Years ago, I participated in some beautiful, very complex, dances with people who’d had a lot of experience. I was the novice. The challenge was that the lines of dancers interwove as they moved, and if one person made a mistake, the whole undertaking could be thrown into chaos. I was more than a little nervous.
Fortunately, the experienced dancers were kindly. If I didn’t move when I was supposed to, or moved in the wrong direction, someone would shove me into the spot where I belonged. It was clumsy, but at least the whole dance didn’t fall apart.
Gradually—oh so gradually!—I learned the complexities of what I was supposed to do. It required an intense and unbroken focus of attention to my body, as well as staying focused on the flow of the dance. There were moments when that focus appeared and my body did exactly what it was supposed to do.
But then I was inclined to think “Good for you, Marilyn!” and the next move was lost and askew, instantly. Getting it right didn’t cause the problem. Letting the ego grab my attention did. The slightest self-congratulation and poof! No more focus.
I simply must not thinkduring the dancing. I could assess it afterwards, but as we moved, the calling was to stay utterly focused on what I was doing and not more than a single step ahead of myself. Such attention gave me knowledge of what I was to do.
Later, I found myself wondering what life would be like if I could live in that focus all the time. I couldn’t and still can’t. But there are moments…moments when I can look back on them and see that yes, the focus was there. And then I did know just what to say or what to do. I didn’t have to think, but was just truthful in expression, when my attention was held precisely where I was and nowhere else. Clarity came, and effectiveness. And there was joy. Perhaps this is what some call “flow,” but I think of it a little differently. To me, it is the aim of a life lived in awareness. Attention that is simple and direct and steady.
Easy to say, not even possible much of the time. But so worth every effort!
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