So...my experiment in tracking where my attention went for a 24 hour period ended about 11 hours ago [See entry below for details].
This isn't Seinfeld ("No sharing, no learning"), so what have I learned?
First the very unsurprising stuff:
* I spend a *lot* of my waking time thinking. It would be fair to say most of it.
* Thinking is addictive, and knowing this is not enough to stop myself getting sucked back into thought. Even though I knew I was doing this experiment I still easily got trapped in long cycles of thought without a break.
* Doing something that is both physically and emotionally engaging is a good way of getting out of thought - in my case dancing works really well.
Now the more interesting stuff:
(Much of this is not new, but it is getting much clearer to me, and this experiment has made it clearer still.)
* The experience of the world when viewed from thought is very thin. Painfully thin. As one of my teachers says "you have the keys to the palace and you are living the shack in the garden".
* Problems only exist in thought.
* The alternative is for me to experience the world directly, not mediated by thought. In this experience of the world there are no problems, only states of affairs.
* The best way for me to do this is to actively engage with it, this will always involve the heart getting touched by experience and will often involve the body moving in order for me to express my response.
* It is really important for me to take time ("Time out of mind"!) to take attention out into the world around - see, hear, touch, taste, smell what is going on around me even though the inertia of thought is pulling me in the opposite direction.
I am genuinely astounded by how narrow my ordinary experience of the world is (that is my experience from the world of thought) and how rich the experience of the world is when experienced directly and felt!
I resolve to spend just a little more of my time each day coming out of thought, into the world, allowing it to touch me and expressing my response.
I can't explain why but it feels like it matters.
As usual Mary Oliver puts it exquisitely:
"Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain,
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting.
Over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."