of my time oblivious to my environment, and luckily, oblivious to my body. My attention is on my work, my observation, my testing, my writing, my reading.
- Am I present to my breathing? no, I am not.
- Am I present to my feeling? not unless it demands my attention.
Do I obsess about stuff in my mind? No, hardly ever. 1
I pick my games, the games that require me to be present, or I’ll play poorly.
I hated being an architect, because most of what an architect does can be done unconsciously…
I never enjoyed driving, because most of driving can be done unconsciously. I used to drive a lot, really fast, so my attention would not be wasted.
I get really bored with most conversations, with dinner out, with parties, because they require, for the most part, no presence of mind… You can try to be present, but present to what? Something that makes absolutely no difference… or at least, in MY world.
I choose what to be present to, what to give my conscious effort.
What is missing for most, is choosing what to be present to.
When your attention wanders, when you cannot put it where you need it, then the tail wags the dog.
Can you learn to take control of your attention?
One of the things that makes it easier is clearing all the past that is vying for your attention, because it is incomplete.
Incomplete means that there is stuff that demands your attention.
Being able to complete is an art and a science. When you are complete you have control over your attention.
Completion or clearing
Being complete or clear is like integrity: it is never quite done… you always need to complete, just like you always need to restore integrity. It just how life works.
Here are a few questions that can help you complete and clear, so you can give your attention and trust that you’ll be able to keep it on what you want to do.
Completion practice… as in doing it regularly! What is present?
Take yourself through the questions below…
- What is your attitude?
- What are you feeling? Where? How would you describe it instead of labeling it?
- What is underneath that? unfulfilled expectations, undelivered communication, thwarted intention
- are you being cause or effect? Right now…
- Touch your face… your nose, your forehead, your chin, your lips… what facial expression do they show?
- What are your feelings about what’s going on? About the direction it’s going? About the future?
- What is in the way of giving your full attention to what is in front of you?
What fears, trepidations, concerns are in the way?
A long time ago I had an employee who was about to get married. She was a graphic artist, and the quality of her work suffered for her split attention.
I set up a game with her: when thoughts of the wedding came up, she needed to stop, completely, what she was doing, until the thoughts about the wedding were complete, and allowed her to leave the thought. Then work, fully, 100%… and then stop again, if the thought about the wedding came up again.
She worked about one hour total a day, for months, but that one hour was good work, while when she was trying to do both work and thinking, her work was 100% useless, as in I could not use it at all.
You need to take back control of your attention, and that means a lot of saying no to distractions. Most distractions have no value, no contribution to your life, they are just there because someone wants to sell something… an idea, a product, etc.
Attention is quite physical, you can feel where it’s at… at least you could, if you woke up…
If you live your life asleep, in a dreamlike unconscious state, first you need to wake up.
And here is the 59 second video to test your attention, to test your awakeness: