Every single one of us has dreams, yet many will never get to live them because we don’t know how to focus our attention on long term goals and go after them. Our attention span is short and is often distracted by shiny objects, trinkets, quick dopamine fixes and instant gratification.
The whole industry of capitalism – fast food, cheap goods, and fast delivery consumerism thrives because we are not able to train our attention and delay gratification. We’d rather blame “them” for exploiting our lack of self-control than become incorruptible by training our attention and senses. How do we learn to not become victims of capitalism?
YOUR ATTENTION IS A PRECIOUS WEALTH
Your attention is one of the most precious raw materials. Some say attention is the new currency, however, since antiquity the training of attention has been a priority for major contemplative traditions around the world. The ultimate training of attention leads to ultimate liberation, or enlightenment.
What you pay attention to conditions you. Without training your attention, the majority of people live by someone else’s agenda, be it an agenda of capitalist billionaires, Kim Kardashian’s, politicians, your social media influencers, your parents, peers, or your opponents. Every single one of them is vying for your attention, asserting their desires and expectations upon you.
Your attention is a currency that you give away for free while you sit there, feeling poor, scrolling through, comparing yourself to others, giving them free air time while not investing in yourself.
According to Statista.com, projected global advertising spending in 2022 is to reach approximately 781 billion U.S. dollars.
Can you sense the value of your attention?
If your attention was not so valuable, this much money wouldn’t be spent buying your attention, hooking your attention and converting your attention into a sale. Usually, you end up buying things for cheap dopamine fixes, only to regret spending the money you didn’t have or could have used for a long term investment.
There is no greater investment than investing in self-awareness, health, learning skills that optimize your potential so you may create the causes and conditions that lead you closer to your dream.
When you don’t train your attention through focus and concentration, your attention is like an untethered horse carried by the winds of the world. So it is no surprise that the second verse of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is ‘Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha’, that the goal of yoga is to cessate or tame down the fluctuation of the mind that goes here and there, carried by every wind of sensation, feelings and thoughts.
You just have to look at how you spend your precious life on a daily basis to know how much you don’t value the wealth you already have in abundance.
One of the many lessons I learned from growing up as a refugee is learning to assess what is truly important (freedom), become extremely resourceful with what I already have (materially), invest in healing trauma, learning new skills and create a fulfilling life instead of looking out in craving, chasing, competing and comparing myself to others material wealth in a perpetual hungry ghost mode.
What is precious along with attention is TIME. Your time on earth is limited. Most relational trauma is the lack of spending quality time and presence with loved ones, especially your children. You exchange your time for money that affords you to buy things that you don’t need, only to regret those purchases shortly. If you examine deeply what you can really do with the limited time you have on this earth before the breath goes out – you will prioritize differently. You will make different decisions. Your routines would change. To shift this major gear, you will need to learn to stay focused on your vision.
Focus has been known as the hidden driver of excellence and luckily focus can be trained. If you have a dream and you want to manifest it, there is no greater time to start focusing than now.
First of all, it is important to name distractions – the force that impedes focus. Distractions come in two main varieties – Sensory and emotional.
Sensory distraction as the name suggests is a distraction of the senses consciousness lost in appropriating the objects of the senses – sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, basically focused on pleasure seeking activities and preventing discomforts.These five organs face outwardly, looking out, lost in projections of the appearances, taking what appears out there to be real and true.
Emotional distraction is the drama of life. No one is immune to this. Unless you learn to work with this highly charged energy – you are controlled by your emotions. A fight with someone you love can disrupt your whole day(s) and distract you from your focus. It affects your ability to perform your task well. It affects your ability to envision and to take action, especially if the distress is ruminative in nature – you get stuck in a loop.
When you feel powerless at facing the tides and swings of emotions, the usual tendency is to use sensory distraction to temporarily escape from feeling the feelings, from facing the truths and facts.
Below are 7 tips that help you stay focused in your lane when you want to distract.
- Claiming the vision
We live in an interconnected world where actions in one part of the world impacts the rest of the world, for example the Covid-19 pandemic. Our individual values and choices have collective consequences, culturally and environmentally. If one organ in your body stops functioning properly, it will have a ripple effect on the rest of the bodily systems.
So I suggest when you claim your vision that you broaden the scope of your impact.
- What is the vision of the world you want to live in?
- What is the highest calling that brings you to full vitality, purpose and prosperity?
