What are you paying attention to?
By Kaspa Thompson
Perhaps half your attention is on what you are doing right now, and the rest is worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future, or something that happened in the past that doesn’t sit well with you.
If I pause for a moment and notice what my mind is doing, I can see that as well as anticipating the next sentence in this article, I’m also wondering how it will be received, and comparing it to a good piece of writing that I read earlier.
It’s good to pause and pay attention to the things that we don’t usually notice.
There’s some tension in my lower back. The act of noticing leads into a shift in posture without thinking about it. I can still feel the warmth of my cup of tea on the inside of my cheek. Noticing that warmth tunes me into temperature and I realise that my legs are a little chilly.
Keeping my attention on my body, I become aware of some aches in my hand. Is that the result of too much typing (for which I use just a couple of fingers)? I catch the speculative thought. That’s the kind of place my mind usually goes to: thinking, thinking, thinking.
Glancing through the window next to me I notice grey clouds moving across a white sky. I keep my focus there for a while. It takes about a minute for the clouds to pass from one side of the window to the other. They shift and change shape as they move, their wispy edges curling out and then back in on themselves. As I keep my attention there my mind settles and becomes quiet.
This is the benefit of noticing the things we don’t usually pay attention to: it drops us out of our habitual ways of being, out of our thinking – busy – minds, and into the present moment.
This kind of awareness notices without judging. I try to step out of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and just notice what’s here. That’s the question I keep coming back to, “What’s here? What’s here? What’s here?” If we can broaden our awareness in this way it can lead to wisdom and kindness. We become curious about ourselves and the world. We discover that we feel a wider range of feelings than we usually give ourselves credit for, and – if we keep paying attention without judgement – it gives space for those feelings to shift and change so that we don’t get stuck in any one place.
Our experience of the world becomes both richer and more spacious. There is a strange move towards noticing just how much is going on – how many different processes are at play – and an increasing stillness of the mind that goes alongside that.
The sky is full of grey clouds now. The slate tiles on the roof outside my window are damp with mist. When I shift my head a little I can see golden leaves swaying in the morning breeze. With that shift in posture I can feel some tension in my neck. Just noticing it seems to allow something to begin to relax.
Can you take this article as an invitation to pause and give your awareness to something different? What are you paying attention to now? Can you pay attention to more subtle things?
Kaspa Thompson is a psychotherapist, mindfulness teacher and Buddhist priest. For info on therapy and mindfulness classes see: www.kaspathompson.co.uk and for his local Buddhist group see: www.amidamandala.com