news, thoughts and practices of the month
attention and intention
One of my favorite modern-day philosophers, Robert Anton Wilson, ran an experiment in his lectures: he’d ask everyone to list every item they’d seen in the hall outside the lecture room. He’d then make a list of all the items from everyone’s lists combined. This master list was always more than twice as long as any individual person’s list. Meaning: at our most attentive, we are still missing out on a lot of what’s around us! He also showed that we tend to see what we expect to see, and ignore what disagrees with our expectations. In other words: if we expect to see goodness in ourselves or others, we will, but if we expect to see our own shortcomings, or the ways in which our lives or the world is disappointing, that’s where we’ll focus our awareness, and thus what we will see.
Yoga brings full awareness to the practice of our attention and intention. These are, of course, connected: our intention determines how or where we focus our attention, and so on. Intention also carries that root of intent, or purpose, whereas the root of attention, attend, literally means “to wait upon” or “to expect”. I love, too, the “in” of intention, the feeling of turning our attention inward; choosing how to go forward; where or how to look at ourselves or our lives. This setting of intention, or samkalpha in Sanskrit, has tremendous psychic energy – as we move into summer, it’s the root of our mental fire and heat.
What does all this mean? Play with your intention, and see your attention respond. Whether we’re bored or tired, lacking inspiration or gratitude, there’s always something else, new or old, to notice, inside or outside ourselves. It’s always possible, because it’s always there, waiting to be seen.
notes and upcoming events
• Upcoming workshop: September 30: Restorative Immersion. Visit the Workshops page for details.
“The brain is constantly rewiring itself based on daily life. In the end, what we pay the most attention to defines us. How you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life literally transforms you.” (D. Ackerman)
See you soon on the mat!
For past newsletters / practices of the month, click here.