All thoughts and emotions are auditioning for your attention. The ones you pay attention to will grow and define who you are.
Will it be anxiety, worry, and fear?
Or calmness, confidence and courage?
Meditation gives you the choice.
Anxiety feeds on itself
Anxiety feeds on itself. That’s part of the problem. The more you bow down to it—the more you give it space and give it attention—the more it grows. But the opposite is also true. That’s what we’ll explore today.
Today we are talking about the Law of ATTENTION.
All of your thoughts and emotions, are auditioning for your attention (to use an expression from one of my teachers, Mooji). If you give them attention they will stick around; if you ignore them, if you let them pass, if you watch them as bubbles in a stream or clouds in the sky, then they will leave. They will disappear back into nothingness, emptiness.
We are all familiar with that story of the two wolves inside of us: the good wolf and the bad wolf. At any given time the one we are feeding is the one that is stronger; it’s the one whose voice is going to be louder, and who is going to influence our life more.
It’s the same thing with our mind and our thoughts—but instead of two wolves, we have a thousand different wolves. Still, the samep principle applies: you have the power to choose where you place your attention.
You can choose which thoughts you’re going to adopt as “my thoughts”. You can choose the thoughts you’re going to think, and the ones you will let go.
Suppose that you are about to go in a social gathering and a thought comes up that, “I’m gonna sound awkward” or “I’m gonna screw this up”. You’re not responsible for this thought that came up spontaneously, but you have a choice of what to do with it—and you’re responsible for the next thought. That’s where your power lies, where your freedom lies, and meditation makes you aware of that.
Meditation gives you power
Meditation helps you to make better choices.
It shows you that you can choose to pay attention to certain things and not others. That’s exactly what we’re doing in the meditation practice again and again. We are choosing to keep our attention on our breath (for example), and whenever it wanders into thinking we notice that, and we bring it back again and again. This develops the muscles of attention and awareness.
One way to live a better life—to feel happier, peaceful and well—is to be very careful about which thoughts you choose to pay attention to. That’s the power that you have.
Managing negative thoughts
So what happens when a negative thought or emotion comes up? What to do about it? There are many techniques that work.
One is to just observe and let it pass.
Another is to actually dialogue with it. See if there’s any truth in that thought. Use your higher voice, your higher wisdom, to dialogue with that thought and expose its false assumptions.
A third way is to replace a negative thought with a positive thought. This needs to be done wisely, not as a way to escape. It’s not as an escape mechanism, but simply knowing that this thought that is arising today is not necessarily true It’s also not true— it came yesterday, and it has been showing up for a very long time.
So you can use this thought as a trigger for a new thought. If a certain thing that happens frequently in your life makes you angry—or triggers thoughts of self-loathing, negative self-talk, or second-guessing yourself—you can use that trigger and instead attach a different thought to it.
For example, if stress is a trigger in your life that causes you to go into your phone or go have a cigarette, you can use that stress-trigger to instead perform a more positive habit—such as doing two minutes of mindful breathing, or going for a walk.
It’s the same with your thoughts.
There may be habits of negative thoughts for you. Habits of fear, worry or anxiety—and you can use these triggers to replace them with more positive narratives.
This takes us back to the first video in this series, where I said that one of the greatest gifts of meditation is that it empowers you to choose what stories you tell yourself.
The stories you tell yourself determine how you see yourself, how you feel about yourself and how you navigate life—so they are really important.
Don’t feed the monster
Anxiety feeds on itself. If anxiety shows up it immediately attracts your attention. It’s like a shiny object. It’s a very sticky thought. If you give it attention it will continue to want more and more attention from you.
Let’s say you have to have a difficult conversation with Mark and then anxiety comes up, saying “I don’t want to have that conversation”. Now if you go and say, “Okay I won’t have it because it’s uncomfortable” you have just bowed down to anxiety.
Then anxiety becomes your master. It will be determining how you act and the next time it will say, “Well not only Mark but also you shouldn’t talk to this person and you shouldn’t go to that place and you shouldn’t try this other thing, because bad things could happen.” The more you bow down to anxiety the bigger of a monster it becomes. It will then control your life.
The opposite approach is to say, “Yes, anxiety is here, I can see that. I notice how anxiety plays in my body. I can see that I’m contracting. But I’m going to do what I want to do not what anxiety wants me to do.” Here you are the boss.
You are allowed to feel anything. Any sort of thought is able to arise. Any emotion can arise but just don’t forget that you can be the master of your mind by choosing where you want to place your attention.
And if you master your mind then you can master your life.
Negative thoughts feed on themselves. If you pay attention they pull more attention; then if you give them more attention then they’re going to ask you for even more attention. It’s a snowball.
The same thing happens with positive thoughts.
Courage also feeds on itself!
Suppose you’re afraid to have a difficult conversation, but then you summon up courage, go all in, and have that conversation nevertheless. That is an act of courage, of self-mastery. The next time when you feel fearful again it will be a little easier for you to have that same act of courage.
This is the beauty of inner work with meditation: whatever thought you pay attention will grow. You’re making it a little bit easier for your brain to continue on that groove of thinking. That means you can choose who you want to be, you can choose who you want to become, by choosing which thoughts you will feed.
That, my friends, is a big freedom.
And that is my invitation for you right now: to observe your mind carefully and notice what thoughts and feelings you’re paying attention to. Then decide which thoughts and feelings you want to pay attention to. And make the shift—moment after moment.
Right now it might be a bit difficult for you to show up with more confidence in your life, or with more patience. Whatever virtue that would make a big difference for you… it may be difficult right now for you to have that superpower. But each time you practice it, you make it a little easier.
If you keep practicing—with patience, perseverance and ideally with some guidance—one day that will be second nature for you.
- Negative thoughts and emotions such as anxiety and fear limit us. And they feed on themselves. Meaning, when they show up they attract our attention and if we pay attention to them, if we bow to them, they become even bigger and then they ask for more attention.
- Likewise, positive thoughts and emotions also feed on themselves. If you act with confidence today, it becomes easier for you to act with confidence tomorrow.
- Meditation teaches you the Law of Attention. Whatever you pay attention to grows for you, grows in your life. Whatever you remove your attention from will disappear.
- Knowing that, please keep a daily meditation practice and pay attention to the right things in your life.
If you would like my one-on-one help to navigate a difficult situation in your life or to grow or to develop a daily meditation practice and overcome anxiety, then consider contacting me for coaching.
This was Episode #56 of a series of 100 daily videos I did in 2019. If you want to receive other similar videos in the future, then subscribe on YouTube.
Happy growing! 🙏🏻
On to you now
Starting from today, what type of thought will you pay attention to more?
And what type of thought will you starve to death?
Please share your answers in the comments.