“Where attention goes energy flows.”
I’m pretty certain this is somebody’s quote, or an approximation of it, but it was something I read so many years ago I’ve no clue where to start looking to attribute it properly. It (hopefully) matters not. The important point is the message: where does your attention go? Do you see – really see – that your energy follows your attention?
If you hang out with people who cannot see a blessing when it smacks them (albeit gently and kindly) in the face, where worry, fear and anxiety is their default setting, then finding joy can be a little more difficult. After a few years of observing people around me, and my responses to them, I found it easier – and certainly more joyous – not to spend lots of time with those for whom life was always negative, work was always awful, whose families only created difficulties for them, and so on.
This isn’t about lacking compassion for others, but it is about setting my own boundaries and choosing to place most of my energies in more positive places. Maybe we could call it compassion for self. Nor is this about denial – I don’t spend 10 hours a day on positive affirmations in order to try to paper over the cracks or indeed gaping chasms in my life. Rather this practice is about paying attention.
My inner critic brings enough negative stuff to the table without the external world around me adding to the fray. So, when work was particlarly tough (it still is at times), choosing to spend hours mulling over the difficulties and unfairness of the situation with others only served to drag me down further into the mire, feeling more aggrieved and taking these grievances home after work. Although I wouldn’t have seen it this way at the time, I ultimately chose to act in that way. Little by little I’ve moved away from that habit. If someone is having a hard time and needs to talk, I’ll listen. Sometimes I’ll chip in with my own difficulties (I’m not exactly a saint!). But what I’ve done most of all is to let a lot of things go, and then have looked for and tried to implement alternative solutions, or even tackle these things with management. The latter is WAY out of my comfort zone, but there’s no point complaining to someone who cannot do anything about the situation you find yourself in. It’s not a magic or quick key to instant joy, far from it, but it is far closer to joy than powerless whining (I told you my inner voice was a critic).
So, where is your attention today? This hour? This moment? Is there something you can turn your attention to right now that will lift your spirits and invite in joy? From where I am right now three things leap out: the honeysuckle outside my window creeping over from next door’s garden, the small patches of blue sky interspersed with clouds, and my content dogs sleeping on the study floor. What would your list look like?