When I catch myself struggling in relationships I find that I may be caught up in what I am not getting, what is not working, and focusing in on what I don’t want. In reality, when we meet the “other” we are always meeting our self. To receive the other is to receive our self. And in all our relationships, in which we have chosen to remain in, there will be qualities about the other that rub us the wrong way. So I am pointing to struggles that arise between you and others whom you have chosen to be in relationship with. I am not in anyway suggesting that you remain in toxic, neglectful or abusive relationships or environments.
Our attention is like a superpower that can be misused to divide us or as an instrument to unite us. Life, as it turns out follows our gaze.
Explore this: When entering a new gathering or where there is difficulty with others, where is your attention? What are you focused on?
You can also help a group explore this together: What is our community focused on? In a true community we understand that there are difficulties and challenges. These may even be what brought us together. But in true community we focus on what gifts can be received and given.
A horse trainer once reminded me that a horse would go in the direction of my gaze. Rather than tugging on the reigns or shouting at the horse or kicking it, all I have to do is look in the direction I want the horse to go while gently leaning in the same direction. Mind you, I tested this approach out for myself. The horse could sense my lack of experience, I am sure. So as I sat stiff and doubtful my trainer invited me to relax and to look in the direction I wanted the horse to go. “Breathe Julie, and as you gently pull on the reigns gaze in the direction you want the horse to go.” I took some relaxing breaths, silenced my busy mind and gazed right. And the horse obediently followed my gaze.
The most profound influence that determines and directs our individual and collective experience is where we hold our gaze. Life in its simplest denominator has gone and will continue to go in the direction of our gaze. Wherever we place our attention, there goes our energy and efforts. We have to hold our gaze softly “ahead” to where we want to go, so our life moves in some forward direction. We also want to focus on our and each others gifts. So unlike focusing on the negatives we give our attention to what is possible: what I am getting, what is working, and focusing in on what I do want.
Can we offer up our attention to others as a gift to be given, rather than tightly holding on to our opinions like reigns on a horse?
When our life seems like an unresponsive horse we can maintain our gaze forward and on the gifts available to us and from us while navigating the particulars of each moment. Breathe, notice where you or the group’s attention is in the moment, then help redirect the focus if necessary.
Wherever our attention is, is where our life will go. Whatever we give our attention to increases.
“Our differences may be deep: what breaks my heart about America may make your heart sing, and vice versa. Protecting our right to disagree is one of democracy’s gifts, and converting this inevitable tension into creative energy is part of democracy’s genius. You and I may disagree profoundly on what constitutes a political failure or success, but we can still agree on this: democracy is always at risk.” –Parker J Palmer, Healing The Heart of Democracy
Thank you for the read. If you find this worthy of a share, please pass it on. Julie www.julietallardjohnson.com