Attention: Use It or Lose It

POSTED September 10, 2023 IN

Guy FinleySpiritual teacher Guy Finley makes a provocative observation in his book The Secret of Your Immortal Self. He points out that the only things that are truly ours to use are: attention and time.

I turned this remark over in my mind, asking myself, “Is this true?” As I scanned my life I pondered the question, “Is this really true?” I first thought of relationships and how we belong to one another. As I dove more deeply, a more accurate picture came into view. Ultimately all relationships end. If they don’t end any other way, eventually either we die or our close companions or friends die. As I further walked this winding mental path I came to the conclusion that we don’t actually belong to one another. Our relationships ebb and flow, thrive or die depending on the attention we give to them.

Then I thought of possessions. Normally I think of all the material things in my life as belonging to me. However, I’m reminded of my major move from a large house to a small apartment. This gargantuan endeavor involved not only my possessions, but my partner’s possessions, my son’s possessions (that he left at our house when he moved), New Dimensions’ possessions, my inherited possessions from my grandparents, and even possessions of unknown origins that had taken up occupancy in my dwelling. I shake my head in wonder how I accumulated so much stuff. These things get passed on to landfill, Goodwill, or E-Bay, or they are sold in a garage sale. Or, sadly, they collect dust in some rarely visited, dark corner of my abode. Or, worse yet, they are stacked up in some storage locker where I pay a monthly rental for their “safe keeping.”

If we don’t truly belong to people and they don’t truly belong to us, and our possessions are not the steady rock on which we build our security, then the question must be asked: what can we truly depend on to hold us up through the gale force winds of mindless distraction and chaos?

Winifred GallagherFormer New Dimensions guest Winifred Gallagher makes the argument that the quality of our life largely depends on what we choose to pay attention to. If attention is something that is truly ours then how do we own it in this post-modern atmosphere of Olympian levels of commotion and hoopla?

My monkey mind is often diverted by the beguiling temptation to stroll down the carnival mid-way of emails, facebook, political action clicks, and ordering new reading glasses from Amazon. Attention becomes mired in the interior tangle of my mind, as if dragged around by a little girl who is distracted by shining and glittering things, bumping along behind her like a limp, dusty, mud-spattered rag doll.

This mud-spattered rag doll of my attention, in fact, holds the promise of my own creative work. Going back to Guy Finley’s statement that attention is one of the things that truly belongs to us, and that it is our choice to use it or not, I know we do have a choice as to where to place it. Do we put our attention in the foreground of where we live, or in some dark, forgotten corner where it will only gather dust? The choice is ours, and we make it daily.

— Justine Willis Toms
Cofounder, Executive Director, Host
March 2015

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