How many times do we find ourselves overworked and exhausted? How many things go unnoticed because we are doing something that takes our attention?
I remember my first lesson of economics, a subject I was introduced to at the ripe young age of 13. I failed my exams hopelessly, but I do still recall the introductory talk that the teacher gave us. He said: “Imagine you have gone to a sweet shop (candy store for our American brothers and sisters) and you have a sixpence, enough to get one chocolate bar. Until you make a choice and select one your range of selection is huge – lots of different delights you could opt for. Yet as soon as you do decide, all the other options fade away. Going for the Mars bar is saying ‘no’ to the Snickers bar and all the others too.”
What if it’s the same with our capability to notice? Noticing takes time and presence, yet as we rush through our day there isn’t much of either. The notorious list of things we have to do is what demands our attention, and taking time out is a luxury. Noticing gets sidelined and put off until later. If you want to see how many thoughts your brain can process, try meditating and emptying your mind! Unless you are practiced you will be amazed by how many thoughts seek to occupy the silent space of true presence.
Some of you that have breathed with me may have heard me speak of the word ‘attention,’ which comes from the word ‘attendere’ in Latin. Attendere means ‘to wait,’ and once we think of giving our attention as waiting, it introduces a new meaning to the word. Likewise, if we apply our attention to noticing, we are alert and waiting for something to happen. Our focus is high. Like a hunter or a birdwatcher we are on the verge of new discovery. This alertness is not filled with expectation, but with expectancy. We are not prejudging a situation before it has occurred as we do the rest of the time. We are open, curious and in a state of wonder.
This is such an important place to be, as we are able to witness things that would normally pass us by. As we begin to notice what’s different, we award ourselves the chance for change.
If you think about it, when we notice the same things then the same things happen. But when we notice what is different, the possibility of something different unfolding exists.
One of the laws of Quantum Physics is that where there is least certainty there is greatest possibility. Yet a part of our human condition is to want to feel secure. Thus according to Quantum Physics we prefer to inhabit a place with less possibility.
What if on the other hand, we create a new habit of noticing what is different? Imagine if we consciously hold back from seeking certainty, and stay in the discomfort of not knowing. What is there to notice in this place? What is it that’s different?
Here’s an example: There are 8 notes in a scale, right? Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti……..and, wait for it…Do! Actually that second ‘Do’ is a repeat of the first ‘Do’. If you don’t hear it and the scale stops on the seventh note you are left waiting in suspense. Your mind wants to hear that final ‘Do’ to achieve resolution. In fact it has been shown that if you play only the first 7 notes to a cancer cell that it cannot withstand the suspense, and will start to break down. The suspense is too great.
Likewise for us to stay in suspense without resolution is challenging. Those of you who are musicians will understand the importance of ‘resolution.’ Those of you who are not still know what it feels like when resolution is not provided. You’re just left ‘hanging there’ – unsatisfied.
Resolution brings conclusion. It brings certainty and closure. That’s what we do as humans too. Rather than stay in the suspense of not-knowing we opt for what is known. All too often in our modern world we settle for relief rather than resolution. We take meds, or self medicate with alcohol or drugs, we go shopping, we have sex, we watch TV, or we simply point the finger of blame to our outside world or relationships. This may bring temporary relief, but it doesn’t bring resolution.
But when we breathe consciously we can make a choice before the session to stay open to what wants to unfold. By stern focus and attention we can notice what is coming into our awareness without seeking to conclude anything. We can stay in a state of not knowing in the way we’re used to, and after a while we connect to another type of knowing instead. This knowing is different. It is not connected to logic, or the conscious mind. It is a universal knowing, a wordless place of deep relaxation, peace and trust. It is connecting to a part of our being that already knows. Confused by a lifetime of being told what to notice by the media, stories and the culture itself, we realize we have been chasing our tails to get to the end of a list that never actually does end.
Yuk! This is where our suffering comes from. What about rethinking this? Those of you that are embarking on a breathwork, why not take a few minutes beforehand to make a deal with the mind. It could go like this:
“Hey dear mind of mine that has guided me through thick and thin, thank you for your great care and diligence. Today I am going to offer you the chance to take a rest, to settle back into deep relaxation and trust as I breathe. Know that I will come back to you after the session, yet for this hour it is your turn to take a break. I’ll be counting on you after I finish, as I will need you to help me express what my experience has been, so I am asking you to simply watch with ever increasing alertness, and leave judgment aside.”
Enjoy your session!