Taken from a podcast by Davidji, a spiritual teacher:
"Attention and intention—two qualities of pure unbounded conscious and yet two qualities, power qualities of manifestation. Confused as the same thing but completely different processes. Where attention goes energy flows. What you place your attention on blossoms and blooms. When you withdraw your attention, energy withers and dies.
"You know what you had for dinner last night, last week, but how about three weeks ago. You know what book you’re reading right now. What was the last book you read before that and the book before that? How about the last movie you saw, the last time you took care of yourself. If we can activate that aspect of our systems with greater frequency, we won’t drift into the past, it will be part of the present here and now.
"If we can truly learn that what we place our attention on elevates and where we drifted, from diminishes, then we would never grieve, we would never waste energy, we would never knowingly prolong pain."
”We loiter in winter while it is already spring.” - Henry David Thoreau
"A perfect metaphor for activating our ability for present moment of attention. If one foot is mired in quicksand of the past – tired excuses, stale philosophies, constricted ways of living and moving forward, how in the world can the next step be the strong one that pulls us out of that quicksand and launches us in our dreams. It all comes down to attention. Where is yours? Wherever it is, you’re giving consciously or unconsciously power to that thing.
"If your intention is clouded by the swirl of life, you’re not allowing the natural ability to unfold. Intention is a transformational property. Attention activates—intention transforms. It’s the seed which already holds within it the fulfillment of your dream. The seed of a blade of grass, a tomato plant, the acorn that has just dropped from the oak tree, that little acorn contains the entire oak tree in its one little inch of intention. A fully grown human body is resting, sleeping inside the mother’s egg waiting for the moment of fertilization and that’s where the expression comes from we were just a glean in your parents eye. You were already there. Just a sweet intention. That teeny microscopic seed grown into the you that exists right now.
"Our dreams are also dormant waiting to be fertilized and that is intention. When you’re able to merge attention to intention, we create the next unfolding of the moment. You have to merge these two aspects of your being attention and intention.
"There must be a fertile garden for the seed to grow. Once clarity is flowing through us the power of attention will activate it and bring you to oneness.
"When I let go of who I am I become who I might be."
Excerpts from We Were Made For These Times
“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.”
“You are right in your assessments. ... Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.”
Thank you so much. It seems to me that, every morning, Shirley has given us a reading, she has done what she talked about this morning. She has given attention to her subject she chooses to write about, she has set her intentions to let spirit speak and writes down what she receives. We talk about the tools that we’ve learned. This morning, I want to say that we have been given gifts of each other’s spirits. And we have been given gifts of Shirley’s and Thea’s spirit. Those gifts are not analogous to a tangible tool, but their gifts of spirit are packages that we continue to unwrap. We can choose the one that speaks to us. We can set our intention to give attention to the package, the topic that Shirley or others have given us. Gifts of spirit are truly the gift that keeps on giving. I am full of gratitude.
Thea says: Thank you. Your words touched my heart. As you were speaking, I was thinking that in the next phase of our meetings, maybe we can search through the blogs and each find one that speaks to us and then share that with each other. It’s something we can do together. I want to mine the blog posts for ideas, insights, and tools for gifts.
I have played with intention and attention before. It’s a good topic for today. I love the idea that there is potential that is in all of us, that dormant thing. You can activate it with attention. The same thing with intention. I say the intention and it is inside me. But I activate it again and again by putting attention on it. I love how the two of those go together.
I studied neuroscience for many years. The attention system is one of those systems. When you put attention on something, it brings information differently into your brain. We are able to gather lots of information in a passive way, but our attention system is active and when we focus, things change. And the intention system is a feedforward system, one is setting oneself up, this is how I’m going to look at the world and do things, all based on this intention that I set. It changes my day when I set an intention for the day and then I look back at how I used that intention. I’m aware I don’t put enough focus on attention. My intention is to focus my attention. I try to put my phone down more.
I know now that my intention is to be more aware and in the moment. As a direct result, I pay attention to things that I used to gloss over before. On my walks, I notice tree stumps. Now I really study them intently and it’s a fascinating change when I do that.
My intention is to pay better attention. I listened to a TED talk about memory. Most of us worry about losing our memories these days. What came out of the TED talk was that it’s a focus and attention problem, not a memory problem. So that’s my intention. (here’s a link to another TED talk about getting one’s brain to focus; will you take his challenge?)
And I read an article this morning that walking really helps older brains stay healthy and active.
I really appreciated the reading. It’s what I needed to hear at this moment. This whole concept of combining intention with awareness and being present seemed effortless for me today. I don’t know why, but I am grateful. I began noticing what I was looking at, the sounds I was hearing. After a while, thoughts emerged. They weren’t evaluative thoughts. It was more about this is what I am taking in. What struck me was that it was effortless. Usually, what I experience is that it’s hard work to be attentive and giving my attention to something. I’m not sure what was different. It was lovely.
Thea says: I’m wondering how much meditation is helping you do that, is helping your brain focus like that. You’ve been practicing.
I’m reminded of a professor who studies private speech. People talk to themselves when they are trying to focus on something. It really works. We are socialized out of that behavior, although children do it. It occurs to me that affirmations are also intentions because one is saying it as if it has already happened. That’s because it’s your intention. An affirmation like “I am brave.” My intention is to be brave but I’m saying it as if I already am, and I’m focusing my attention on it by saying it that way and putting it in the present. It all folds in together.
