What is attention, really? Is it the ability to take in information, or get work done? Well, yes, but it’s so much more than that. Attention is love, and that’s what we’re going to dive into today, in this introduction to a week’s worth of episodes on attention.
I admit, I was inspired to create this series of episodes on attention because my ability to focus has been in short supply! I feel like it has been chipped away by a tumultuous several years–politically, pandemically, and personally, as I’ve recently graduated from peri-menopause into full-on menopause, hooray for me, so aging and hormones are in the mix. Plus more and more of our lives happening on our phones, which then beep and ding all day. Ay caramba, I really wanted to remind myself of what I already knew from my yoga and meditation studies about attention, and interview an expert in neuropsychology to learn more, and basically just pay some attention to attention.
But then what really solidified the idea was when I read a profile on the filmmaker Jane Campion who just won Best Director Oscar for The Power of the Dog, where she said, “Attention is love.”
Sometimes you just read or hear something that has a zing of truth to it.
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Your attention, after all, is your awareness
Awareness is consciousness. And your consciousness comes from you at your core.
Attention, then, is a gift of yourself. Whether you give it to your work, your loved one, yourself, your worries, your doubts.
It’s way different than thinking of attention as solely a cognitive ability, am I right? That’s what I hope this week of episodes will do for all of us–help us see attention differently and recalibrate our thoughts and actions around it so that it is no longer something that we feel bad about, but something that we see as a vessel for good things.
Daily Tiny Assignment
It’s not always your choice what you pay attention to. A siren or a jackhammer or a kid calling “Mom!” or “Dad!” will jerk your attention to it without any decision on your part.
Beyond these fleeting reactions, we do have a lot of say over what we focus our attention on. If we’re going to listen to a podcast on a walk or let our minds wander. Which piece of our work we’re going to do first, second, and third. If we’re going to set down our phone when our partner talks to us.
So let’s just start by noticing where you place your attention–and where it is drawn away.
Your tiny assignment is to pay attention to your attention today
How often is does your attention get pulled away by something external? When do you check out–from a conversation or a task? How easy is it for you to pay attention to what you’ve chosen to pay attention to? And what kinds of things have you given your attention to today? This isn’t about judgment–attention comes before judgment, because you have to be aware of something in order to have an opinion of it. So let yourself stop with awareness and resist the temptation to take the next step of deeming whether what you observe about your attention is good or bad.
After all, you can’t change a habit you don’t know you have. So just see what’s ready to be seen. There’s a saying that what’s been revealed can be healed. So let’s just pull the curtain back on what’s going on with your attention at this juncture in time.
In the rest of this week’s episodes, I’ll cover some ways to restore your attention
including tomorrow’s episode, which can help you get better at staying focused (and it’s not through trying harder. On Wednesday, I’m interviewing neuropsychologist Dr. Michelle Brain, author of the High Octane Brain, for her insights on what attention is and how we can foster it. Thursday I’m sharing my favorite, do-anywhere way to reset your attention. And Friday, we’ll take a loving look at what you’re NOT paying attention to, because sometimes you learn more about something by looking at its opposite.
Have fun getting curious about the current state of your attention, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!