The simple art of guided attention
Mindful awareness is about guiding your attention on to your senses and away from the thoughts and emotions inside you.
By keeping out attention on our senses, we not only calm ourselves but give ourselves the opportunity to engage with the world around us, in the present moment right here, right now.
The phrase above was coined by Frederic Perls, who, along with his wife Laura, developed Gestalt Therapy. In a few words it sums up how we can live an immediate life, engaging with what’s around us with little or nothing in the way.
Embrace the reality of what your senses are telling you and let go of your troubling thoughts, worries and fears. Lose your mind and come to your senses!
Simply place your attention on to the sound of the gong. And when your mind wanders, which it will, let the next strike of the gong bring your attention back to your senses and away from your thoughts. To download, just right click on the track and select “Save As”.
Let’s make it easy.
Do this for just one minute. Have a clock handy, notice the time now and for the next minute try to notice all the things you are sensing with your hand. Hold something or rest your hand on the table or other surface.
As you notice them speak them out loud and start each statement with the words ‘Right now I notice…’. This will help you to keep your focus on the here and now. For example:
“Right now I notice my hand feels warm”
“Right now I notice the desktop touching the edge of my thumb”
“Right now I notice the texture of this object is grainy”
“Right now I notice my palm tingling”
Keep your attention firmly on what you are sensing through your hand. Do this for about a minute, then stop when you feel ready.
Did you have any thoughts while you were doing it? Yes, of course you did. We all do. On average you will make it to six or seven seconds before a thought creeps in. But it’s OK for that to happen. And it’s OK to stop paying attention to those thoughts and go back to your senses. As you keep practicing you will find it easier to stay with your senses instead of your thoughts.
Let’s try another one. Interlock your fingers and make a steeple with your thumbs, so that the pads of your thumbs are touching.
First of all notice what you are feeling through both of them. If you rub them together slightly you may feel the texture of your fingerprints. Spend about a minute noticing the feel of your fingerprints.
What else can you feel? When I do this I can feel my pulse under the pad of my thumb. How about you? Where exactly can you feel it? The top? The middle?
Spend a minute rolling your thumbs against each other to see if you can detect it.
Remember – the point isn’t whether you can or can’t feel these things. We’re all different and our senses notice different things.
What you are doing is moving your attention away from your thoughts and onto your senses.
And when a thought pops up (or comes barging in with its boots on, if you’re anything like me), just notice it, and go back to your thumbs. If you are finding it difficult, you can use the “Right now I notice my…” technique.