How to Move Forward: Watch Your Focus
Get results by managing how you respond to challenging current events.
Checking in — How is everybody? Don’t these times feel especially challenging?
Last year at about this time, the photo above was my view. For about 175 of 365 days, across two years, I drove from the coast of California all the way to Tennessee to see my son. A complicated, expensive set of events meant I had “lost” him. At least, that’s what it seemed like at the time. On the other side of those times I can see: in a very real way, I gained more of him than I’d ever had before. And I uncovered more of my genuine, game-free self. Sometimes acute crises reveal unproductive or unstable foundations and practices.
That kind of revelation is rarely visible in the galloping here and now of the external world. It’s largely the purview of, well, the rear view. But it’s possible to choose a perspective now that includes a rising awareness: what feels horrible now will likely be later revealed to have been beneficial. Maybe even dramatically so.
In that galloping “now”, it’s not enough we’ve got the… normal? turbulence of Presidential primary season, with what feels like extraordinary polarization within parties — and sometimes families — ostensibly aimed at the same target. This kind of rift breeds insecurity, which is why it’s being promoted in current media programming.
We’ve also got COVID19, that’s bad, very bad. It’s been knocking on our nation’s door for months, and we’ve held our collective breath. It’s time to exhale and get ready. It is what it is, and now we’re told it’s not if, but when. Everyday people are becoming preppers; Costco and their corporate ilk rejoice even as the stock market plunges. There are lots of implications in current headlines about this disease, and none of them are good.
On top of a looming pandemic we have several indications that our administration not only isn’t prepared to properly deal with COVID19 when it comes, but appears poised to act like the CCP rather than maintain the illusion of a transparently governed, informed USA public. The CDC seems willing to keep us in the dark, maybe even hide the fullness of truth.
There are also headlines gone but not over or forgotten: thousands of immigrants in horrific circumstances; the continuing impact of systemic poverty; disenfranchised POC — black, brown, red — struggling to survive by degrees; these are just a few. All, of course, have at root the illusion of separation. Because, yes, we are our brother’s keeper.
And these are just this nation’s headlines. The world is quite literally on fire.
But shit, hang on — that’s still just talking about current events and programming. I use that word intentionally, encompassing multiple definitions. We have to stay aware of what “programs” we take in, particularly from media. We have to manage our mental health by carefully balancing attention to current events with awareness that media intentionally incites fear. Too much fear will break us down, pull us out of center.
All actions undertaken from outside our own center are reactions.
Meanwhile, is it just me? Are your personal situations melting down at an agonizing high-speed, high-stakes clip? Mine are, despite my best efforts, in ways that are definitely more chronic and acute than ever before. I’ve got a violent, vitriolic child in my house, wounded and wounding those who love her most. We’re hemorrhaging money to protect and help ourselves, advocate for ourselves, and do the same for her. I’ve got family members shredding the edges of my exhausted heart, just by being who they are. I’m asked to engage in emo nano-games by people who don’t know they’re gaming. Everyone is doing their best, and instead of that providing relief, the piles keep getting bigger. The compound situation invites despair in for a drink, asks it to stay awhile.
I have a theory that this is the case for pretty much everybody. I don’t know what it is about the current moment, but when I look out around the globe, I see the same thing as when I look inside my own home and those of my neighbors: everybody is in the throes of immense challenge.
What to do?
I don’t actually know, sometimes. In those times — like today — I sit and feel, think, and pray. I meditate upon my requests for growth and wonder what I was thinking. That request is the engraving upon the above invitation. Can I take it back?
Well, no. None of us can. There’s more pain in stagnation and retreat. So back to the meditations. All of historic esoterica joins with common sense and physics, telling us to focus upon the horizon, not the ground in front of us.
In my motorcycle driving class, they had us take a yardstick and try to balance the tip of it so it stood upright in the palm of our hand. Some were successful, some not. Those who were, the instructors pointed out, looked not at the palm of their hand where the yardstick was tenuously balanced, but at the top. When they did so, the arm automatically made the necessary adjustments to keep the yardstick standing upright.
“Keep your eye where you want to go,” they said. “Where you look is where you’re gonna go, so don’t look down at the ground where it meets the wheel unless you want to go there.”
So it is in motorcycle driving; that was the point. So, too, it is in life.
I’m working to keep my focus on where I’m headed, not where I am. Sometimes it’s a long climb up the yardstick, from habitual palm-gazing to the top. But I’m working on it.
The only way I know to do this is to focus upon what IS going right. I have a beautiful son who’s thriving in most areas. I have an amazing marriage, in which I feel safe and loved. From within that, I can surely deal with anything. I have a beautiful home and the means to stay in it. I have a sweet child in my home who is doing her best. I have a hard-won team of experts who see exactly what she’s dealing with and are poised to help her. I’ve learned some things about communication that help keep all of the above intact. And despite my sometime challenges with them, I have a beautiful family who loves me the best way they know how.
Truth is always multiple in nature. In a given moment, things are both terrible and beautiful. It’s rarely productive, in ways we welcome, to spend long hours acknowledging the terrible. Acknowledging the beautiful has a way of making more of the same show up, in the same way we see yellow cars everywhere once we buy one.
That’s the bridge to relief, these thoughts of gratitude. That’s the way to pull the gaze, and the manifestational focus, up from the dirt at my feet toward the horizon. If I keep my gaze where I’m headed, with faith I can make it — intact and better for having made the journey — everything will fall into place along the way to make it so. If, as I hurtle through the here and now, I train my gaze primarily on my pain… it will obligingly reproduce.
How about you? What are you coping with? How are you managing? What are your little tricks to keep yourself upright? Respond to this article and start a conversation. Or start one in your own circles. Community, wherever you can find or create it, is a panacea to the ills of today.