Attention and Connecting to What Matters

I just read an excerpt from Arianna Huffington's new book, Thrive and I definitely resonate with her idea of redefining success. She calls for a need to soften our compulsive focus on monetary success and our desire to become successful solely by climbing the career ladder and acquiring things. Instead she says we should look to broaden our focus so that it includes other aspects of our lives, including truly connecting with ourselves and those we love. 

The notion of connecting really resonated with me, especially as a husband, brother, son and as a person who shares his life with many pets. I can say from experience that the most beneficial thing I can give to those I share my life with is my attention. Our African Grey, Timmy, for example, actively seeks out our attention and lashes out by throwing her food to the ground when she doesn't get it. It doesn't mean she always gets attention when she demands it, but it does mean my wife and I take time to acknowledge her and to connect with her, even if it's for short periods of time throughout the day. The great thing is that it isn't necessary for Timmy to be out of her cage or for her to be touched in order to be acknowledged (even though she does enjoy a good head scratch). She just wants to make eye contact and to be spoken to and she fluffs up with delight whenever my wife or I speak to her lovingly. The same can be said for most of our other pets, although each of them responds in different ways to our attention, all of which are positive. The truth is, if I was too occupied with other things, either physically or mentally, Timmy and my pets would suffer. So would my relationships with the people that matter to me most. And yet I can't help but think of how many people are tuned out from their loved ones, co-workers, friends and from their own pets everyday. We live in a time of incredible technological connectivity and yet there are many lonely people out there. Also, divorce rates are not going down and millions of pets are still surrendered to shelters each year. Most surrendered pets are given up because their humans don't have time for them. Many behavioural issues that their previous owners cite as the cause of the  surrender are actually secondary issues and can also be linked back to a lack of attention and connection between human and their pet. 

This lack of connection goes both ways though. Not only do our pets and loved ones suffer from a lack of attention and connection from us, but we also suffer by missing out on connecting and getting attention from them. The privilege of having a pet to come home to or loved ones to truly connect with is lost whenever we choose to predominantly focus on other parts of our lives instead. How many times are we speaking with our loved ones or spending time with our pets only to be drifting away thinking about other things? How many times do we answer work-related issues when we are with our families and friends? How many times does the screen take away our attention from what is in front of us? What better feeling is there than to come home to a loving home and spend time with human and non-human family members or friends? This experience of love can only come about by tuning out the mental noise about other things and tuning in to the attention of others. 

Not only do we suffer from missing out on connecting with others, but we also suffer from connecting with ourselves. We need to give more attention to ourselves, rather than to the things we are chasing or using. We need to take care of our bodies by giving them the food, drink, exercise and rest they need. We need to nourish our minds by challenging them and allowing them to expand. We need to stop unconsciously reacting to the world around us and start paying attention to ourselves and how we interact with that world. We miss out on enjoying life precisely because we are focused away from who we are right now and instead are focused on who we could be. By doing so we do not connect with the Here and Now, which is the only place we can enjoy anything. We have let our minds run wild instead of using them to focus on what truly matters to us. This has created a strange experience in which we are victims of our own minds and our bodies. On a larger scale, we continue to destroy our eco-system because we have not made the effort to truly pay attention to it and connect with it. If we did, we would realize the support it provides us with and we would not feel so alienated from it. Our hyper focus on money and future success and lack of attention and connection to everything else makes us feel isolated and alone, separated from our own minds, hearts and beings. We also feel separate from each other and our world. The solution to our problems is not so complicated. We just need to redefine success in order to pay attention to these other aspects of our lives. 

So here's to Arianna's book. I will probably pick up a copy to read because I really enjoyed the excerpt. Here's to truly thriving by redefining success and by truly enjoying the company of our loved ones, human and non-human, our world and ourselves.  

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