I am on a run in the woods traveling down a trail covered in leaves. Beneath the leaves are lots of acorns and loose rock. I keep stumbling over and over again in this one particular section, almost falling flat on my face several times, before I recognize that I am actually, not there. Not in my body. Not on the trail. But elsewhere, in my mind. And it takes all the near misses of falling down to recognize that there is a deep agitation inside my mind that is burning me up from the inside, and pulling me out of where I actually am. It is nothing short of pure hell to experience a mind on fire and a body left vacated. No wonder I can barely stay on my feet.
It occurs to me how essential it is that when we are navigating tricky terrain in our lives, (which I am, hence the burning mind), that is exactly the time we least want to go on autopilot. The time we least want to check out and go unaware. And yet, it is often exactly what we do and where we go when we do not want to feel what we are feeling. But the truth is, when the footing gets particularly tricky, difficult, and even “unbearable,” that is exactly when we most need to be where we are. When we most need to be in our body, fully within ourselves; seeing what we are seeing and feeling what we are feeling.
I recently heard a great teacher talk about how our attention is our most precious resource, and that one of the most powerful things we can do is to recognize when we are giving our attention away. How, why and when do you give your attention away? Worrying about the past or the future? What someone thinks of you? Financial fears? Ruminations about the body? Work to discover what it is that takes your attention away, and take it back. Whatever the cost. Whatever it is that you must give up or rework.
Claim your attention as the powerful force that it is to literally choose your happiness or unhappiness. Your health and well-being or your suffering. Your peace of mind or a kind of chaos within. Be where you are. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Your body is here. The Earth is here. This moment is here.The mind, on the other hand, may be anywhere, but here. And when that is so, work to get it back.
You might be thinking sounds good, but how do I do it? I’ll tell you what I did. Once I noticed what was going on, an attention to your thoughts always being the first step, I began to do two things. The first one was I began to feel and listen to the sound of my feet hitting the Earth. I felt the cold on my face. I tuned into my breathing and I began to focus on the sky and the trees. And when that wasn’t enough to cool the mind off, I began to talk to myself saying things like; “You have a choice, what do you want more; to feel like this or to do something else?”
To take your attention back requires a kind of presence on your part; a willingness to notice when your mind has taken off. And then what you need is an absolute, unshakeable accountability on your part for the thoughts you choose to keep and to the places where you give yourself away based on where your attention goes. And while there is no end to what grabs our attention away from us, away from what is real and true, away from the present moment, this is yours, and only yours to do.