Stretching, pulling, struggling, contesting, stressing, what do you think unites all these words? It is a big revelation for me, today I discovered that they all derive from the Latin word tensio. And what is the other word that shares its origin with tensio? Yes, that’s right - attention. I never noticed this seemingly obvious connection before and I experienced one of those moments when things made sense and fell in to place. Euphoric insight followed by troublesome realisations. To pay attention to, to grab attention, to draw attention, to call to attention etc. all these idioms share a common quality, there are needy, sticky and insecure. Bare with me.
Understanding what attention is and how we work with it is very important, perhaps it is one of the most essential tools we have at our disposal to be with the world. Attention is a road that connects us with everything that we feel lays outside of ourselves. It defines all the experiences we have because everything we consciously experience comes to life through the process of paying attention.
I’d like to do a little exercise with you. Let’s take a step back and observe how attention works. Think of your right toe. Now think of your left elbow, now look around and pick an object to gaze at, now think of a recent movie you watched, now think what you will have for dinner, now recall the name of your first school teacher, now think about your first kiss and how it felt… We can continue this forever. But see what I am doing here? I am stretching your experience in all possible directions, from bodily sensations into bending dimensions of time. A moment ago you didn’t even had a toe and now because of all these things I asked you to bring to your attention you probably feel stressed and unsettled. Can you feel that? By stretching yourself out there you expand and overflow on the inside. What you focus on and bring in your awareness becomes you. The subject of the attention shapes and forms you simultaneously with the experience itself. There is nothing that exists outside, when you are conscious about something it is happening right here and not out there. On top of it, that what grabs your attention never leaves you. We are constantly transformed and moulded by what we experience.
When we understand how attention works and its magic powers to shape who we are, we also understand why it is so essential to use it more precisely. Attention forms intentions. And intentions inspire actions. The question now is to what are we paying attention to and how we decide what to focus on? I will explore these questions another time but I am sure you sense my concernment already.
For now, instead of stretching in all directions, relax your attention. Give yourself some rest. The world will forgive you as it simply doesn’t exist without you paying attention to it. It needs you and will always be there for you, ready to grab, draw, pull and call.