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People pay attention relative to their own agenda. If something pertains directly to their life, their interests, their self-image - then they pay greater attention.
Instead of listening, people are often distracted, filtering what they hear, judging, daydreaming, fidgeting or rehearsing what they are going to say next.
None of these examples of poor listening skills will aid attention.
By taking an interest in things outside of yourself, you expand your awareness and cultivate curiosity.
Rather than flick between things in search of novelty, amusement or entertainment, keep your mind on what is actually taking place. Look closely. Take interest.
A restless, distracted mind is not at ease. It is like a spoiled child that needs constant entertainment: petulant, mewling, weak and emotionally abusive.
Instead of remaining with the here and now a weak mind seeks gossip, politics, news, novelty, thrills...
The illusion of involvement serves to validate the significance of the ego and provides material to boast and brag about.
Like fingers pointing to the moon,
other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioural economics
to family counselling, similarly suggest that the skilful management of
attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving
virtually every aspect of your experience.
By sincerely paying attention, the wandering mind is brought to the immediate moment. There is no need for outside stimuli. Everything is taking place right now.
Be aware of what your senses are telling you, your thoughts, your emotions, your physical sensations.
Learning requires sustained attention. A listless mind struggles to learn. It drifts, daydreams and fails to engage with what is occurring.
Standing qigong is extremely gruelling for the distracted mind. The person is denied all forms of entertainment. Nothing takes place. Nothing at all. In the place of ceaseless activity, there is nothing.
Just stillness and silence.
When the mind begins to settle, reality begins to seem a whole lot more interesting. The need for outside entertainment decreases. Simple, everyday things become curious.
We realise how little we know, how limited our understanding.
Most people underestimate the
extent to which their attention is misdirected by a phone call. Research has
shown that talking even on a hands-free phone has the same detrimental
impact on your driving as being over the drink-drive limit. However, since
we overestimate our own abilities, we donít notice the impact this
technological misdirection has on our performance.
Instead of seeking answers far and wide, we look closer. We go deeper. We also begin to see what is right there on the surface, right in front of us.
Self-consciousness gets in the way because we filter everything we experience. Instead of moving with what is happening, we are judging, analysing, forming opinions, conclusions and ideas.
Meditation is all about getting rid of the 'self'.
Modern TV programs and movies are often plot-driven rather than character-driven. This reflects the fact that people struggle to pay attention. Simplistic, easy-to-follow alternatives prevail.
The trend towards 'dumbing down' can be seen in many aspects of modern culture.
In our celebrity-oriented culture people encourage attention-seeking behaviour. This, however, is not the kind of 'attention' developed by meditation. Meditation is about shedding the ego, not feeding it.
The drawback with courting attention is that you cannot determine just who you will attract. Not all attention is good.
You can know the whole world without
leaving your room.
7 August 1996
Last updated 04 October 2019