Just recently I was asked to give a presentation to a group of problem gamblers and accompanying family members, all of whom were participating in an outpatient treatment program in Fargo, North Dakota called Gamblers Choice. I have provided consultation to the program for over thirty years but had not done so for the past two years because of my move to Mexico and the covid epidemic. I had been pondering what to share with them until the morning of the presentation when rather abruptly something arose into my awareness. What arose was “The Five Truths.” I quickly wrote them down as each truth followed the next one sequentially. Except for some minor editing, this is what came to me.
- Attention is the most powerful element in human interaction.
- Deliberate, sustained attention equals intention which is the most powerful expression of attention.
- What you pay the most attention to is what you cherish.
- What you cherish is what shapes your life, and there are only two choices of what to cherish: a) form or b) content. Anything perishable, changeable, or exclusive is form. Anything eternal, unchangeable, and inclusive is content.
- If you cherish form, life will make no sense. If you cherish content, life will make sense.
What is Attention?
Simply put, attention is the capacity to focus. What is most amazing about attention for humans is that it provides us with an endless number of possible choices. Think about what you are experiencing at this moment. You can choose to continue to pay attention to reading this article, or you can pay attention to your growling stomach telling you that you are hungry. Or, your cell phone could ring which gives you yet another stimulus to pay attention to. We are constantly being bombarded by stimuli calling for our attention. Whatever you choose to pay attention to has its own unique outcome. Where to direct our attention is truly the only thing we can control.
Why Is Intention So Powerful?
Deliberate, sustained attention is the process of infusing your energy into something–a thought, a person, an activity, a belief, an interest, or anything else. Once you infuse something with your energy you experience an emotion which then triggers action. Intentional action can build or destroy, unify or divide, heal or injure, expand or contract depending on what the underlying motivation is. The pyramids were built with intention as was the extermination of 6 million Jews by the Hitlerian regime. Without intention very little of significance gets accomplished.
What Do You Pay Attention To?
This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. Given that attention is the only thing we can freely give and control, it is of the utmost importance to pay attention to what you pay attention to. This brings us to the fourth truth. Do you predominantly devote your attention to form or content? ( See “Cherish Is the Word”) Some examples of form are material possessions, fame, adulation, sensory stimulation, power, the preservation and enhancement of the body, and so on. None of these pursuits are necessarily bad. What matters is the degree to which you become attached to them, because, in the end, all forms change, deteriorate, disappear and/or die culminating in pain, disillusionment, anger, and loss. On the other hand, paying attention to content such as gratitude, forgiveness, creativity, tranquility, generosity, kindness, service, and love are everlasting and raise the consciousness of each individual and all of humanity.
Is Life Bewildering to You?
We now arrive at the fifth truth. Initially, when I was writing down these truths, I began the fifth truth with, “If you cherish form, life will be difficult,” and was going to follow with, “If you cherish content, life will be easy.” However, right away I knew that last statement was false. Even if you cherish content, life may still be challenging and difficult. There is no guarantee, no matter what you do or do not do, that life will be easy. But if you cherish content, life will make sense to you, no matter what happens. Why? Because if you can discern the difference between content and form, you understand the purpose and meaning of life. You absolutely know what really matters. Jesus put it this way,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew, Chapter 6, 19-21
If you have ever lost most or all of your personal possessions to flooding, fire, earthquake, or some other natural disaster, you know this fifth truth already. Initially of course, when this happens there is a tremendous sense of loss, confusion, bewilderment, and anger, but in the end, most people realize that life itself is what is most precious and love is everlasting! At that moment, everything makes sense, and you are filled with deep peace.