Friday, 15 November 2013

The energy in focusing

I teach people and organisations how to focus. There are a few questions to start using when you want to learn about this:

What are you focusing on?

Where are you focusing from?

What are you focusing?

The third question is what I want to address here.

You're alive, although you take this for granted most of the time, unless you've been through a life-threatening situation, had a seriously shocking emotional encounter or are just a naturally extra-sensitive person.

How do you know you're alive? By being aware, and being conscious of being aware. We could also talk about being cognizant of consciousness of being aware, but then we begin to sound like drunk philosophical lawyers, although it's true that there are many layers of consciousness and awareness. Lets' go another way, linking sensory experience to focused awareness. You usually float along on a default of habitual attention: white bread toasted, that shirt, this train, this key, that file, has to be this desk, it's mine, coffee at this time, lunch at that, my work, I know what I have to do, my home, my family, TV time, etc, etc.

The daily habit is a hard one to break. You've been doing it for a long time, even if you pay attention to complicated things. As I want to say to my son-in-law who flies Boeings, any fool can fly a Boeing. All you do is flick switches, press buttons and say "Roger" every now and then. Now who can't do that?

That which you are focusing, and using, by bringing your energy to the fore of the routine, is attention. There's only one person in charge of your attention, and that's you. Because our eyes, ears and noses are on our head, and thus a lot of attention feels to happen around these, we identify with our heads most of the time. And then, because our heart area is the one that feels very excited or very vulnerable from time to time, we point to our hearts if we are asked to point to "me". I've wondered sometimes, where a porn star would point if asked to point to the "me". Could be fun to find out.

The energy of focusing and the focusing of energy are indeed close to being the same thing. The thing common to both is decisive action. Let's try the same stunt: are decisive action and active decision the same thing? The age-old distinction between body and mind is false. You can't reduce the one to the other, neither can you separate the one from the other. You have to learn to surf, bob and bounce between them.

If, for you, the experience of living is frequently, perhaps mostly, unpleasant, as it is for many, the way to go is to beautify your being.


There are a number of places to start doing this. Daily routine is one, emotional habits another, imaginative agility a third. Intellectual versatility is the one I like, but it's not everybody's favourite. 
Back to the third question: what am I focusing?
The simplest answer is: my attention, my energy. These are the same thing. When you pay attention, you focus your emotional attention, your intellectual attention and your decisive attention. Unless you decide to attend to something else. Like the hunger in your tummy. Or is it mouth? No wait, there's a message waiting for me. I still need to go to the toilet. I'm late. What was I going to do before doing this? What's the date today? My foot hurts.
Focus. It's a skill of attention. It's a deliberate manipulation of energy. It's a management of self-awareness. The more you do it, the more challenging it becomes. Why do it? Life is short and then you die. Let's have another bucket of KFC. Let's have another beer.
What's a useful way of understanding the energy of focusing?
It does it automatically. When you look at what's in front of you, your eyes, or more exactly, the muscles and lenses of your eyes do what's needed without you thinking. You decide without thinking. In less than a blink.
What also happens, for humans, who have a weird access called imagination, is that attention obeys the words that the language part of the mind throws in. "This is the office, don't get funny." "This is my bedroom, I can do what I want." "There's no money left! It's over!" "What a wonderful world..."
Choose a vision and then see it. It can be as small, selfish, cruel and vicious as you want. If you can envision it, you can move towards it. Everyone goes towards what they decide without thinking. Some go towards what they decide after thinking. A few go towards what they feel and keep going even when the waves are high. Even fewer go into their thinking and feel what they think. The possibilities are myriad. Some hear beauty straight away. Some see compassion. Some smell truth.
 The energy that focuses your attention is not only you, it's also much more than you. Your experience, your meaning, your insight, your mind's heart is no one thing. It's not centred. Ask anyone who's been dead for a couple of hundred years. Being oneself is also a choice.
By now you should realize that the energy of focusing doesn't fit into words easily. In fact you can use words to focus energy, and to energize focusing. They're amazing paddles for going upstream and against the tide. But I get impatient with them. They're good friends, in themselves, but people use them to reduce, restrict and restrain the natural energy of focused attention. Ask any curious child.
 Unfocused energy doesn't go anywhere in particular. Focused energy grows, exponentially. Another blog will deal with learning how to focus energy. Unfocused energy, though, is necessary. Nothing wrong with going nowhere, slowly. One decision leads to another, and focused energy can't be reduced to business mentality, salvationism or devotion. It is what it is, and the mission in focusing is not to be slavish to clarity, but to be as clear as the energy of freedom.
Perhaps this comes to me vividly because living in a "free" South Africa, now, is a whole lot less free than it was when it was oppressed. It's more feasible to stand up to a bully, if you have the courage, than to correct a liar whose lies are lucrative.
 It's an important learning curve, choosing how to focus. It begins with the irreversible and astounding realization that the heart of your mind is what focuses, and that focusing is inevitable. Your very living is a focus, and should you never use this facility, no doubt you will die still staring blankly at nothing. That's actually not possible. A small bird on a twig is enough to register eternal meaning. That's because the reverse is also true. Indeed, words are mirrors, and that's because they're like the drops of the Victoria Falls and the Niagra Falls. If one or more hit your face, then you must have been close enough to see, and definitely close enough to hear.
"Focus" is a word. The action is limitless. The means is indefinable. The meaning is unimaginable.
Yet learning to do this is always possible.