My dog starts barking suddenly at a pigeon he sees through the window. This makes me jump because I was relaxed, thinking about something and not expecting this sudden loud noise. I feel a rush of tension into my face. My jaws clench. I feel this tension in my back, my neck, my limbs. My fists clench. I feel anger and aggression. I shout and swear at my dog. I feel my heart beating faster, I am ready to fight and my head is filled with tension that hums in my ears and blurs my vision. I finally notice how uncomfortable I feel. I now feel a wave of disgust with myself for using that tone and language with my dog. My face changes, I feel my lips stretching in a grimace and I taste my own sourness. I recognise guilt straight away as my feeling of dislike for myself rises. I am a bad person. I am an angry, aggressive person. I am a disgusting person. I feel deflated and disappointed in myself.
What just happened?
I described a common split second of my own life here, retrospectively. The truth is that at the time I was not aware of all the finer changes and quick shifts in my experience. At the time this was: my dog starts barking, I jump and shout at him, I feel bad about it. This vagueness would leave me forever confused as to why this happens and how to change this common pattern for better. Taking a minute afterwards to pay attention to details of this experience has enabled me to notice how I lost control. I experienced my dog barking as an attack on my senses, my body reacted in an instinctive, natural way to deal with the attack, resulting in my civilised self feeling a learnt shame about this socially unacceptable reaction.
What can I do about this?
I have been practicing my attention as a main tool of my awareness. Deliberate, focused attention, directed at my experience, with an important quality of - curiosity. "Hmm, what just happened?", I said after this event. Or, even more present: "What is happening right now?", during the event. The moment I remember that I have my attention at my disposal, there is an undeniable sense of power and control over my behaviour. And I say behaviour, not emotions. I acknowledge and validate my emotions as they are because they are real and full of purpose. They are signals from my wise core inside that I have a need that requires addressing. And there is the missing piece: "What do I need right now?". Asking this between "What just happened" and "What can I do about this" gives a purpose to my exploration, and to the use of my energy and resources to focus on this.
Let's just contemplate a life fuller of deliberate and focused attention. This is an old gift that was given to each of us at birth but we forgot to unpack it because we are given too many other shiny things that keep us distracted. Take it out of the bottom of the closet. Dust it off. Unpack your attention. Be with it. Be deliberate with it. Be curious with it.