Your actual experience in the world, your experience of being alive, can be described as a point of focused attention. Whatever you are attending to during specific moments constitutes your particular frame of reference, your point of view, your state of mind. In a very real way, your focused attention is you.
Rather than working to perceive everything in your sensory environment, your brain works hard to filter out almost everything but the occurrences that previous experience have trained it to attend to. Nevertheless, to the extent that your survival does depend on maintaining an ability to notice and adapt to novel experiences, some aspect of your brain remains available for continued learning.
The ratio of old information to new information is overwhelming, however. So much so, that the true operation of your brain is that of a filtering system – essentially excluding most of what is happening to you in any given moment and creating a sort of “tunnel vision” to allow you to attend to particular tasks at hand, while ignoring the infinite variety of other experiences which are competing for your awareness.
This very highly focused cone of attention can be understood as a self-induced trance – a virtual “reality” you are creating and maintaining – while paying no attention to most of what is occurring around you. These trance states are linked in a continuous manner as you move from one activity – or frame of reference – to another, from the day you were born.
It is possible and preferable to increase your state of awareness from the severely limited view described above to an incrementally more expanded level of consciousness. Becoming conscious of the fact that typically your attention is narrowly fixed is the beginning of the process of expanding it.
For example, notice the way your visual focus on the above black disk can be narrowed or broadened by simply becoming conscious of the attention process itself. Without averting your gaze from the black disk, notice that you can become aware of things that lie beyond it on the page, simply by bringing items from your peripheral vision into your conscious awareness.
You can begin by focusing very narrowly on the black disk and then slowly, little by little, you can increase your awareness to the things that surround it…beyond the page…beyond the screen…out into the room…and eventually to include the limits of your visual field – all the while without averting your gaze from the black disc itself.
This simple exercise can be adapted and applied to many different circumstances. In time, you can become more adept at becoming more aware of what is occurring around you without having to actually stop paying attention to the things you are doing in your daily life.
Instead of being stuck in an unnecessarily limited state of mind, you can learn to expand your awareness, little by little, toward potentially unlimited horizons. You have begun the process of getting unstuck – and now your possibilities are endless!
Image: “FOCUS POINT 071010,” by Tullio DeSantis, digitally transformed acrylic on paper painting, 2010.