Attention, acceptance, action

These are principles for addressing any situation that enters our experience.

ATTENTION

First, pay close attention to what is happening. This means being able to sustain attention on a single object long enough to really see it for what it is. Attention is the opposite of distraction, and it can be directed inward or outward. Both perspectives offer valuable information.

To pay attention is to care. In my view it is the very definition of the verb and the two terms are synonymous. When you don’t pay attention to something it shows that you don’t care about it, regardless of what you might tell yourself or other people. Paying attention is necessary in order to love and is the highest form of respect we can give. It is a gift from the beholder to the beheld, a non-verbal expression of the principle: “you are the most important aspect of my reality at this moment, which is why I choose to pay attention to you above all else”.

When dealing with problems or dilemmas, if you want something to disappear, look directly at it. If you want something to sneak up on you and catch you off guard, shift your attention away from it. This is especially true when it comes to our personal shadow and the nagging habits and behaviours that seem to reoccur in our lives. A lesson is trying to reach us, and by turning our back on it we are asking it to come back to bite us in the butt. By looking straight at it, giving it the attention it deserves and understanding what it offers us, we can disarm the problem and integrate it into our sphere of power, just like a master training a dog rather than running from it.

It goes without saying that throughout life we face many problems. The greatest barrier to solving these problems is not lack of resources or ideas. It is lack of attention. We live in an age where the battle lines are not found on a piece of land but in our minds, and the prize being fought over is our attention. Information is a signpost that directs our attention. Thus in this century and beyond the collection, processing, presentation and dissemination of information will determine which problems receive adequate energy to be solved, and which continue to grow worse. Those who direct the flow of information hold great power. Keep this in mind the next time you catch yourself being distracted by television or other mass media.

ACCEPTANCE

Second, fully accept (at a cognitive level) the circumstances you perceive. This is a very important step and harder than it sounds. Do not ignore, deny, discount or repress any details. This means seeing things as they are, not as we would like them to be or as we’ve been told they ought to be.

To accept is to love. It does not mean giving moral agreement to the present state of affairs. There may be many times when we find the situation or the actions of people to be unjust, cruel, condemnable, irresponsible, short-signed or narrow-minded. Acceptance does not mean that we have to agree with what is happening. It does mean that we have to accept that it is what it is, rather than censoring our perception to ignore, disort or discount certian aspects that we would rather not perceive. We must take in the full picture and acknowledge that it is the case before we think about what if anything we might be able to do about it.

Many times we try to categorize our experiences by fitting them into a pre-established pattern which we have experienced often in the past. We are too quick to judge and we apply a label to the situation before really allowing it to sink in and getting to know the particularities of the present context. There are no two experiences that are identical just as there are no two people that are identical. Every experience and every person offers a unique lesson for us to learn. We must maintain an open channel of perception to allow information to reach us, and we must be slow to label events with words and judgements. Thus acceptance means also giving the experience time and space to unfold according to its own merits rather than hijacking it with labels and categories.

ACTION

Third, decide what course of action to take. This is actually the least important of the three principles because the main purpose of life is to learn, not to achieve anything grand. Yet we are called upon to act and it is necessary not only for survival of the body but for our personal growth and development as well. Remember, it is impossible to predict all the consequences of any action, event or change. When you choose the action, you choose all the consequences – even ones you did not anticipate or desire.

To act is to surrender. This may seem counter-intuitive because we are so used to thinking about acting in terms of willpower overcoming inertia. In my view this kind of deliberate, planned and forced action where one imposes one’s will onto an external object is the least beneficial kind of action. The best actions come from understanding a situation so clearly and deeply, using the head, heart and gut, that the best path of action arises naturally and presents itself. Action then becomes not a matter of making an arbitrary or forceful decision but rather surrendering to the demands of the situation.

A note on moral speed: if you pay attention to the speed of your action, you will find that it’s hard to do the wrong thing in slow motion, and it’s hard to do the best thing if you rush. Likewise, it’s hard to do the wrong thing if you really pay attention at every step of the way, and it’s hard to do the best thing if your attention is scattered. Moral action is related to the speed at which you act; usually slower is better.

 

All of this comes down to what we may call “What you can and cannot choose”.

You cannot choose your feelings, emotions and thoughts.

You can, however, choose how to direct your attention.

You cannot choose the broader context and specific situation you are placed into.

You can, however, choose to accept it – all of it – for what it is.

You cannot choose what other people do or what happens to you.

You can, however, choose your actions and reactions.

 

At the interface of Attention and Acceptance is where learning and forgiveness are found.

It seems that this world has been set up such that suffering is the only way to really learn valuable lessons. When things are easy we are carried by intertia and there appears no great need to learn. When things are hard and we suffer, we are forced to learn. Therefore our capacity for suffering determines our capacity for learning. There are different kinds of suffering, however. There is suffering with meaning and dignity, and suffering without meaning and dignity. When you suffer for the first time, pay attention, accept and learn from it, there is meaning and dignity. When you suffer repeatedly in the same way due to lack of attention or rejection of the lesson, there is no meaning or dignity. This shows the importance of paying attention and allowing the lesson to sink in.

In order to forgive you must see everything, and accept everything fully as it is now, without reservation or condition. This applies equally to other people as it does to life lessons. Forgiveness is a divine act, and a necessary one in order to be able to digest the past and move into the present. Forgiveness really means allowing the situation to be what it is without trying to change anything. In this way forgiveness is also necessary in order for us to learn, because as long as there is something we do not accept and try to change about a situation, we have not learned.

 

At the interface of Acceptance and Action is where faith and courage are found.

Attention and acceptance together give us an honest assessment of how far we have come along the journey, where we stand, and what awaits us. When we move toward action, faith and courage help us act by taking the next step along the path. We should not try to control the outcome or try to know what will happen before it happens. We must surrender to the necessity of acting without knowing exactly what the outcome will be or what awaits us around the next corner. This requires trust – in other words, faith.

Problems arise when we do not practice these principles. We often fail to pay attention to important things by tuning out, numbing our senses through drugs, alcohol or television, or ignoring what is in front of us. We often do not accept what we sense and perceive, and we bury our painful or unpleasant sensations and perceptions, which inevitably causes mental problems later on. We also fail to take action once we have witnessed something and do not assume our responsibility to do something to make things better. By remembering these principles we can avoid most major problems and learn from the ones that we do encounter.

Pay attention, accept, act.

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~ by spiritualseeker1 on April 3, 2012.

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