Written by Sandy Naimou
B.A. in Psychology and
M.L.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies
Your attention is your greatest asset and everyone is trying to get it. Your partner, children, boss, parents, family members, friends, are all trying to get your attention. You agreed, on some level, to give them your attention. In some way, you all agreed, and you have chosen to give your attention in exchange for theirs.
Others are trying to get your attention and you don’t know who they are. You haven’t chose to have a relationship with these people, but they’re forcing their relationship on you. For example, advertisements are everywhere and they are forcing themselves on you. It sounds violent, doesn’t it? It sounds like a physical assault, actually. It very well is a form of assault on your mind, especially in the way that it can be done; in the way that changes your values without you realizing it. Similarly, in the way that advertisements are meant to make you do something that benefits others (those who are advertising on you), it is a robbery.
Now, you and I both market to others. I understand. So this is a sensitive topic, but I have to go forward. It’s too important.
In all ways, your attention is your greatest asset. It’s like a precious rare and unique jewel, a gem, a diamond. We all have these jewels, but each one is so unique and so powerful, making them beautiful and highly valuable all at once.
Making them most valuable, is the power that these jewels hold. That power is what everyone is trying to get from each other. Why? Because once someone has taken that jewel, that power, they can control us. Yes, that sounds dramatic. But, it IS dramatic. Controlling our attention can lead us to a seemingly insignificant decision of making a small purchase. It can also lead us to significant decisions like supporting an idea that will affect billions of human lives and multiple generations. Attention is a big deal.
Recently I was learning about crystal singing bowls to make a purchase. I felt that the bowls people are selling on Amazon didn’t have enough information; it seemed incomplete. I felt that many sellers didn’t really understand the bowls, but they were advertising them as if they did. So, I decided I needed to research singing bowls to make the right purchase. In the process, I found a seller, Zacciah Blackburn from Sunreed Instruments, who has been working with sound healing instruments for decades. He could explain what I really wanted to know. His knowledge got my attention and I chose him because of his expertise. That’s what I was looking for, and with his help and expertise online and over the phone, I purchased two bowls to harmonize with the single bowl I already had.
Through him, I learned that it was the computer industry that first created frosted crystal singing bowls in order to grow silicon. Silicon quartz crystals are used to grow silicon chips. The purity of the bowls made for a beautiful sound that was discovered in the tossing of the leftover bowls. Single-crystal silicon is described as “the most important technological material of the last few decades” because of its semi-conducting properties and affordability which changed how we make electronics and led to the wide availability of our now, everyday devices. It’s amazing to me that we use a by-product of the computer industry for sound healing.
Focusing your attention.
When you listen to a crystal singing bowl, your attention is with the bowl. You hear the sound that captures your attention. It’s hard to focus anywhere else. The sound is so soothing and depending on the size of the bowl, it has a beautiful resonance that can last for minutes after the bowl player has stopped singing the bowl, which is done with pressing the mallet around the bowl in many revolutions. When you’re in the same room as the bowl, it enraptures your senses – your auditory sense and your touch sense. You can feel the vibrations embrace you. Getting closer to the bowl makes the touch sense much more apparent, but as the room fills with these vibrations, they eventually are felt consciously. Nonetheless, you feel them, whether you’re aware of them or not. The vibrations soothing your senses, also soothes the vibrations in your mind, and so directing our attention becomes more available. It’s easier to work with attention when the mind is relaxed.
This is one way to learn to focus your attention. To listen to a sound and be with the sound.
When you are not focusing your attention, your attention is being pulled and pushed. Forces around you, people’s ideas and desires, forces, are pushing and pulling your attention. When we don’t claim attention as the precious jewel that it is, it is taken and thrown around as if it is expendable. It’s like others are playing monkey in the middle with our minds. Once the push and pull occur, getting a hold of our attention becomes a more difficult task and that can create more mental tension if we don’t already practice relaxation.
I’ll say it again but more directly: Attention is not expendable. When we act as if it is, we can easily easily so easily lose ourselves. We lose who we are, what we know, what we want to know, what we care about. We lose meaning. We don’t know why we do anything. All meaning is lost. We become robots and do what the programmers around us tell us to do. It’s a depressing thought, but that’s why so many people seem to be asleep. Because they haven’t held their own attention as the jewel that it is, as the gem, the crystal, the diamond.
