Everyone feels their time is rushed and that it is increasingly valuable. But time is made of moments, and moments happen in our consciousness–they are where the external fates of the world meet our focus; our attention. Our problem isn’t so much that the wrong things come to us or that we focus on the wrong things. There really are no wrong things when you’re seeing things clearly. Our challenge is that we don’t focus at all.
Thanks to things like smart phones and social media, people live inside a constant stream of distractions, as our minds our actively encouraged to flit from thing to thing, without ever giving anything enough attention for us to ever come to truly understand what we’re taking in. How many times have you walked into a room and forgotten why you went in there? We do this with food, tasks, people. But we must remember; we don’t want to just see or hear, more importantly we want to watch and listen.
The rewards are two-fold in the case of focus, because not only is it a calmer, more natural state than our busy-mindedness, but also the person, place or thing being focused-on starts to take on remarkable dimensions as it or they become a part of a rewarding connection to your soul. This is how people can become the very best kind of lichenologists, fashion designers and parents.
Our real life isn’t an app or notification, it’s the events, places and people that we interact with each moment. The way we get distracted in our minds is much like we do on our phone or computer. You’re doing this or that and then your phone or computer beeps and you’re off to look at whatever it told you to. In your mind you’re in a moment talking to your spouse, or child or a co-worker and then suddenly you start talking to yourself about what’s happening and that’s your mind wandering.
When you let your mind wander like that you literally stop recognising an important truth about the other person, be they a loved one or a stranger. The moment you do that you become an ego who will see the world as a set of labels that only exist in relation to you:
Your fussy child isn’t possibly sick or otherwise uncomfortable if they’re seen as simply preventing you from getting where you’re going. Or that other person appears more attractive if you compare your spouse as simply an ego-list of the things you don’t like. Similarly, that person at work has let you down, they aren’t struggling as they go through the experience of losing someone dear to them. These are all ways that we disconnect form others, the world around us and ultimately ourselves.
If you’re talking to yourself you are dividing your attention between two egocentric you’s and they are the source of your problems and your suffering. The real you is the being thinking those other two you’s into existence. That you is already deep and wise and steady and open. Your ego you is selfish; smart in some ways, dumb in others; you’re rarely calm and centered because you have so many wants and desires; and you get offended and bothered by things easily, meaning you’re not really being open.
The wise you lets things be. While it can wander too, your healthy soul notices thoughts that disturb your personal Star Wars-like force. It can feel you creating resistance by having a value-based conversation with itself, and through those thoughts you create conflicting wants and desires. The separation between your separate you and those separate things (relationships, cars, jobs, status etc.) is the gap through which all of your suffering seeps. If only you’d realise you don’t need anything so that you’d come home to yourself more often.
Wisdom isn’t hard, it isn’t out of reach. Nor is calm, or compassionate, or loving or connected. These are all natural states when we quiet our busy egos. When we’re there we are our best selves, without judgment, without desires, and profoundly satisfied with our lives as they are. Take today and focus. Write it on a bunch of post it notes you’ll bump into, or ask a friend to text you randomly. It’s worth practicing, because deep down you’re literally learning to be yourself by doing so.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.