I am still on vacation with family and grandkids in Austria, and treasuring the time, as I mentioned in my previous blog, Austrian Sweetness.  We have had wonderful weather, and the pleasure of sitting on the balcony overlooking the alpine panorama as the day wanes is right up there on the list of joy points.

Of course not all the interactions are as sweet as the ones I described in the earlier entry. Sometimes we get in each others hair.  Not the adults, praise be, but man, the kids can be all over the map.  Which leads me to the topic of this note, the question of where we put our attention.  It’s very interesting to observe the differences in how the four grandchildren respond to the ups and downs of life, how they pay or shift attention, are influenced by each other, dance to their own drummer…(of course the adults vary too, but I’m particularly interested in how it all starts…when we’re little.)

In RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life, Winifred Gallagher, an acclaimed behavioral science writer,  makes a radical and compelling argument.  She suggests that much of the quality of our lives depends not on fame or fortune, beauty or brains—nor on what happens to happen to us— but on what we choose to pay attention to.   And our tendencies are formed in early childhood.

(This is also the premise of the Naikan approach, which you can learn about at the ToDo Institute.  Naikan is a very rich and transformative practice, but more about that another time. )

Here’s something to consider;  current research suggests that people (children and adults) who are blessed with a tight grip of their ability to focus their attention find it easier to concentrate on the positive emotions and pull away from anger, fear and frustration.  How does this grab you?  Not only where you put your attention matters, but also the capacity to focus it is important — for happiness, well-being.

I find it interesting to ponder, and relevant.  As I watch the grandchildren and notice how and what they seem to pay attention to, it seems plausible.  One dear little guy who is very drifty at this point, has a heckuva time when things don’t go his way.  It’s just hard for him to shift away from the frustration.  Could this be related to the way his attention is developing at this point?

How does this relate to you?  What is the quality of your attention, your capacity to attend?  Do you tend to see the half full glass, or the one that’s rather empty?  Is life a dance, or a struggle?  Bright or dark?  What makes the difference?  Might it be what you are paying attention to?  I certainly believe this analysis fits for me.  And it also relates to My Dance with Pain as well, which I will be revisiting in a later post.  What I pay attention to, and how, radically affects my experience, of both pain and pleasure. This topic is rich, and I hope I have piqued your interest. 🙂

Apropos pleasure:  In addition to the fine food and activities we’ve shared, the lakes we’ve swum in, the great hikes we’ve taken, I want to leave you with another vista, out our front door, which has commanded my attention and enlarged my heart:

 Paying attention to the natural world is healing, calming, rewarding, and just plain awesome!

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Your feedback is most welcome.

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