Are you Paying Attention?


Minds are marvelous to look at from the inside. In addition to all the things we can see that seem to be out there—all the sights and sounds and feels and the like—our minds also afford us views of themselves. – The Mind’s Self-Portrait, Daniel M. Wegner, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

Inthe Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel Wegner & Kurt Grey, the authors narrate a story of a man who while staring in the face of death, asks God to give him more time to finish a book, his life’s work, God in his infinite wisdom, stops time for this fellow for a year and in that year, the man finishes his book only for time to start back up again at the exact moment he was going to die. This story exemplifies most of our lives; we are constantly yearning for more, our minds stuck in a loop of the past and the future and we often forget to do what truly matters to us, until it is too late. To you reader, ask yourself- when was the last time your mind was blank? Perhaps it was this very second when the thought cleared your mind and you drew a blank.

We are a result of our conditioning; our experiences. Everything that was fed to your mind as a child, and everything else that you self-indulged forms the mereological sum that is you, today. Alan B. Walace (PHD), likens this to a pair of glasses; all the parts together form the pair of glasses. Separate the pieces and they won’t make sense. Seemingly, it is moot to train your muscles, go on intensive diets and fasts, feed your thoughts with eclectic literature and yet neglect to take a moment(s) to still your mind and truly live in the now. Eventually, the more we are on this hamster wheel that is life, the more we stay out of balance. Our thoughts are permeated by cognitive imbalance and/or deficiency, misguided desires that fuel our anxiety and ruin our relationships.

If I asked you, dear reader to take a moment during your next meal, to pay attention and truly use your eyes to notice the food in-front of you, thereafter to close your eyes and only use your nose to smell the food, to close your eyes, block your sense of smell and only use your mouth to taste the food and to finally close off all other senses and only use your ears to listen to yourself chew the food, how long can you sustain that attention?

Just like your food that you enjoy based on your expectation about how it looks, our expectations of a particular experience will determine whether you feel joy or sadness, remorse or gratitude. Remove those expectations and you start your journey back from cognitive deficiency.

Buddhism, teaches 5 hinderances to a healthy mind. These are, delusion, craving, hostility, envy and pride. It is only when you start paying attention that you move past your blind spot, your ego, and start to observe these emotions when they arise and when they dissipate.  One of the best ways to develop the habit of paying attention, is through mindful meditation. Mindfulness is a powerful axiom that can help you discern most if not all of your experiences.

Mindfulness reduces the human condition that misapplies free will. You will crave less, be delusion-less, envy less and be less prideful.

St. Augustine of Hippo, philosophized that God came up with free will and that God created people without a pre-determinant. Science sometimes posits that our brains are already wired with predispositions. Such dispositions may be likened to the Christian doctrine, Imago Dei or “Image of God”.  This biblical concept is rooted in Genesis 1:27 that reads;

“So, God created Mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

“Image of God” is quintessentially the incorporeal expression, associated uniquely to humans, which signifies the symbolic connection between God and humanity.  Imago Dei refers to the inner self rather than the outward appearance and proposes that you are self-aware, inherently rational and are born with divine beatitudes that separate you from the rest of creation.

Eastern Philosophy (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism) often inculcates St. Augustine’s free will through the concept of cause and effect, Karma. In the truest sense, do not look at Karma as a fate of destiny but rather a scientific preposition. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that, if a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by a force. Similarly, your mind and body will stay in a constant state of negative flux if you do not stop and pay attention; be mindful.

Mindfulness may be achieved through embracing the space in your mind. Taoist Zen teacher, Lao Tzu, in The Book of the Way- Tao Te Ching, uses the analogy of the space in a pot rather than the outer shell that allows you to store water, the space in your house is what allows you to live there and not the wood (bricks) that surround it.  No mind is the way to what Buddhists call, Moksha or liberation. But because we are creatures of habit, it is only through deliberate effort that you can use mindfulness to liberate yourself from your delusions. For many, the thoughts of the mind are often too powerful, after-all, the very nature of mind is separation, negation, denial, resistance, refusal, No.  Perhaps you too have already noticed this in your journey, weary traveler. (Red Hawk, Self-Observation)

Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book, You are Here, Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, teaches a simple technique to focus on the breath;

In, Out

Deep, Slow

Calm, Ease

Smile, Release

Should you encounter resistance, see this as a signal that you are on the right path. Mindful meditation does not require you to sit and cross your legs, you can meditate by praying, running and even laughing, as long as you are paying attention. When you achieve meta cognition which is the ability to recognize what’s inside, you have unfastened mindfulness. Remove all static ideas about yourself and you will also free yourself from self-judgment.  Constants obscure your true self and cause confusion. Superimposing static ideas on happiness, desire, lust, craving, pain with your sense of self at the time will always cause you suffering. No one person or thing can make you happy. Happiness is a state of mind, a label and should be disassociated from thought. Reinvent your understanding of Rene Descartes’s, I think therefore I am. While it is important to maintain a positive thought on situations and yourself, thoughts should never be given more power than necessary.

So, weary stranger, know yourself first when you sit still and find peace by reciting these words from Karuna meditation to yourself;

May I find relief

May I find peace

May I find calmness/stillness.


Kenneth Muhangi

Kenneth Muhangi

Partner - KTA Advocates
LLB Hons (UCU) LLM (Wales) Dip Lp. LDC
Technology, Media, Telecommunications & Intellectual Property Law Practitioner

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