So the story goes that an old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “A terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I've been thinking a lot about attention lately. Attention is defined as the notice taken of someone or something. So you could say that your attention defines your present moment. Your attention is your power, it is where you are sending your energy and where you are choosing to spend your present moment (physically, mentally and emotionally). William James said it best “My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind”.
Although it may not seem that way, where we direct our attention is always our own choice. Sometimes we choose to dwell in negative emotions such as self-pity and resentment and blame it on external circumstances or situations. However, deep down it is still our choice to leave our attention dwelling in this space. Conversely, we may do everything in our power to avoid giving our attention to a painful or difficult situation. When truly facing this with our full attention and energy would serve us better in moving forwards through pain or difficulty.
Accepting that attention is our own responsibility is the first step towards making a change in our attitude, our outlook on life and our thought patterns. Noticing when our attention has lapsed back into old habits or drifted off course is the second (but possibly harder) step towards change.
Where we put our attention is a choice, but definitely a choice that takes practice. Begin your practice by trying this meditation:
Set a timer for 3 minutes to begin with (work up to longer periods). Sit quietly with your eyes closed and choose where or what you’d like to focus your attention on for these 3 minutes. It may be a mantra (a repeated phrase e.g. Attention is my choice), it may be listening to some music or it may be that you set yourself an intention ( e.g. I will focus my attention) and repeat this to yourself. Whatever your chosen focus, send your attention to this for 3 minutes and try to notice when your attention has wandered. If this happens, gently bring your focus back to your chosen point of attention.
The more you practice choosing where to send your attention (such as in the above meditation), the easier it becomes to be mindful of attention in our everyday lives. Ensuring that we continue to feed the right wolf.