Lack of Attention

BuddahIt’s late Monday morning and I’m sitting in the lounge of a dealership waiting on my car which is for regular maintenance. I’m expecting to wait for about an hour and a half, so I brought a few snacks, my laptop and my copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “Essential Writings”. Within the waiting room there are another half dozen others, waiting, like me. There is a television on. I’ve positioned myself away from the TV, actually behind it, so as not to see the screen. It is blaring. I even questioned to myself, why is it so loud? The overhead speakers are playing dated music and on top of all this noise, there is the occasional overriding voice of the receptionist, directing calls to the appropriate extensions. For the short time I am there, the TV programs progress from a rambunctious game show, to local headline news, to one of those over-dramatized soap-operas.

While all of this is all going on, I somehow manage to get a little work completed on my laptop which I then tuck away in my bag. I reach for my book. I begin to read, then pause, caught up in the excitement of the Game Show. I direct my attention back to the page, this time, only able to read a couple of lines before I realize I have no idea what I just read – someone just won a “NEW CAR”! So I start back at the beginning of the paragraph. This goes on for about 15 minutes when it dawns on me that the experience in this waiting room, with all the noise, excitement and movement, is exactly what Hanh’s book is describing. This waiting room is an extension, and an excellent example of the antics of the mind – like a monkey swinging from branch to branch, the music, the TV and all the other distractions are exactly how the mind works when it is allowed to be in control. So, as I sit here waiting for my car, I find myself becoming aware of being mindful of the experience that my book is describing.

We, as a population, fill the silence of our days with all kinds of noise and distractions. Why? We do not want to feel alone. We can be so afraid of the silence that exists within us. This fear drives us to surround and bombard ourselves with noise – any kind of noise will do! Noise from multiple sources is preferable, just in case one source goes quiet for a moment, and sometimes, the louder, the better.   Why do we fear the quiet voice of our True Self, the voice, which can only be heard when we are in silence? According to Thich Nhat Hanh, “Almost no one listens to his or her true self. But when we are not ourselves, any freedom we think we have is illusionary. Sometimes we reject freedom because we fear it. Our true selves are buried beneath layers of moss and brick.”   These layers of moss and brick are the opinions, expectations, noise and distractions we invite into our daily lives. Watching TV or movies, listening to music, even reading a book are all ways we occupy our time so that we do not have to experience the sensational quiet of the Self.   We may say that through the books, music, movies and even the TV, we are expanding our knowledge.   Yet, it is only when we allow ourselves to be quiet that we begin to expand our knowledge of our True Self.

So, how can we tap into the inner silence? Certainly not by trying but by simply sitting with our eyes closed and the stereo, TV and other people turned OFF!   We cannot get there by trying to get there, because this trying only takes us out – it is an effort that leads us away from our center and the quiet. It was suggested by The Buddha some 2500 years ago and it is now the hottest topic among Neuro Scientist all over the World – Meditation—it is good for our Brain! There are many ways to meditate. They include: sitting quietly and just observing the mind – trying to detach yourself from your thoughts (kind of hard to do because our brain is designed to think – but possible with practice). You can practice Mantra (chanting) or Pranayama (breath exercises). You can practice walking meditation – where you focus completely on the movement of the body or use Guided visual meditations.   There are many paths to the quiet but the most important aspect of any of them is actually making or taking the time to do them. If you feel you have time, then you will make time. If you feel there just isn’t any extra time in your already busy day, well, then you will not do it – it’s really just a decision on your part. If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it is not important to you, you will find an excuse!

Your sitting does not need to be 30 minutes or an hour; it can be as little as seven minutes a day to make an impact on your life, your health and your awareness! Yes! In as little as 7 minutes per day, for at least 21 days in a row, you can begin to change the neural pathways in your brain which will start you on a journey of self-discovery and awareness. Scientist, through the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have found that people who meditate regularly exhibit a greater capacity for concentration, improved attention, mental flexibility and more emotional control than non-meditators.

Turn the TV and the radio off. Close the book.

We are all seeking inner peace and happiness. The fascinating thing is that it comes from inside while we are seeking it out in the world. Wow. Try something different today. Take a few deep, deep breaths and settle into the silence of your being. You may just find, there is nothing to fear. For inside you, if we go deep enough we can find that river of peace that flows through us with each full and delicious breath. Come on. Give it a try.

Steve Bolia

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