Practical and simple practices for seeing through the mind
No matter where you are in your spiritual journey (spoiler alert, there is no journey) understanding Attention and Detachment really helps clear confusion up in the mind and changes the power dynamic of the mind to work for you instead of against you. In fact, once you SEE this, it opens up a realm of possibilities which you never knew existed.
I would say, at least for me, this method helped to uncover what a true realization is and can really speed up your ability to notice other subtle movements.
What is attention?
Ask yourself this simple question and your mind will tell you it knows this already, but stay with me for a minute because this is VERY IMPORTANT
First… Attention isn’t a ‘thing’ it’s like a movement. This is why you find many spiritual teachers saying similar things in general about enlightenment or non-duality and say they can’t be described in words, because they can not be. Another way to say it is a shift a shift of focus, but not really focus as you think of focus.
Are you confused yet? Think of this, if you want to go from where you are sitting now to the kitchen or the restroom, what happens? A thought bubbles up, your attention shifts from what you are currently focused on and then your body does an action.
What happens to your attention when your stomach rumbles or you have to use the restroom?
Ever hear “there is no doer?” This comes about because the attention shift causes things to transpire, there is no ‘person’ per-say doing anything.
“attention precedes thought” OR “awareness precedes cognition”.
Everything starts with attention. Ever just sit and watch nature? Pay attention next time you see a bird or even another human, you can almost feel the attention shift and then actions happen. Watch wildlife long enough and you can almost see what they will do next based on the environment.
It’s very simple in a sense and completely incredible in another. If you haven’t noticed, words are just words, attention and focus really don’t mean anything because there’s no words to describe what is happening. The important part to remember is these movements just happen, shift in attention happens and then action follows. NOTICE THIS
When I say notice this I don’t mean with a thought, it’s a looking, a looking that can NOT be described!
Now why did we just go over attention, how is that helpful? Well, let’s talk about attachment and detachment real quick so you can see how this actually interacts with the mind and how it is used against you by the mind.
What is Attachment and Detachment?
So simply put attachment is giving attention to something which creates a feeling or emotion. Attachments are actually emotions tied to things. Detachment on the other hand is separating those emotions from things.
Now, understand there’s limitations to detachment and attachment. What we want to realize is there’s attachments or detachment NOW, in the present moment AND then there’s attachment and detachment from memory and though.
Let’s use a simple example in the NOW. Let’s say you are sitting on the couch and your dog jumps up on your lap and you are in that moment just feeling that love. I’ll throw in here, but leave for another article that LOVE is an energy as is attention (hint: they are the same energy).
So, back to the dogs sitting on your lap, you feel that love, you, in that moment feel the attachment. That is the FEELING of attachment to the dog, to love itself.
Now, detachment in this case would be there is no feeling or emotion in the moment. The dogs on your lap, your attention is elsewhere and there is no attachment.
Here’s where it gets interesting and once you see this, Attention and Detachment become very powerful tools instead of enemies!
Ever see someone, or maybe this has happened to you, just break down from something that happened 20 years ago? They are a complete mess, they are sobbing in sadness.
Why does this happen?
In their mind, when they have a memory or thought of whatever it is, this memory, image whatever you want to call it steals their attention and then an emotion is attached. Many people do this out of habit because they are so used to doing it. Maybe yourself or someone else you know is like this, this is also where the term “trigger” is from, by triggering a memory that is attached to an emotion.
This is NOT about being emotionless.
Just to be clear we’re not saying emotions are good or bad, what we are explaining is the mechanism that causes your mind to exploit your emotions, bringing the future and past into the present. When you hear living in the NOW, this INCLUDES EMOTIONS, but emotions about the NOW not a distant memory. Having EMOTIONS in the moment is part of what happens, once those emotions are used when a memory or thought arrives, it brings along suffering.
So what can I do?
Now, some teachers will tell you, there is nothing you can do and they are right as well as the ones who tell you you can do something are right.
There is no right or wrong in this, we feel through practice you can make realizations like this yourself and it is an incredibly “enlightening” experience.
So, what practice can I do to catch the mind when it steals attention and attaches to emotions?
While these practices might work for some and may not for others, it really depends on what you have previously realized. For some people this is an “Ah-HA!” moment, for others this may feel like it makes no sense.
Meditate on the attention and attached emotion
Let’s say whenever a certain thought about something arises and you find your emotions being attached, make a note of it. Whenever, throughout your day, just make a mental note.
Now, when you go to meditation, bring your attention to those “bad” thoughts or memories that bring out the emotion. And sit with it, don’t run away from it, FORCE your attention on whatever it is causing you pain, if your attention drifts bring it back. FEEL the emotion, let the emotion go through you, do not fight it. Over time you may notice less and less affect of these emotions when the memory arises.
Anytime throughout the day!
You really don’t need to meditate, if you are catching your thoughts throughout the day you can do the same thing, the key is to not fight it, let it pass. Over time you will notice a decrease in sensitivity to these memory charged emotions.
The real power in this realization
The real power lies within the realization itself. Don’t confuse an understanding with a realization. They are not the same thing.
When you hear words like “Shift” and “movement” they are indeed pointing to something but the problem is they can not be explained in words. And unless you’ve experienced this you can not possibly see why this is the case.
These shifts or movements can happen not only in the above examples, there are many ways they open up realizations.
Once a realization happens it’s obvious to you, everything just makes sense, it’s the ah-ha moment. Along the way you will have many realizations. In fact, like everything, it never ends, it’s part of the human experience.
As you grow older and as you experience more realization through your life, you may feel they change you, but in reality they don’t change you, they already are, you just stumble upon an epiphany to yourself, but YOU have no ability to discover something that is not already.
What you are actually seeking is happiness and you will not find it later. You will not find it when something happens. What you can do is use your attention to focus on yourself, to watch, to observe, notice small shifts and everything that’s to reveal itself to you.