- Is your individual pursuit in alignment with collective wellbeing? Listen deeply to your heart, look deeply into this world, integrate and dream big.
- Whatever medium you use, journaling, writing songs, drawing and painting, crafting – express this vision as clearly as you can.
- Awareness training
Without self awareness of your habitual patterns of the default network system, habitual patterns will decide your focus for you. So much of the default network is geared for self-protection, comfort, convenience and safety. Basically, it is wired for survival just like the animal brain, for you are part animal.
There is beauty in this bottom up process that automatically reacts to the environment and keeps you safe and alive. The beauty of the human brain however is in its advanced development of the prefrontal cortex where you can make conscious choices, such as to direct, strategize and execute your vision.
If you want to grow beyond survival, first and foremost, you have to use your imagination and imagine a life beyond survival.
- You have to recognize while comfort and convenience is important, it doesn’t lead to fulfillment and self-actualization.
- If there is enough safety in your body and mind, you will need to learn to take risks and NOT equate discomforts and growing pain as harmful or negative.
- If there is not enough safety in the body because we live in a world of imperfect relating, leading to insecure and dysfunctional attachment styles, we will need to address these obstructions first. The field of trauma healing, somatic movements and different therapeutic modes are available to us.
- It is important to name the invisible systems that keep the matrix of survival intact. It is not just our reptilian brain that is the cause of it, there are anthropocenic and patriarchal systems of dominance, hierarchy, control and punishment that have kept us separate from the whole.These systems of exploitation and domination have glorified the othering and fear of the unknown, the mystery and the polarity.
- Get in the right relationship with not knowing, uncertainty, and stretching beyond the comfort zone. The times we are in and entering into will require us to stretch beyond our conditionings.
How does one cultivate self-awareness?
- By training your attention to look inward, by learning to notice the daily mental, physical and verbal occupation.
- By tracking their patterns in your postures, in your choices, in your tone, in your thoughts, in your judgements, and in your relationships.
- Write what you notice without judging, shaming and criticizing yourself. It’s the worst thing you could do to yourself, to double down on the pain and insecurity that you are already experiencing.
- Replace the judgment with compassion and understanding. This is what you have been running away from, the responsibility to meet this tender insecurity of not having control and agency.
- You will need to tread extremely gently here, especially if you carry a lot of shame, blame and guilt – you will need to slow down even more, become even more gentle and patient.
- Especially in the beginning where you are cultivating a complete new habit of relating with pain and suffering.
- Cultivating Helpful Habits
I am not a big fan of using positive and negative for any habits. Especially as a Buddhist, the deeper I dive into Buddhadharma – the less rigid I’ve become in labeling.
Labels are helpful until they are not. They are helpful for identifying and organizing until they become rigid identities and a mechanism for polarization.
Habits are either helpful, neutral or harmful depending on the context and outcome one desires. Unless you are in the habit of killing, stealing, lying, cheating, and violating other’s sovereignty – you have a pretty free rein.
You are not immoral for eating that extra cake, or binging on a show, or not fulfilling your or others expectations. It might not be skillful and what you want in the long term but it is not immoral.
So the exercise here is:
- Write down the habits you want to cultivate in order to get closer to your vision. You don’t have to make this up on the spot or you don’t have to look at your favorite influencer to tell you that, or listen to your parents.
- Actually, if you are paying attention to all the nagging voices inside you – they give you clues of all the habits you know that need to be cultivated. It’d sound something like this “Arrggg, I spent way too much time scrolling through this screen when I should have been meditating, cooking, cleaning, walking, exercising, writing, creating, crafting, checking on my family, friends and relatives, etc.”
- The caveat here is to discern if that nagging voice is yours or societies. So sit with those nagging voices, whose tone does it have? How does it feel in your body? Is it expectations and shoulds from others or a begging plea from your inside?
- Now, why is this caveat important to pay attention to? Because, if the voice is from outside, then, you won’t have the conviction to adopt these helpful habits. This decision to adopt helpful habits has to come from full conviction that it is helpful and good for you at this point in time.
- Abandoning Harmful Habits
Now that you know what helpful habits you need and what to cultivate to get closer to your vision, you will need space and time to put them into practice. A lot of the time people want to implement helpful habits but there is a mental block that comes and says “but, but, but…I don’t have time, I don’t have space, I don’t have the right gears, I don’t know”. When these obstacles arise, like a warrior – don’t back down easily. Inquire deeper “Is that true?” and further inquire.
