Daily Change: Chapter 1 What Are You Paying Attention to?
What are you paying attention to?
One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 169)
You are being asked to give a speech in front of a group on a certain topic. Instead of feeling hopeful and enthusiastic about the message that you are about to deliver, your body is filled with fear.
Many parents and teachers in the world have the idea that if they point out to children all of the things that they are doing wrong, that they will somehow learn to be much better in life in all things. Instead of paying attention to the positive things that their children do, a lot of people almost exclusively attend to the negative. If you have a grown up in a world like this, where your negatives have been constantly pointed out, then your mind will have the habit of looking for the negatives in everything you do. If you have a room full of people ready to hear you, your mind believes that they are all going to find only your negatives. My own experience, fortunately, was quite the opposite. When I was young preparing for a speech, my father and mother prepared me well to appear before a group. They taught me how to deliver a speech and how to make it interesting so that when I delivered it, I received very positive responses from the audience. Later, if the opposite happened, that is, I didn’t get the response I wanted, I learned to adjust the presentations to get better responses, but I never have had a lot of fear about public speaking because in my mind I see positive responses.
So when we want to change, the first thing we can do is simply find the way the mind is paying attention to the current situation. When there is fear, it means that the mind is attending to something negative. Consider what happens to your mind when you are running a marathon. At 38 kilometres in a marathon, the mental battle between the part of you that wants you to stop and the one that wants to finish in a positive way is extremely brutal. It is like a blitzkrieg of negative energy trying to get you to stop. Getting one leg to follow another is like a debate in the Security Council at the United Nations. One part has so much logical sense in why you should not go forward in what seems to be a really foolish endeavour, while the other is full of hope and confidence in a successful ending. At 38 kilometres, despite the pain, the end is too near to give into its constant chatter and so a happy ending usually occurs.
Training for running a marathon is a process that requires keeping your mind constantly focused on positives. Almost everyday in training the negative feelings can get so intense that you want to stop. The thing that keeps you going is that the mind keeps paying attention to positives, keeps seeing the positive end.
When a five-year-old child faces the climbing wall for the first time, they inevitably feel fear when they get to a certain part of the wall. Instead of attending to the joy of climbing and reaching new heights, they attend to the possibility of falling and hurting themselves which sends feelings of fear throughout their young bodies. As they practice, the fear gives way to the positive thoughts by taking a few more steps each day. This is really what daily change is all about. You train your mind to attend to the positive things by changing how the mind is attending to the negatives.