Day 8 of 30: Seeing More Clearly
Concentration practice enhances the skills of paying attention. Through daily concentration practice you develop greater skill in choosing where to place your awareness and for how long. That focus makes things easier to see. Makes sense, right?
An analogy that I find helpful is your attention is like a flashlight …
When I enter into a dimly-lit room, I need a flashlight. The flashlight is even more helpful if (a) the bulb is bright with fresh batteries and (b) when I hold the flashlight steady. If the flashlight brightness is weak or if my hands are shaky & moving the beam of light rapidly around the room, then the flashlight may not be very helpful at all.
Sometimes it may feel like someone else is holding the flashlight. It gets moved without your consent. A thought arises and you’re hooked and go with it. A memory surfaces and you ruminate on it. You are less aware of what is happening in you and around you at this time.
The analogy is your attention as your mental “flashlight.” When it is strong & steady, placed where you choose, you see more. You can choose to focus the beam on the thought that arises or the memory, but now you are doing so out of choice, because you have determined that doing so is worthwhile & will serve you. And because the beam of your mental flashlight is not bouncing from one place to the next, things appear to slow down and it is easier to see the details. For example, in a conversation you can choose to rest the beam on your internal experience for a moment to check in on how you’re feeling about what is being said.
There is something really satisfying about having more control over where your attention goes. The enhanced skill serves needs we all have for autonomy, freedom, and choice. You don’t have to go wherever you have gone before or wherever is so “compelling” right now.
What do you begin to see? Lots of things. Everything!
I remember vividly back when I first started meditating daily, I had a “rude awakening.” I was sitting at my desk. I pushed my chair up to the keyboard to begin a new project and I heard this voice “Why bother? You can’t do this. Like always, you won’t finish it.”
Whose voice is that?, I thought. Soon I realized it was my own voice. For some portion of my life, I had been my own worst enemy and it had become such a part of me that I had not even noticed it anymore.
I had wondered: Why do I procrastinate? Why do I feel resistance when starting a new project? Why am I so tired? Part of the reason was that I was beating myself up pretty consistently when I started something challenging or considered starting something challenging. No wonder I was procrastinating and exhausted.
Meditating consistently created the space and the awareness to hear my inner critic clearly for the first time. It had been speaking for years. But now I heard it clearly, and knowing is the first step to choice & change …
This week, in your daily life, try to notice these moments of clarity and awareness. Do things seem slower? Do you feel like you have more information about what’s happening inside of you? Do you notice a shift in perspective from being in the middle of your experiences (sorry for the limits of language, I could not think of a better way to express what it felt like to me) to being the observer of your experiences?
Please comment below to let everyone know this aspect of concentration practice fits with your experience. Please share this post with the people you care about by using the social media icons adjacent to it. Please reach out to me if I can support you.
See you tomorrow!
Short related video by
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Periodically it will be helpful to turn to a reminder of why are you choosing to invest in meditation. Here is a partial list of benefits…