Attention is precious. When we see a billboard, commercial, magazine advertisement, and allow our attention to get sucked into it without awareness, we become vulnerable to the messages. Those are the subliminal messages that marketers learn and employ – working with your subconscious mind because you are not aware. Awareness, attentiveness, counteracts the forces of manipulation. I’m happy to make a purchase if I consciously make the decision and I know what, why, how, when the purchase will be good for me or others. But consider when advertisers who sell addictions slyly get into our minds. It’s a dangerous game that is being played.
Ask someone who knows that they can’t keep their attention focused, someone who believes they have ADD or ADHD or has a brain injury. They’ll tell you how painful it is. Maybe you already know that first hand. How painful is it to not be able to direct yourself, to control what you think about, why, how, when, and where you think about it? We take attention for granted. When we know that we struggle with holding our own attention, we understand its true value.
All of us can strengthen our attention, and hold such a jewel with respect. But our attention doesn’t begin as a jewel. It begins as the “diamond in the rough,” an unshaped stone that has potential to be shaped.
Meditation is so powerful because it aims to completely focus and shape attention; that’s the purpose – to come to a “razor-sharp focus” or an attention as focused as a laser-beam.
This razor-sharp focus is what cuts the rough stone that our attention begins as, and shapes it into the beautiful gem it always had the potential to become. It just needs practice and yes, attention. With this gem, we ourselves can cut right into the matter at hand and shape an idea with more intention. We can shape ourselves with more intention.
So, we have to practice being attentive to our attention if we want to shape our own lives.
There are ways to ease into meditation practices. We ease in because holding our own attention is a learned task that requires practice. “We need more practice,” says my son’s martial arts teacher. It’s written on the wall as the school’s motto.
We need more practice. What if each of us live by that motto? What happens when we practice holding our own attention, not easily swayed by those around us who have their own motivations?
We live how we want to live, not how others want us to live. Again, we shape our own lives.
So, here’s a way for you to focus your attention on a daily basis so that you strengthen this muscle of attention daily, you shape this diamond in the rough little by little.
Daily Exercise for Attention
This is a journaling exercise I’ve been committed to since about 2007 when I was trying to complete my thesis for graduate school, which life had interrupted. I can attest to this method. It’s probably one of the most important things I do daily and little by little it creates huge effects in my life. When I don’t use this method, or I do it lazily, I live lazily too. My priorities get shifted and spun around and my actions can easily go against myself, against my intentions and my values, which affect me and those around me. You’ll want a dedicated journal for this practice alone, though important daily notes can be written here too.
I call this my “work journal.”
Begin every morning setting an intention for your day and write it down in a journal. Let the intention focus on how you would like to feel, what state of being you want to be in for the day. For example, to feel joy around me, to feel connected to others, to feel love at all times, to be calm, to be relaxed, to be energetic. In my journal, I title this the “Thought for the Day.” Add any other descriptions, reasons, understandings, reflections in this section. Now and then, I write my thought for the day in a poetic voice. Those speak to me the most.
Consider some of the actions, no more than three actions, that would be in line with that intention. You’ll write these in the next two sections.
Title the next section for the day “Personal Goals” for some of the things you will do to accomplish that intention and any other things that need to be done. Being a “personal” section, you’ll be thinking about yourself, your family, friends, personal responsibilities.
Title the next section for the day “Professional Goals,” and identify some of the things you will do to accomplish that intention as well as any other things that need to be done. Being the section focused on the “professional” aspect of your life, you’ll be thinking about the work you do.
The personal and professional intermingle, but for attention’s sake, we’ll keep them in separate sections.
For the rest of your day, bring your attention back to that intention and the little steps that you recognized in the personal/professional goals that would help fulfill it.
Notice what happened when you kept it in mind and acted accordingly. Notice what happened when you forgot about it, got pushed or pulled in another direction, and acted in opposition to that intention. We only notice, we don’t need to judge it.
At the end of the day, or the very next morning, you’ll write a “Review and Reflection” to reflect on how the day went and what you noticed. Did you stay on task? Did you get pushed or pulled around? Ask yourself questions here, what helped you stay on track and what took you off track?
Whatever method works for you, go with it. Focusing on sound and intentions are two available ways that have worked for me.
With time and practice, your attention will be shaped into the beautiful gem it could always become.