“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compossui (master of himself) if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. But it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical directions for bringing it about."
- William James
This blog is the continuation on the topic of the Four Balances taken from my five-week retreat on Cultivating Emotional Balance Teacher’s Training (CEBTT). The focus of this blog will discuss attentional balance. Our capacity to pay attention, to be attuned, to take interest in, will determine if our conative or intentional intelligence takes flight. The take off of this flight has the potential to be in service of our well-being and our flourishing, if we hone our capacity to pay attention. And thankfully, we are wired in such a way to train our attention.
In 2013, Microsoft Canada, released a study on attention spans. The study consisted of 112 participants in which their brain wave activity was monitored using an electroencephalogram (EEG). The researchers were able to determine if participants maintained attention or were distracted from the task at hand. The conclusion showed the average attention span of the 112 participants was only 8 seconds. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds. Maybe fish lips will have a new meaning!
If we are loosing our capacity to maintain attention without distraction (which is correlated with lower levels of happiness, Killingsworth study), we set ourselves up for navigating our lives in a haphazard way. If our emotional balance is to be realized (which originates from our intention), our ability to maintain attention is imperative. If we are wavering in the typical distracted patterns, our lives may begin to careen out of control spinning us in a direction we are wishing to pull ourselves from.
Couples seeking sex counseling often seem to be walking blindly through their sexual lives wondering how they arrived at the doors of alienation and resentfulness while pointing a finger toward the other. I ask them what the intention of their partnership is and how they execute that intention day-to-day. While they often have the typical endearments of I love them, want to be with them, can’t see myself being anywhere else, their actions and words are not congruent or in resonance with such aspirations.
In reviewing the Four Balances with them, it becomes clear, they become swept away in distraction, whether external (i.e., iphone, TV, alcohol), internal (i.e., rumination), or both. They loose course and become caught up in patterns of thoughts and emotions about what’s wrong and keep their attention on the "wrong." This inevitably causes an ambush of the wished upon intention of an open heart, compassion, tenderness, and connection with their partner.
Training in staying on target with an intention, does require focused attention. This part of mind training is employed through mindfulness. Mindfulness imbued with tenderness, compassion, and openheartedness stimulates positive involvement with your partner, enhancing the relationship and closeness. A ripe environment for sexual intimacy.
In discovering we’ve gone off course of loving our partner, just as they are, flawed and all, reinvigorate this discovery with tenderness and openheartedness. Then, over and over, we return our attention to the good, the beauty of life just where it is with curiosity. This does imply effort, commitment, and tenacity. The alternative is to perpetuate destructive tendencies that will continue to tear at the fabric of intimacy. When we discover we've gone into ruminating patterns, we've awakened from the trance, good news. Start anew. A true love story. One based in kindness and respect. Ultimately, it comes down to making a commitment to keep coming back to the deepest aspiration for flourishing within our relationships, so that when the winds of life begin to blow us off course, we choose to refocus, refresh and return to love. Now pay attention!
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