How the Future Feeds on the Present

And maybe what I can do about it!

Predictions of past hurts can predict future hurts. When I fear a future of pain, I am robbed of my present focus. When I’m attending to a possible pain-filled future, that future is feeding on my present. Fear can’t feed on present experience, only on what doesn’t presently exist. My attention on fear increases the likelihood of my need to validate that fear.

Because I need to be right, I’ll tend to confirm my fear predictions through confirmation bias – increasing my trust in those predictions. This makes my future more likely to be fulfilled in fear.

We humans are notoriously poor predictors of our futures, yet, we do it with confidence. We trust that we know how things will go and how we’ll feel in the future because our trust in past predictions resulted in our present situation. When facing my present, I tend to fall on the past as if it were the present

What About Attention?

I have precious little attention to spread around. Of all that I could be aware, I am actually aware of a tiny fraction. 100% of my attention is aware of the tiniest subset of 100% of all that is. My predictions, based on this tiny subset, must be less than 100% accurate because I’m always short some data. I make most of my predictions on almost no data at all – based almost entirely on my trust in my senses, other people’s senses, and my education, all of which is data-short.

Due to my need to be right, I’ll fudge the data. Maybe I’ll outright lie to myself to feel more secure – as a defense against bad things happening. A prediction of bad things happening in the future sends me on a wild goose chase to defend against harm. And yet that harm is a prediction – one based on incomplete data that I “fill in” to make complete.

The more energy in the form of attention that I devote to trusting my prediction, the stronger the impact of fear upon my present. This makes attention key to a solution. What I attend to in the present, is what gets done. Focusing on fear, robs my present of energy required for action – and less gets done.

How Can I Bust the Fear Feed on My Attention?

First, realizing that predictions are just that – predictions based mostly on incomplete data – releases me from the trust I’ve placed in them. Predictions are NOT the truth – they are the workings of my imagination – and so, really should not be trusted. QUESTION predictions.

Next, FOCUSING ATTENTION ON WHAT IS HAPPENING in the present, redirects my energies away from unproductive fear based on imaginary probabilities to certain productive present action. This means doing an action right now that is firmly in the present – like making an inventory of my current physical sensations. What do I see, hear, feel – right now?

In this way, fear based on trust in an imaginary prediction gives way to solid, sensory-based, relatively certain present action. It may also bust a long-held, high-value fear and return precious energy for use elsewhere.

Attention Feeds My Fear

What I give attention to grows! I have a problem-solving mind. And because of this, my mind seems to forever need problems to solve. Sometimes I feel I’m creating the very problems I then must solve.

In my First-Second Degree of Illumination bubble awareness, I focus my attention on that which I fear. I fear what and who I perceive “I’M NOT.” It’s automatic and a problem that must be solved!

That fear adds a perceived value to what and who “I’M NOT”- a value I feel I’m missing. Problem! I may feel I gain a sense of being complete when I add that perceived value to an external substitute – like a loved one, pet or new gadget. Yet, that sense of wholeness is a temporary condition that convinces me that the addition completes my value. Problem solved! Or have I just created another problem?

Each problem I think I’m solving creates a drain on my energy and resources. This drain I call a fear-feed on my attention. Because I feel dependent on external value, I always have this unwhole problem to solve. This distracts my attention from those interests that validate my wholeness. I can take charge of my attention and focus it where my consciousness takes me – beyond measurable value.

A thought has no feed value without attention. The objective of fear is to capture and feed on my attention.

In bubble awareness, I associate fear with survival. In this survival state-of-mind, fear offers me a way to silence my need to survive by convincing me to accept and follow a simple equation:

Me + Not Me = Wholeness

In bubble awareness, fear rules my consciousness. I imagine someone or something holds a value I perceive is missing in me, a value I need in order to feel complete. Once I attain that which I believe completes me, I enjoy a high of feeling OK. Yet, after a while, that artificial high wares off and I’m back to feeling fearful and incomplete. More than anything I want to feel whole and complete, yet fear pulls my attention back to the “I’m Not” problem that I feel needs solving.

Beyond Fear

While I keep my imagination firmly locked within bubble awareness, I continue to allow the fear process to nibble away at my energies until my body and mind can no longer sustain the feed.

One cannot escape bubble awareness using bubble awareness. One cannot use fear to cure fear. I must look elsewhere. I must look within… take charge of my attention… and…

Imagine beyond…

How Fear Feeds on Attention

Inside my First and Second degree bubble, everything lives by satisfying needs. An unsatisfied need can trigger a sense of suffering, which can present as fear. The more attention I pay to a need, the more energy I invest in its satisfaction because I fear suffering.

Could fear be the result of imagining what might happen if a need isn’t satisfied? In this way, could fear feed on my attention? Might I create a feed situation when what I give attention to turns into an unsatisfied need? Could I be causing my own suffering?

