Harnessing the Power of Attention
Jan 22, 2021
Mr. Elwood: Hi, Dr. Kim I missed you today. We are discussing attention and we were just talking about a story from the Native American culture about two wolves. Can you tell us about that story?
Dr. Kim: Yes, so this has a good point to attention. There is this young Native American grandson who has this great wise Chief grandfather and the young grandson came to the wise Chief and said I had a dream last night. In fact, it was a nightmare where this big evil wolf came and tore apart the village and caused harm to our people.
Then there was this great wolf that was wonderful and good and came to protect us and then I startled awake but I want to know great-grandfather Wise chief of our village. Who is the wolf that won? The wise Grandfather said, “Whichever wolf you feed.”
So, the idea and the moral is, whatever you pay attention to is the thing that happens. We can use that attention to gather what we need or open up the things that happen for us. If we feel like we’re down on our luck and nothing good ever happens for us, we’re paying attention to that and then we notice everything that doesn’t happen for us. Everything that goes wrong and self-pity comes in. But we pay attention to how lucky we are or how many doors open for us.
Someone might say, “Oh, you didn’t get that job?” and you think to yourself, “No that means that there’s an opening for another job that’s going to lead to something better.”
Then that job comes open for us. We actually have accessed it. We’ve actually used attention in order to get there. We create our own existence by using attention.
Attention moves us in a sense to any direction. If we feel that we are lucky then we see all the lucky things that happen in the world and there is a practice that you can use to practice attention. One of them is to pick something early in the morning when you first wake up that you’re going to notice.
One morning I chose hummingbirds. I said, okay I’m going to see how this really works. I’m going to pay attention to hummingbirds and all day long. I started seeing hummingbirds in different cards that people had sent to me. I hadn’t even noticed that my bookmarker had a little hummingbird. I even had an Arlo security system and I didn’t even notice that their logo is a hummingbird. Later in my walk, two different times hummingbirds came and hovered right in front of me.
So, by picking hummingbirds to pay attention to, all of a sudden there seems like there’s a world of hummingbirds opening up for me and I’m going to challenge you to pick something. It can be anything. It can be hummingbirds or it can be heart rocks. You can start using attention to access something that you want.
You can use that attention with jobs and with friendships. You can even use it with favorable emotions. You can use it with health benefits also. I’m going to pay attention to where my body feels really safe or how my body feels really strong and utilizing that creates more strength in your body or you feed yourself differently with different nutrients because you’re paying attention to how strong your body feels.
So, practice the attention in different small ways at first and then start opening up your whole new world with where you want to drive your world.
Mr. Elwood: This almost sounds like it’s a superpower.
Dr. Kim: It feels magical at times. Sometimes I go, “Wow that really worked” and it does. It’s not just a thought. It’s an act of paying attention to something that is happening in the world around you.
I think it is more important than pursuing happiness. I think it engages us in our lives and I know from studies that it is a fulfillment that happens and can create meaning to different things.