It’s hard to pick up habits we want while keeping the habits we want to abandon. There is conflict in capacity here. So we create time and space for the habits we want to cultivate by giving up the habits we don’t want to keep.
- Make a list of all the habits you want to get rid of. Illuminate the wasted time and resources burned to upkeep these habits. If you want to dive deeper, track actual times and resources spent in the said distraction. Notice that this distraction is a pattern of survival, quick dopamine fixes by passively consuming other’s creations. So list all the attention leaking habits you indulge in that takes your focus away from your own tasks.
- Look at this shedding process, like a snake shedding her old skin. If you need to make rituals to make this process even more potent, get elaborate and vivid with it. Create the set and setting for this transformation to take place.
- The set “denotes the preparation of the individual, including the person’s personality structure and their mood at the time.”
- The “setting” refers to the surrounding events and time. These include other people present, location, and time of day and the environment.
- Usually the set and setting is mainly used in the urban world to mean preparation for psychedelic journeys. However, within the eastern and the indigenous traditions, all rituals we do are for set and setting so that transformation of the individual or collective can occur.
- A ritual can look like making a fire sacrifice, where you can bring the items, food or whatever else that represents all the old habits you want to give up and feed the hungry ghost in that fire. Google “Chod Practice and feeding demons” if you are curious.
- Taking Care of Health
Often the pain in our bodies and suffering in our mind occupies most of our time. We are incessantly bothered by the aches, tightness, chronic pain, and instead of doing something about it, we wallow in helplessness, hopelessness and despair.
- So, if you have the resources – use them to seek help. If you have extra, share your resource with those who don’t have access to them.
- If you are short of resources, look for free help. Learn to ask for help. Humble yourself. We are so lucky to be alive in a time of readily available, free quality information accessible if you take responsibility for your part in researching, discerning and applying them.
- Instead of scrolling through, spend time researching the conditions you are in and their causes. Yes, the oppressive systems of patriarchy, crony capitalism, white supremacy, ableism and more are major causes of our illnesses. If you want to be part of dismantling these oppressive systems, you will need to take agency over your responses to the effects of systemic oppression.
- Take charge of your health, get curious, listen deeply to the messages of your aches, they speak deeper than despair and hopelessness. Get to the bottom of it, meet the aches and pain, gain insights into their medicine, respond to their prayers, take responsibility and seek help.
- Power of Breath, Pause and Rest
The effort that is required to shift the gear from anticlockwise to clockwise, to direct your life force towards the life you want, is immense. So, don’t trivialize the density of the inertia you are working to transform.
- The fire of effort that is required, if not sustained properly through the skillful use of breath, pause and rest, will burn out quickly.
- So think long term.
- Knowing yourself, your patterns of sabotaging, gives you clarity on the pace you need to travel.
- Self awareness practice should give you clarity on how you will need to navigate the obstacles and blocks that you will inevitably meet.
- Instead of reaching out for distraction and the quick fixes of unhealthy habits (which leaves you with more guilt and less self trust and confidence), lean into connecting with your breath, pause and rest.
- Breath that carries our prana can be manipulated to alter our state of consciousness.
- There are different techniques for different purposes.
- Pause, taking a break from the busyness of the mind, body and speech. Take walks. Watch kids play. Go to a kids playground and play on the slides and swings.
- Just let the spaciousness of the sky hold you in non doing and connect you into the sky within you.
- We take rest from all the effort and allow ourselves to surrender to inherent quietness, silence and the emptiness that births all forms, sounds and actions.
- Structuring the Bones of your Day
Being conditioned by patriarchy and capitalism, both of which force oppressive structures of mediocre performance for their maximum benefit, it will take deconditioning of these structures functioning in your body to perform your best for yourself and the collective.
When you take a rest and you start to feel anxiety, guilt and restlessness – learn to name them as indoctrinations of these systems.
It is very unlikely that most of us will be able to sustain 8 hrs daily of undivided, peak attention towards our vision. If we force it, our performance will suffer.
Research shows that 2-3 hours of undivided attention lets us get into the flow state. Different wiring of nervous systems need different structures, so the more you decondition from the paradigm of the dominant narrative, the more clarity you will gain about what your individual makeup is and how best to structure your day and schedule the tasks.
