Your Attention Please!




Fritz Perls, the great inspiration and genius behind Gestalt psychotherapy, said: "attention in and of itself is curative." That is, when you bring attention to feelings and thoughts that are unhealed, the miraculous result is that healing takes place, simply by virtue of your willingness to allow these things to be experienced, to receive full attention. This actually isn't new. It has been echoed for thousands of years by wise people in diverse cultures. It is at the heart of the teachings of the Buddha, for example.

Realizing the value of attention is a great empowerment. Because it enables you to heal the remaining unhealed places in you that keep coming up. All you really need to do is PAY ATTENTION. Attention doesn't mean necessarily doing anything about what you are attending to. Maybe you will be inspired to act, maybe not, you never know until the moment comes. Actually, to benefit fully from the healing effect of attention it helps not to have any agenda for it, not paying attention in order to get something, or keep something, or make something change or go away. If we try to fix ourselves, it's easy to incorporate an underlying belief that it's not okay to be exactly how we are.

Consider that attention is a vehicle for love. So that whatever you are paying attention to becomes connected to the great empowerment--life force--of love itself. If you cultivate your natural capacity for attention, you automatically cultivate a great capacity to let love into your life.

The Buddha once recommended that you imagine yourself as a child, held in the arms of a perfectly loving parent. And that you share with complete openness your thoughts, feelings, desires, and experiences with that parent, who simply receives them and continues to love you completely. Imagine that that parent is not an embodied being but a presence, with you now, and that THIS IS YOUR ATTENTION--your awareness, which receives the thoughts, feelings, sensations of the body, etc.

A common metaphor for the self is a house, with different parts of you living in different rooms. Some of the rooms have wounded characters inside, rooms we've shut the doors to. Healing (and wholeness too!) results when we open those doors and allow what's inside to be connected up with all the rest. Careful not to open a door to a room, walk in, and have the door close behind you! That is, when you utilize your attention for healing, don't become lost in what you are attending to.

Next time you feel unhappy, for any reason, try invoking this greatest of all healing modalities--attention. Sit quietly, perhaps place your hands over your heart, and allow whatever is calling for attention to come forward--feelings, desires, turmoil, confusion, whatever. And just let it be received with loving kindness that doesn't try to change it, judge it, or make it go away. Just let it be received. You'll be amazed at the result, though be careful about expectations. Love is often unpredictable.
© 1996
 Mark Shafer  


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