During a recent Introduction to Meditation class I talked about the fact that by learning actively to direct one’s attention (which is really what beginning meditation is all about (see the book, “The Attention Revolution,” by Alan Wallace)) one can literally define one’s reality.
Most people do not realize that they do not actively direct their attention. Rather, environmental stimuli pull one’s attention to various objects without one’s assent. That is, attention is normally passive. Hence, one’s “reality” is passively determined, meaning that whatever the environment offers to one becomes one’s experience.
For instance, look at the image above. At first glance it seems to be spinning clockwise. This is because one’s attention is passively absorbed by the entire image. But the truth of the matter is that this apparent clockwise spin is an illusion! That this is the case can be seen by actively directing one’s attention to a single orange spot on the image, and keeping one’s attention on that spot alone. When one does this, the illusion of the clockwise spin ceases and one sees the image as it truly is. This simple example demonstrates that by actively directing one’s attention one determines one’s reality.
This lesson in directing attention can change one’s life. For instance, consider a difficult situation or individual with which/whom you struggle. Under normal circumstances your attention is passively pulled to those aspects of the situation/individual that you find difficult. But by actively directing your attention to a different part of the situation or aspect of the individual, your experience of that situation or individual will change. You will, without exaggeration, create a new reality for yourself. A situation will become less negative (or even positive) or the individual will be viewed less negatively (or even positively).
Take a moment and conduct this thought experiment. Think of a situation/individual that you experience negatively and then think about (actively direct your attention toward) something positive about that situation/individual (No situation or individual is all negative.). Then, after conducting this thought experiment, actually engage that situation/individual and put the lesson into practice. You will discover that the reality of that situation/individual is significantly different than how you have been perceiving it. In fact, you will likely experience that situation/individual positively. What a gift that would be, both for others and yourself!
“When a pickpocket meets the Pope, all he sees are the Pope’s pockets.”
I am Dr. Riegel, minister at Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church. Enjoy my occasional blog posts here, which may cover subjects ranging from spirituality to psychology to ethics to social justice to church life and beyond...