Thea says: It’s reinforcing a feedback system of positivity. Everyone is pointing out different ways to feed that system of feeling positive. Being aware that one is positive, hearing that one is positive. Focused on taking care of oneself and doing what one wants to achieve. It’s all reinforcing.
I thought of the quote ‘the road to hell is paved with good intention.’ Maybe the road to heaven is paved with attention to our intentions. I have been really paying attention to my intention of looking at everything that happens as something that I need. A friend said about her daughter, ‘she doesn’t need that right now.’ I answered her and said, ‘Maybe it’s exactly what she needs right now.’ It spoke to the statement in the reading today that we were made for these times. When things are going on in my life, to acknowledge that this is exactly where I need to be is a happier place to be. That’s the intention I am making—this is happening for me. Very helpful.
I’ve been thinking about choices. Last night, I had the intention of attending a class but I didn’t pay close enough attention to the time and to my energy. Those two things come close and go back and forth. The intention to pay attention. But how do we do it? That’s where choice comes in. My evening would have been different if I had attended the class and I would feel different now. How to, in the moment, when one is in the hole, to get the energy to make the choice to pay attention and activate what the intention is? There’s another step to it: intention, attention, and the choice to activate. One step further. I’m working on that and admire people who can do that. Sometimes the choice is to not do something.
Thea says: I used to program robots. They are simple because they have one goal. Humans have many conflicting needs and we aren’t aware of all of them. The key is to not beat myself up for having conflicting needs, but to hear and be aware of all the conflicting needs. To accept that fact. And then make the choice about the priority of the need that has to be made. Or listen to the want. It’s all a balance. It’s about not beating yourself up. It’s about accepting oneself as a complex human being.
I appreciate that question about choices. I see a circle of attention, intention, and choice. In terms of the reading and these times right now, I could have died back in January from Covid. That focused my attention. I honestly think this is the time we need. The last year and a half have stripped away so many layers of irrelevant stuff and focused us on existential issues. I’m grateful for the situation we find ourselves in. I think it’s life to its greatest.
That’s a good attitude because things will only get worse. The question is how to face that. We could panic, get upset, cry. Or we can face it with gratitude and awareness and community and strength. Face it together.
I want to speak up for tears as a useful waystation on the way to action. I think feeling and acknowledging the sorrow, or the sorrow and anger, is a useful, often necessary, stage in responding to the “wrongs” that we see in our world. These responses are truthful reactions and can free and empower us to move and to act. Skipping them—or devaluing them—may leave our reactions and actions with a shallow grounding. I believe we need to be deeply rooted in order to persevere and to make the difference we wish to see.
I really like the question of intention, attention, and choice. It stirred up for me how consistent I’ve been attending this meditation group these last few months. The feeling of a conscious choice is always fresh for me in the morning because getting mobilized and moving isn’t the easiest thing. It’s a choice I’m making. Maybe because it’s early in the morning; maybe nighttime would be different. It’s clear to me that I make a conscious choice to come to the group and mobilize myself to do that. It’s not super simple, it involves a lot for me to be here. But it’s part of the process and it doesn’t weigh me down in any way.
Thea says: that’s the extra part of choice. It’s the tradeoffs.
This will sound ‘teacher-esque’. But discipline. I have made the choice and set the intention to walk 4-5 times a week. Yesterday, I thought to myself I don’t have time to walk. And then I said to myself I don’t have time not to walk in my life. I must walk to keep mobile and help the brain. Without discipline, we don’t get the good stuff in life. We can think we are being entertained, but something else will be more healthy and more instructive for us.
I read somewhere that true freedom is doing things we have to do because we want to do them. It changes the energy around our needs and burdens.
I’ve been walking every day for four years except for the two weeks I had Covid. Even in bad weather. The walking comes first. I never thought I’d do this, but I’ve changed everything around so that I can do that.
Thea says: That’s what setting an intention for a spiritual practice does. It changes our lives.
As long as I can remember, things have upset me about the environment, about chemicals, about the treatment of animals. I have a hard time not being enveloped in it, because I feel it. I don’t know how to deal with that. It takes my energy. I can’t ignore it. And I’m not in a place in my life where I can volunteer and advocate in any way. I was thinking the other day about all Shirley and Thea are doing: how lucky we are and how kind you are to have done all you have done. And now you are thinking of ways to continue this instead of just ending it the way other groups do. As for the intention, attention, and choice, it’s also energy. Having the physical energy to do something I’d like to do and sometimes the energy isn’t there to do it.
My mother was admitted to long-term care this week and I have to go clean out her personal room again. I’m scared. I’m asking you to send protective energy and angels to be with me. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to do it.
Thank you for that. It’s all about taking care of ourselves. Shirley couldn’t go lay down because she worried about what you all will think. She was trying to take care of you instead of taking care of herself. The key is to take care of oneself. For me to go inside and create a boundary to live in my spiritual moment when I’m needing to do service. To do the service with love, without judgment, with love for myself and love for the person I am helping. To let go of everything else and be one with myself. I encourage you to do that. I know you will. I know you have the skills and the tools to do that. We are all there with you, just as we are with Shirley through her trying time. Through all of our trying times. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes said, we were made for this moment. We have the awareness. We have the strength. We have the gratitude. We have the intention. We have the attention to deal with this moment. The key is to not lose hope as she said, and to be loving to ourselves, to our inner child, to our adult, and to take care of ourselves. Because we are worth it. We are totally worth it. Thank you for joining today. I hope you have a blessed day.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@markusspiske