I just saw a little dog standing in an open area of lawn, wildly barking at a squirrel who was up a very tall tree nearby. It made quite a funny picture, with the lawn and the size of the tree making the small dog look even smaller. What it brought to mind was a sense of focused intention and energetic commitment. The squirrel was all that mattered and the little fur-face on the ground was giving it all he was worth.
This got me to thinking about where we put our energy. All the barking in the world wasn’t going to get the squirrel within reach of the dog and I found myself wondering about all the energy we may put into things that aren’t really available to engage with us. With all the gadgets that we now have available to us, and with most of us carrying around a computer in our pocket in our smart phones, there are increasing opportunities to spend time in less conscious and less focused ways. At times, I find myself doing a word game that can take up an unexpected amount of time and I’ve made a commitment to myself that I’ll only do that a couple of times a day. Instead of that activity, I now spend the same time reading on my kindle and I find that it’s much more satisfying, ultimately, than endlessly playing the word game.
Also, at my age, I’m keenly aware of a more limited amount of time in front of me and I have made it a practice to ask myself if what I’m doing honors the fact that I don’t want to waste whatever time I have left to be here. I hope that doesn’t sound morbid because, for me, it’s a powerfully positive motivator and invites me to focus my attention more clearly.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to take a closer look at where you focus your attention and spend your time. Are you spending your time and energy focused on what matters to you and what gives your life meaning? This doesn’t mean not to have playtime. It’s as valuable as any other focus. The key here is to spend your time in ways that you consciously choose to do rather than being on auto-pilot and unaware of how much time you give to certain activities.
I offer this practice because I think it’s very challenging for many of us to manage all the stimulation coming toward us at this time in our human history. It takes even more awareness these days to make choices that enhance our sense of well-being and that support living a life that feels meaningful to us. And, no one can know for someone else what is most nourishing. That’s a personal experience and choice. That’s why it’s so important to bring along curiosity as your constant companion in these explorations and to be sure to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything with or about them.
So often, we’re taught that judgments are telling us the truth when, often, they actually represent, are symptoms of, activation rather than information. Play with noticing how you feel when judgments arise. Notice if you are tense, collapsed, worried, tired, or in some other way activated and out of sorts. Over time, you may come to recognize that judgments arise when something is going on that may invite you to ground, re-center, or settle yourself in some way. To take judgments as information rather than as a signal that you’re activated can cause a lot of unnecessary distress.
Your internal quality of life may be powerfully enhanced when you cultivate the ability to allow judgments to move on through without having to fight them, respond to them, or do anything at all with them. The naturally-flowing stream of consciousness will take them right on by if you allow that to happen.