Why is it so hard to be vulnerable? Is there just too much of the world to take it all in at once? It seems like the only way to survive any amount of time, is to develop a sense of attention that works like a spotlight. You only ever see and feel what is right in front of you. Our default attention is incredibly directional, with sharp edges shaped like a light cone.
Evolutionally speaking, this makes sense. It’s gotten us far, very far, I might add. And in many situations we face day to day, such as driving a car, writing an email, or even learning a new skill, this kind of attention is incredibly useful.
However, beyond that, there is a case to be made for a more diffused kind of attention, without hard boundaries. A willingness of the heart to let the world in. And I mean all of it. A hunger for everything that you can experience. All the sounds, thoughts, questions, answers, colors, smells, sensations. All of it, at the same time. Sounds exhausting? That’s because it is, which is why we don’t engage in this sort of attention all the time. But selectively, it can be incredibly rich and absolutely fascinating.
The mundane suddenly becomes captivating. You begin to realize that the simple fact of your existence is enough, you don’t have to add anything to it, you don’t have to do anything to make life more exciting. Your consciousness, on its own, in this very moment, regardless of whether you are sitting on a park bench or commuting to work, has everything in it to completely overwhelm you in the most intriguing of ways, if you choose to let it. This is the proposition of the open heart. To listen. To let go and allow everything to simply take place without judgement.
How do we get there? How can we learn to let go and experience this sense of diffused awareness. It will come as no surprise that the skill in question is to learn how to maneuver your attention, to change it, to adjust it from diffuse to sharp like you would a light fixture. This is the kind of attention you strive for in meditation. I called it the practice of paying attention, but it might as well also be called the practice of letting go, of diffusing your shine to see everything there is to see. To see everything that you can see.