The power of directed attention

As I write this, it is early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sick with a cold, possibly an infection in my throat. But that doesn’t stop me from writing early today. There is something I love about being up early in the morning, writing while everyone else is asleep. It’s solitude by choice. It’s serenity.

By now, I’ve already written a gratitude list of ten things I’m grateful for, and a morning page filled with everything that is most important for me to talk about. I do that every day to get them out of my head and make myself available for others when they rise.

As I sit here, I am taking note of my environment. I have a nice quiet place to live, on a quiet street, in a peaceful neighborhood with neighbors I love. I love my family, this home, and the town we’re in. Everything I have, right here, right now, is enough.

I am also aware that for some, Thanksgiving, well, the Holiday Season, is a stressful time. They don’t have enough money. They don’t have enough love. They don’t have enough time. They get into accidents on the road. I know because just in my travels since the first of the month, I’ve seen 4 or more on the road. I know their lives have been irrevocably changed.

I am also aware that during the holidays, some people have committed acts of violence against the ones they loved. We can’t know all their reasons for doing so, but I have seen an annual pattern of violence around the holidays. All of us are fighting quiet battles. Some of us win and find peace. Some of us do not. Some of us soldier on in the hopes of finding a solution to our pain.

Throughout the year, I have been paying attention. Not just to what is around me, but also to the choices I make about what to pay attention to. Some of you readers there, may even be aware of the law of attraction, the idea that if we think about it, we invite it into our lives. I think this idea of attention is deeper than just the law of attraction.

I notice that when I pay attention to my kids, they behave better. I know this because I am a doting dad to my two wonderful daughters. I watch my language around them, not for profanity, for I rarely use those words. I watch my language around them for what I want to teach them, for they are always watching me to learn how to be an adult.

When I am home, my kids will track me down and play with me. They do this because they know that most times I will play with them back. They come to me not just because they need attention, they need instruction. And just being a peaceful human being in their presence is often enough.

I have also noticed that for much of the year, problems have been solving themselves on their own. I might set something in motion to solve a problem, like a phone call, an email or a quiet conversation with someone involved, but most of the problems that I have wanted to solve depended on other people. I just had to have faith that those other people would do their part. I had to keep an open mind.

Before those problems were solved, I made no predictions about what would happen. I was intent on waiting to see what would happen next. Sometimes further intervention on my part was required, but still, I was dependent on other people to get those problems solved. It was not up to me to make those other people “go”. I could only wait to see what would happen next. Life is like that.

I avoid criticism. I avoid threats. I avoid condemning anything and everything. I avoid making predictions. I avoid hostility, and being hostile. I remember those quiet battles that people are fighting. I look at a million shades of grey to discern what is really happening.

Discernment is defined as the ability to judge well. Discernment is directed attention. For me, for this life, discernment is noticing all that is right, and making a conscious decision to set aside or even ignore that which is wrong.

If I make a mistake, past performance is not a predictor of future outcomes. Before every action I take, I take notice of how I feel during the contemplation of the act. Do I have butterflies? Does my body fill with endorphins? I think through my actions to determine if the cost is really worth it. Most times, especially when I feel offended, maybe even angry, I am able to let the feeling pass, and wait. Often, if I just wait long enough, without even saying a word to another person that I think is a part of a problem, they tend to correct themselves. I’ve seen this happen over and over.

So today, on this Thanksgiving Day, instead of bemoaning my state of being, with a froggy voice, runny nose, and tissues and a cup of green tea an arms length away, I’m directing my attention to everything that I am grateful for. My family, my home, my life. I let it all just be enough. I am making a conscious choice to let it all be enough.

I accept everything, exactly the way it is, without reservation, and let it all be enough. And after I’ve done that, I can find things to be thankful for. I can count them if I want to, but that only makes them the lesser. If I am counting them, I’m reducing them to objects and directing my attention away from appreciation. So I don’t count them, I just take quiet notice of the good things in life.

I have been following this sort of principle for a long time now. So I guess for me, every day is a sort of Thanksgiving Day. I don’t remember exactly when I started doing this. I just decided that it was important enough to share it with you, today.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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