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Focus


(I wrote this on March 19, 2003 )

How do you decide what to think about?

If you are a media junkie like me, you probably think about whatever your media sources tell you to think about.

If you are a Buddhist practitioner like me, you probably think about the activities happening within your present surroundings ;-)

But even within those two broad categories -- media agendas & personal surroundings -- we focus on very particular and idiosyncratic items.

It is likely impossible to read every story in the newspaper -- and certainly not every story in each of the thousands of newspapers published on the Internet! Those people who read newspapers have their favorite sections, and usually only read those stories that look particularly interesting.

Very few people attend carefully to each item or event that occurs within their perceptual field -- your retina can not focus on everything! While concentrating on that pain in your neck you are probably not also paying attention to the pressure of your underwear's elastic waistband.

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Somehow we decide to focus on particular conditions, problems, or goals. These foci become the stages upon which we build our life stories. Generally, we become quite attached to these foci, and our emotions revolve around them. Either we like the item we are focusing on, so we are pleased; or we dislike the item we are focusing on, so we are displeased. Or, perhaps we've lost an item we used to focus on, so we are grieving; or we think we are about to gain an item we've been focusing on, so we are hopeful.

If our focus is not on the present moment ... all this internal storytelling is a product of our imaginations. Our imaginations may be more or less correct about whatever it is we are thinking about ... but, still, we are dealing merely with our internal imaginations, not with perceptions of reality.

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Buddhist meditation is mostly about realizing this. Realizing that our focus, whatever we are focusing on, is an arbitrary constriction of reality or imagination. With all the chaos happening around the world, and across the universe, we are focused on one particular thing. And, most likely, we are trying to hold on to that particular thing, or acquire it, or grieve it. At the expense of everything else that we could be focusing on instead.

Buddhist meditation is also about a different kind of focus. Instead of holding, acquiring, or grieving, a meditative focus observes, watches, appreciates, welcomes, and lets go.

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Whether you are upset about something, or happy about something, you are focusing on only one aspect of the universe and your relationship to it. One aspect of an infinite multitude.


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