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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I

THE ART OF ATTENTION

April 20th, 2021

 

Imagine for a moment someone looking through your eyes.  Now, putting aside the aspects that could make this an absolute disaster of anxiety production, imagine further that you had a bit of privacy control over this borrowed experience so that the experiment could actually function.  Say for instance it’s turned on only while you are going for a walk.  But in addition to being privy to what you see, the other person hooked into your experience also experiences your attention, your thoughts, and your mood.

 

Again, putting aside the anxiety that this might cause in a lot of people, let’s just imagine for a moment what it would be like to Shepard the experience of someone else via our own.  Would someone else have a pleasant time being you?

 

Would they marvel with you at the color and shimmer of cherry blossoms on the trees that line the street, or would they be bound by your bickering mind, hellbent on obsessing over some extraneous detail of life that has nothing to do with this street and the walk you are currently on?

 

We can imagine - God forbid - getting rated on the quality of attention we have after someone has come along for the ride.  Now before thoughts about being harshly judged come to mind, just imagine what it would be like to score exceptionally.  Imagine someone taking a step into your mind for a few minutes while walking down a street lined with cherry blossoms, and the reaction afterwards is full of compliments, admiration and awe.  

 

This is how you experience life?

 

 Can you teach me?

 

Attention is a bit of an art, and this art is only really addressed in meditation practices, but it’s worth it to wonder if this sort of art might have a wider spectrum of influence than what meditation provides.  

 

Sports, for example are a form of attentional ability that we judge and score.  We are usually more concerned about someone’s physique, how that gives them an advantage, but when people are evenly matched in terms of strength, speed and general ability, it’s not a matter of what’s possible physically, but what’s possible mentally, and specifically that’s in terms of the quality of attention an athlete brings to the table.  

 

We might say the same thing about anything competitive, whether it be video games, or chess.  Pending external physical factors, it’s a competition in the quality of one’s attention.  And even better is when someone triumphs despite some kind of external handicap - that’s the real gold we love to hone into because it harks of something uniquely human that allows an underdog to rise above a circumstance.  The underdog rises because of an art in accordance to attention.

 

Now, realize that at each moment of your life, you are engaged in this art of attention.  You might not be putting any conscious effort into it, but your performance in this realm of art determines everything about your life.  A rich person can be miserable concentrating on the wrong things, and a homeless and impoverished person can experience complete contentment by focusing on the right things.  These things aren’t just possible, they are fairly regular - it’s the ability to craft and mold, nurture and respect one’s attention that creates the separation between the two.  So the question arises: how practiced you in the art of attention?


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Podcast Ep. 1101: The Art of Attention

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