Create a morning routine
What will get you into the headspace to be inspired and activated to make the most of your day? Is it journaling, gratitude practice, meditation, altar offerings, walking/running, hot tea, yoga, dancing, breathing, showering, or other energetic practices? Do what you need to to get into the mindset that invigorates you to take action upon your vision.
Dedicate 2-3 hours after this centered and energizing routine for undivided attention to create the life you envisioned. Content creation, video recording, reaching out to potential clients, collaboration work, crafting, whatever it is that you want to make your livelihood from.
Create your evening routine
How do you wind down the day? What routine helps you for a good night’s rest and inspiration to wake up the next day?
Perhaps, it’s no screen at least 1 hr before bed, dinner at least 2-3 hrs before bed, washing your face and brushing teeth, emptying out the residual after thoughts through journaling, evening meditation, reading that book that’s been sitting on your shelf, practicing sleep and dream yoga, or diving into your gratitude practice.
At the end of the day, if you are not able to control where your attention goes, and bring it back to your focal goal and take appropriate actions – most likely your dreams will never come into fruition.
Whether it’s achieving enlightenment, collective liberation, personal sovereignty, or making your dreams come into reality – sustained attention focused on your goals accompanied by skillful actions will bear fruits. You are likely to trip multiple times as you reorient yourself to the new reality, in those times instead of beating yourself up – try compassion, try patience, try gentleness. You will most likely fail at this too as we all do, nonetheless, keep on focus on the vision and your daily routines.
To summarize this newsletter, I invited you to treat attention as a precious wealth that requires polishing and direction. Training your attention to be laser focused on the vision in your heart is the key to its manifestation. Focus gives you power to move forward. I broke it down to seven considerations or exercises.
- Claiming the Vision
- Awareness Training
- Cultivating Helpful Habits
- Abandoning Harmful Habits
- Taking Care of Health
- Power of Breath, Pause and Rest
- Structuring the Bones of Your Day
If you need help and support on any of these steps – consider booking 1-1 with us. If our 1-1 services are inaccessible for whatever reason, we have a few other offerings.
Holding Space for Community
We’re all on this journey together. It’s our desire to create space where we can support each other in this process. Right now we have two ways for you to connect with us in a group setting:
- Monthly Full Moon Meditation Circle (online)
It’s our desire to hold space for our community in an accessible, affordable way, so starting in February, we’ll be hosting a monthly meditation circle. It will be a time to practice together and share our experiences.
Instead of registration and a payment, this is open to all Patrons, which you can become for $1 a month (cancel any time). We can all afford a dollar, which acts as a symbol of our commitment to show up.
- Reorienting to Reality Course (online)
For those of you responding to the invitation of our time, facing existential enquiries and looking to unlearn and compost binary teachings of patriarchal teachings and modernity, I am facilitating a 6- week interactive learning circle on a range of topics that I feel are important and relevant for the time we are in. It is called Reorienting to Reality.
“The importance of the right view can be gauged from the fact that our perspectives on the crucial issues of reality and value have a bearing that goes beyond mere theoretical convictions. They govern our attitudes, our actions, our whole orientation to existence. Our views might not be clearly formulated in our mind; we might have only a hazy conceptual grasp of our beliefs. But whether formulated or not, expressed or maintained in silence, these views have a far-reaching influence. They structure our perceptions, order our values, crystallize into the ideational framework through which we interpret to ourselves the meaning of our being in the world.” – Bhikkhu Bodhi
The life manuals of modernity have not prepared us for the crisis it created. So, in this course, we will align with the cosmic law and path for this relative and conventional reality while being held by the view of the absolute truth. We will enquire and dismantle fundamental misunderstandings regarding this reality that keeps us separate, chained and afraid.
If you have been interested in the Buddhist understanding of reality and how we stay centered and courageous in our forward motion in the midst of decay, this course will be of interest to you.
We will cultivate insight into the true nature of reality, our interconnected belonging and our role in this particular moment.
Each week there will be a topic of discussion and enquiry, sitting and somatic practices, and Q&A sessions (recorded for you to catch up if you miss them live). Weekly sessions will be accompanied by optional readings, practices and resources for you to deepen the work at home.
As usual, at Innovative Yogis, we bridge the world using the best practices of ancient wisdom and modern technology.
Come join me in a circle of heart centered warriors, lovers, visionaries and changemakers to create and expand into the world of your belonging.