Thursday, October 15, 2009

Noticing versus Giving Attention

Noticing and giving attention to something are very different. When you notice your thoughts, you have stepped away from them and are no longer so identified with them. Noticing creates a space between your thoughts and you. When you notice something, you become aligned with the Noticer, or the real you. And that provides an opportunity to choose whether you’ll give those thoughts further attention or not. When you simply notice something, you are aligned with your real Self, or Essence. This Self is sometimes called Awareness. You are the awareness that is aware of, or notices, everything, including thoughts. You are not your thoughts or the thinker; your thoughts and the sense that you are the thinker is the egoic, or false, self.

Unlike noticing, attention is more like a spotlight that focuses on something to the exclusion of everything else and gets lost in it. When we give our attention to a thought, we become identified with it if our attention lands there long enough. Whatever we give our attention to becomes magnified in our awareness. Noticing, on the other hand, is more like a moving spotlight that doesn’t land in one spot. When we are aligned with Essence and noticing what we are experiencing, we are noticing lots of things: Our awareness moves from a thought, to a sensation, to an object, to a sound, to an intuition, to another sound, to a feeling, to a knowing, to another object, and so on. Our awareness jumps around so quickly from one thing to the next that we barely realize all the things it’s taking in. Noticing is what the real you, or Essence, does as it experiences life. It gives attention to what needs attention in order to function, and then it moves on. The state of ego-identification, however, is a state of giving attention to thoughts or feelings more than the other aspects of experience—and believing them. This ends up coloring our experience of life and interfering with experiencing it purely.

Because nearly every thought comes from the ego, when we give our attention to thoughts, we become identified with the ego and its desires, beliefs, attitudes, judgments, and perceptions, and we see life through the ego’s eyes. Instead, if we spend less time giving attention to thoughts and more time noticing other aspects of experience, our experience of life will change; life will seem simpler, easier, more peaceful, and less stressful.

Learning to notice thought without identifying with it is the key to moving out of ego-identification and experiencing who you really are. Instead of being absorbed in your thoughts, take one little step back and notice what you are thinking. What you are thinking is really what your ego is thinking, not the real you.

Practice noticing your thoughts, and you can become free from the ego. Meditation is valuable because meditation is the practice of noticing thoughts without getting involved in them. You already know how to do this; there are lots of thoughts you have that you don’t get involved in. When you meditate, focus on something, such as a sound or a candle flame or a mantra or your breath. Then, when you notice yourself thinking, gently bring yourself back to whatever you are meditating on. Meditation trains you to bring yourself back to sensory experience (the real experience in the moment) and away from absorption in thoughts. We can’t ever get rid of thoughts because they are beyond our control, but we can learn to just notice them and then go back to the sensory experience we are having in the moment.

Be careful that noticing thoughts doesn’t turn into giving your attention to them because that can quickly turn into absorption in thoughts and, consequently, ego-identification. Just notice any thoughts and feelings (which are also products of the ego) that show up, and then turn your attention away from them and onto anything else that is going on, and you will land in the Now, and you will experience the peace, contentment, guidance, and wisdom of your real Self.

Gina Lake

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