Have you had that feeling of driving somewhere familiar and not really noticing how you got there? Our unconscious is so useful in that respect, it allows us to run familiar programmes without too much conscious attention. We can take care of much of the every day without it draining necessary mental reserves that we need for the bigger meatier tasks.
But what happens when we resign everything to that automatic, reactive, unconscious state of being?
Conversely, have you noticed what happens when someone asks you an unexpected question?
“How does your right hand feel at the moment?” Or “Do you notice what happens when you bring the hint of a smile to your face?”
It’s likely that you become aware of a change in the quality of your attention. A question focuses attention and we may also realise that we haven’t really been paying attention to anything in particular, perhaps for a very long time, not really.
It’s how we are able to get chronically sick. We just don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the inner landscape of our bodies so we miss the warning signs of onset of stress or illness. It’s so easily done. After all, there are so many pulls on our attention; from those we love, others in our lives, the media, sometimes it’s a preservation move to just switch off for a while.
Once we know how to dissociate, to escape from the barrage of feeling, of demands of paying attention, it can lull us almost into a dreamland. We get drawn into a story that plays out time and time again and eventually we lose sight of our role as narrator. Over time we lose sight of the fact that we are in a story at all and this state of fuzzy non-awareness becomes our reality.
Then life gifts us with something that pulls us out of the narrative, even momentarily and, if we are lucky we get a sense that there is a different quality of experience to be had.
The birth of a new baby does this in a big way. Those long moments spent gazing and paying attention to all those exquisite features that make up this new little soul open up a space for that heightened awareness to dwell in the seat of our soul again. In those moments we can start to appreciate the feeling of belonging, of connectedness, aliveness, of homecoming that comes with being fully present.
Grief, although infinitely less pleasurable, may also be a call to come home. The visceral pain of heartbreak invades and consumes our awareness so the story is interrupted for a time, providing us with opportunity.
Or we might find the gift of being pulled out of trance and into the present happens quite spontaneously and in more subtle ways, a phrase that jumps out from a book, a question poised by a friend who knows us well, a child that triggers something unexpected in us, a film that makes us cry…
These truly are gifts, opportunities for reflection, to deepen our sense of our own truth and our experience of our authentic nature.
What can we do when we notice we haven’t really been paying attention for a long time?
How could the quality of our daily experience…and that of those we hold dear, be improved if we were to invite a state of curious and gentle enquiry as to what is really happening in the here and now and what is really important about what we want to create for the future?