My fear-need process seems to be a circular awareness path in which I:

  1. …sense an unsatisfied need and then –>
  2. fear suffering because of it and then –>
  3. pay attention to the fear and so –>
  4. take ineffective action that falls short of satisfaction and –>
  5. pay some emotional energy and–>
  6. return awareness back to item 1 above…

Unfulfilled needs lead to fear of suffering that leads to unfulfilled needs that lead to more fear. Note how often I pay in the cycle above. Pay, pay, pay – feed, feed, feed. Out of control – it’s a fear feeding frenzy!

Perhaps fear is like a parasite, feeding on its host’s energy through attention. Could fear prize attention as its reward? As I seek to satisfy my need to avoid suffering, might I draw more suffering by attending to the demands of fear? Am I evolving according to the fears I attend to most?

How does fear feed on attention?

Perhaps an analogy might assist in the understanding how fear feeds on attention.

Fire fighters pull up to a burning building. A window in an adjacent building reflects the raging fire. The fire chief erroneously points his crew’s hose at the reflection rather than at the burning building. Obviously, the water poured on the window fails to extinguish the fire. Despite the amount of water the fire fighters apply to the window, the fire continues to grow. The greater the fire grows, the greater the image in the window and the more the fire fighters’ attention to it.

The fire fighters are doing what they know is the right thing to do even though their efforts are ineffective. Until the chief questions their actions, he may not recognize the error. A very wet window and a very burned-down building will be the result.

Fighting Ghosts

How many times have I done what I knew would work and felt the sting of frustration when it didn’t?!! Maybe I was hosing down a window – a reflection. Perhaps my fear is a reflection that draws my precious attention away from effective action. The image of what I feared sucked my energy away from taking effective action on the object of that fear.

How do I beat my fears? One, perhaps useful, way is to recognize them for what they are: ghosts, figments of imagination, reflections. Unreal. No matter what I fear, that fear is a ghost – not the object it reflects. No amount of attention poured on the fear window will put out the fire it reflects.

Like the fire chief who directs his forces at the window while the building burns down, I can continue to attend to my fears as I have – enjoying a fullness of frustration. Or I might reconsider by recognizing the ghost for what it is – a reflection – and asking, “What else?”

  • What unfulfilled need does this fear reflect to me?
  • How do I feel about that need? (particularly, where and how in my body do I feel it?)
  • Why is my attention drawn to this need (and not another)?
  • Who has the power of intention to redirect their attention? (I do!)

Watering the Weeds of Distraction

In my First-Second Degree of Illumination bubble, I work at awakening into full enlightenment. Sometimes I experience distraction from that goal. You know, the illusive finger of fate that points your attention and intention away from your present goal? Even when I accept that such distraction is of my own making, I still on occasion find myself “off track.”

Perhaps such derailments are the result of confusion over the relationship between attention and intention. Intention directs while attention connects. To accomplish a task, one must give attention to what fulfills the intention of that task.

For example – A firefighter controls the direction and flow of water shooting out the fire hose. His intention directs while his attention connects the water with the fire. When the fighter is distracted from his intention or attention, he ceases to be an effective firefighter in that instant.

Attention without intention ensures a future of distraction

Some distractions grab my attention for days – disrupting my intention from the enlightenment I seek. As I focus more attention on the distractions, I seem to get even more distracted as my world seems to darken. Now I begin to notice how people aren’t getting along with me and each other. I have to honk, shout and do hand gestures at all those insensitive and unconscious drivers on the road. I might catch a cold or feel “down” for a while – validating the truth of my sense of darkening.

Parasol Thinking

My need to attend to this one distracting thought overarches all other thoughts – like unfurling a gigantic parasol over the entire universe, turning day into night, blocking out the sunshine that once ruled. My attention to distractions has clouded my vision and I lose sight of my intention.

While I focus on what I don’t like – the distraction – the rest that I do like starves for my attention. “Energy flows where attention goes.” (Huna principle 3 – Makia)

And, Oh, the Weeds, the Weeds!

Could my distracted attention be “watering the weeds”? Perhaps.

Or –

Maybe there’s something useful in the negative, distracting thought. What if I’m doing distraction “on purpose?” Could what I don’t like – that which is holding my attention hostage – be the result of a hidden intention that can lead me to an awakening? What then, eh?

What then, indeed!

Perhaps when I’m faced with a compelling distraction, I might ask some [maybe useful] questions about my intention:

  • What am I avoiding with this distraction?
  • How am I avoiding it? (looking at behaviors and captive thoughts)
  • Why am I avoiding it? (looking at emotional payoffs)
  • Who am I as I take accountability for my thoughts?

How Is the Relationship Between Intention and Attention Circular?

Is the relationship between intention and attention circular?

It’s the age-old question, “Which came first… intention or attention?”

The old verities, “Intention drives attention,” and, “Power flows where attention goes,” speak volumes about the power of intention as it relates to attention.

Intention – a purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct; a determination to satisfy need.

Attention – the faculty of mind engaged in support to satisfy intention’s need to manifest through action.

Read more How Is the Relationship Between Intention and Attention Circular?