Are You For Sale? ‘Attention-Merchants’ Think You Are!
One of my Teachers reminds us that the only power truly under our personal control is the power of our attention. Where do we choose to place our attention?
Where do we choose to place our attention?
Trump did an awesome job of manipulating the media’s own power of attention: he pretty much set their agenda, showing up daily on front pages with his outrageous statement du jour. And we all followed blindly along – whether we cheered or jeered. Finally, the media is “blinking” and wondering why they skipped over lots of stories they should have covered. Today I read advertisers have taken over schools with ad banners on lockers, cafeteria and gym walls, even report cards. The National Parks are being “bought” too, and even pastors/ministers paid to mention a particular new-release movie from the pulpit.
Attention merchants – a new phrase to me – sell people to merchants. That’s right – they sell your attention to companies so that you do what they want you to do (buy stuff, vote a certain way, think a certain way, etc.) It’s big, big bucks. And most of us have become conditioned to be totally unaware they are doing it.
Attention merchants sell your attention to companies.
So, why am I, a yoga teacher, writing about this? What does this have to do with finding ease in body, mind, and soul?
An old yoga saying is “where attention goes, prana flows.” Prana translates to life force, (as does chi in oriental medicine). Ideally prana’s flow is throughout our being, smooth, unrestricted, keeping us healthy within, and also healthy in relation to the world around us. However often our minds are scattered, distracted, confused, foggy. This is the result when we cede control of our attention to attention merchants. They hijack our attention by appealing to our emotions, often buried/unconscious emotions (fear, greed, anger, grief, etc.) The injured party within us snaps to attention and follows their lead … and we have lost control of our attention, usually without even being aware of it. Our life force follows their “carrot” whether we go buy something, or let anger or fear (or other emotions) wash over us, swamping our knowledge that we have enough sweaters or toys, or that we feel gratitude for our privilege, love for our family or neighbors, etc.
Where attention goes, prana flows.
When our attention is clear and focused, under our own choiceful direction, we make better decisions and get the right things done, the right way, on time. When our minds are one-pointed (one definition of meditation) we are at peace within and without, regardless of circumstances. We are content with what is in the moment. We aren’t swamped by fear, anxiety, worry. In fact, we can be aware that grief, fear, anger are present in us, at the same time that we are aware that love, gratitude, joy are also present in us. We are not captive to the tweet of the moment – whether it’s coming from inside or outside us.
Back in the day before cell phones, Facebook, even computers, we had built-in time for being present to ourselves, our families, or quiet in nature, without this constant bombardment. Our default setting was to intrusion and distraction. Now more than ever we need to change our default from mindlessly allowing our attention to bounce here, there, everywhere to regaining control of our most precious personal power and resource: our attention.
Reset your default: choose where to place your most precious and powerful personal power – your attention!
If you are unsure whether you have control, try this: sit in a comfortable upright position for 5 minutes and keep your attention on your breath moving in and out. Period. Notice how many times your attention is distracted, for how long, and by what? This will give you an idea who and what has control over your power of attention. To regain control and choice, keep doing this exercise as you build your capacity to focus your mind. Once you are successful at 5, gradually increase to 10 minutes. See what effects you notice in your life!