“Self is what gives breath to Life. You need not search for It, It is Here. You are That through which you would search. You are what you are looking for! And That is All it is.” Papaji
In the last post, we talked about the most intelligent thing you could every do, which is to turn your attention inside – to live from the stillness within, and receive all that you experience without resistance. This post is the how-to, the description of what it takes to make this radical, life-altering shift.
You Can Choose How to Be
Ultimately, the answer to the question, “How do I turn my attention inside?” is, “Just do it!” No angel will descend to give you the power, and no magic is needed. Most of us, however, are so strongly conditioned to bypass our own reality and focus on finding solutions outside of us that a nudge in the right direction can be useful.
Not that looking outside ourselves is the “wrong” direction. It all depends on what you want. Most people are so caught up in their habitual patterns they can’t even discern that any other way of being is possible. And many of us, myself included, somehow choose patterns that don’t bring us happiness, even when we know an alternative exists.
From the perspective of the deepest truth, no thing is left out, all is included – habits, suffering, delusion, misunderstanding. There is no wrong way to be.
However, we do have some choice over the matter: where we put our attention. Attention is like earth and water to a seedling – what we pay attention to is what will grow. Our attention signifies what is really important to us. We might believe we have a certain value or inclination, but where we put our attention is the litmus test.
A Real-Life Example
I used to hold a grudge against my parents, which led me to feel angry a good part of the time. Why did I feel angry? I was thinking about events from the past a lot and felt that my views were justified.
At some point, by grace, I began to realize the extent of my anger, meaning that my attention moved from repeating stories in my mind to actually feeling my own experience. This was a revelation, as I saw how much these stories were hurting me. While I was busy running monologues in my mind and justifying my positions, I was ignoring the discomfort and unhappiness in my own body, mind, and spirit. Once I became aware, letting go happened naturally.
Where we direct our attention is the key to the prison door. Let’s investigate further.
How Does Suffering Affect You?
A desire to realize freedom and happiness invites us to be ruthless in telling the truth. There is no way around it. We take off the blinders and put down our defenses to be real with what is actually happening.
Consider a habit that you know isn’t serving you. Just for a moment, focus your attention on yourself to take an honest peek at how this habit is affecting you. First, look at your feelings, then your thoughts, then the sensations in your body. Your actual experience cannot lie. You might notice sadness that has gone on way too long, pressured thoughts that have no end, tension or even physical illness. You might be surprised by what you discover or it might be a confirmation of what you have known all along but chosen to ignore.
Seeing the truth, even when difficult, is the pathway to happiness. When we pay attention to what is true for us, the story of suffering ends and the possibility for clarity begins. Maybe it’s enough to acknowledge the truth or maybe you will be moved to do or stop doing something.
If you want to realize happiness, direct your attention to what is actually happening in your experience. Do the one thing you can control: make the loving, courageous choice to tell the truth about your own reality.
Willingness to Let Go of Strategies
Willingness flourishes when we reach the end of our rope. We truly see, with our precious attention, that our coping strategies and wishful thinking don’t work. What we hope for is an end to the suffering, but what we get is continued unhappiness.
Ultimately, strategies are futile. They may help manage situations or feelings for a period of time, but situations seem to change on their own, and suppressed emotions resurface. Strategies are what we “try” to do to fix problems. We minimize ourselves so we don’t rock the boat, we push to get ahead, we engage in any number of addictions and compulsions. Strategies are fueled by fear of seeing the truth, and the medicine is the willingness to bring our attention directly into what is actually true.
So let yourself hit bottom. Try everything to exhaustion, and you will be open to making a shift – to focusing your attention on the experience in the moment. Dig deep within yourself to find the willingness to tell the truth, the willingness to let go of strategies, the willingness to make a radical shift away from fear and into the reality of love and unity. It’s right here, waiting for you.
The End of Victimhood
If we unconsciously play out patterns of habitual thinking, we are a victim of unseen feelings and belief systems. It’s that simple. And so amazing that we can choose to stop being a victim by where we place our attention.
The definition of the word “victim” from dictionary.com is quite revealing:
“a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency (emphasis added)”
When we are ignorant of what is actually true and allow our emotions to deceive us, we fall into victimhood. We run on fear and lack, waiting for circumstances to change, and wonder why happiness isn’t ours to savor.
If we want to end this sad and frustrating play, we make the blessed U-turn with our attention. We abandon trying to control what cannot be controlled (i.e., we give up insanity), and we use our power to control the one thing we can: where we place our attention.
When we bring our attention inside, the truth of the moment is revealed. Experiences come and go, and we open our hearts to receive them all as is. Here is peace on earth – being with the unfolding of life.
When we try to strategize and fix, when we are a victim of our misunderstandings and defenses, we are trying to “do” life, trying to make it happen according to our personal desires. Bringing our attention inside shifts the balance completely. We realize we are one with the flow of life, allowing it to lead us, to show us the way.
It is not for us to say how are lives are supposed to be. Pay attention. Be still. Listen. And your life will unfold in glorious perfection.