The more my attention is directed outward, away from the stories in my head, the more at ease I feel in the world. All I get from incessantly thinking (or talking) about my problems, my opinions, my hurts, or my past is increased suffering, but when I can just let go of all that stuff, and focus on what is right in front of me, I’m immediately at peace.
The suggestion that love is the answer may sound like hippy-dippy nonsense, but does this mean it is not true? What if the Beatles were right when they sang ‘all you need is love’, and it’s just our superficial understanding of love that is the problem? What if love just means being so fascinated with something beyond our internal stories that we are able to give this thing our full-attention?
One of my clients recently told me about her unconditional love for kittens. Even on her bad days, she can easily become engrossed in the antics of a small cat –and when she does this, her attention is away from the internal stories that were making her miserable. I suggested that expanding this loving attention to other things would lead to great improvements in her life.
I remember as a young child being fascinated by everything – the world was like one huge adventure park and even simple things like a slug on the road could completely capture my attention. As I got older, I began to become less fascinated by external things (I developed a ‘been there, done that’ attitude) and instead became more focused on the chatter in my head. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the more I did this, the more miserable I became.
All of the improvements in my life have been as a direct result of switching my focus away from thoughts of ‘me, me, me’. Practicing loving-kindness meditation has made it possible for me to once again experience the world through the eyes of a child. It is such a wonderful gift – it is like waking up in paradise.
“Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers. Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads. ”
The worst thing about life is not that we get ill, become depressed, get old, and die but that we can be so indifferent to this amazing experience. Perhaps the real reason we fall into addiction is we have lost the ability to look beyond ourselves and say ‘wow’.