Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of December 24 & 31, 2018


Distractions

(Spiritual Dynamics: 2)

We live in a world of sound bites, pop-up ads, tweets, texts, and numberless other quick hits on our attention. These digital distractors are designed specifically to draw our attention. Even closer to home, our endless stream of associative, automatic thoughts seems to maximize its ability to grab our attention, to find subjects that we care about. When we let our attention be drawn to a thought, that thought thrives on the energy provided to it by even this modicum of attention, which gets eaten and carried off by the thought and its associates. Paradoxically, though, if our attention is not passively drawn, but strong, intentional, and focused, then directing our attention toward an automatic thought tends to vaporize that thought, leaving us with a clear mind.

A basic approach to limiting our distractibility comes in the form of our body. Intentionally keeping part of our awareness in and of our body, gives us a buffer from distractions. Sights, sounds, and thoughts may call to us, enticing us away from ourselves. But staying in contact with our body helps us stay in the present, in presence, and with what we are doing. It's not that we fight against the distractions; rather we relax into being more and more focused on what we choose to focus on. The body awareness helps enable us to allow the distractors to pass by without us running off with them. Sensing our body enhances and stabilizes our body presence. Instead of being at the mercy of passing whims, we abide here and now, doing what we are doing.

When it comes to our goals and our calling, distractions can take the form of less-important but urgent necessities or desires claiming our time. This creates an ongoing challenge of balancing compelling, immediate, and near-term needs or wants against creating our future by what we could do now.

Among these goals, seeking spiritual transformation occupies a unique position. Can we come to view the spiritual path as a necessity? In the same way that our body needs food and air, our soul needs spiritual food and air.

Part of the answer is to keep returning to the question of what really matters, and letting the response inform our choices, moment-to-moment and day-to-day. This perspective improves the likelihood of our making choices and taking actions congruent with our values, instead of letting them remain in the background. Can we stand up for what really matters to us, at least in our personal choices? Without that, the days, months, and years pass as we tread water. Thus another part of the answer is to keep returning to the fact that our time is most assuredly limited; medical science has not yet cracked the problem of extending our lives indefinitely.

What use shall we make of our limited time? This is not to say that relaxing, playing, and being entertained cannot be part of a wholesome and productive life, even a necessary part. The issue here is balance and avoiding lengthy and unnecessary detours, avoiding frittering away our precious time. What are my dreams and goals? And what am I doing toward them? What else could I being doing toward them? Years from now, when I look back at this period of my life, will there be something I will wish I had been doing differently?

For this week, please take notice of the distractors that come at or from you. Notice how you respond. See how you could respond. And choose.


        

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