Monday, January 2, 2012

Changing Focus

Changing Focus, or Where do I put my Attention?

When I am stuck in a concern or emotion or question, when I quiet myself and meditate, I have found that concern doesn't matter on the level of the deeper spiritual place.

When I am upset or angry or hurt, I sometimes use journaling to sort through things (often the dialog section from Progoff's Intensive Journal Method), and something new and deeper invariably comes to light, and I'm no longer going in circles with my thoughts and feelings.

A photographer, Dewitt Jones, who worked for many years with National Geographic, has made some wonderful short teaching videos (see Star Thrower, at I've been inspired by the ones shown at some of the management classes at Merced College. He talks about focusing one's vision (in the most recent one I've seen); taking time to immerse oneself and use one's intellect, intuition, and passion, let the unimportant fall away, and be left with a strong vision. He is able to illustrate what he means by showing a series of photographs and the difference between a "regular" picture, and the beauty and clarity that happens when you focus your vision. I just checked out his website, and found I could sign up for free to receive a "Celebrate What's Right with the World" weekly photograph, at

I can focus on the emptiness in the glass of life, the stressful things, what I think I'm lacking; or on the fullness, dwelling on what I am grateful for and what I love.

I can focus on what I want and need or on what I can give to others. I can dwell on my problems, or help others with theirs. (This doesn't mean to ignore what I need or a problem I have; it's more a perspective issue, of what looms large in my vision.)

I can focus on wanting more, or on how much I can do with what I have.

I can worry about what will happen if ..., or I can fully live this moment now.

I can mourn and become depressed with the loss of someone I love, or appreciate the connection I had with them, what I learned, their impact on my life.

I can dread conflict, or realize it's an opportunity to make things better for everyone involved.

I can be upset and fret about delays, or use them to teach myself patience, give myself a short break, or focus on something beautiful or enjoyable. I can be upset with the driver in front of me, or think about possible difficulties he or she may have, and wish him or her well.

I can focus on the problems I have, or on God, who is able to solve problems or teach me through them -- I might even find they are an unexpected gift (as I found with the cancer I had).

I can worry, or I can pray.

I can complain, or I can give thanks.

I can be bored or stuck, or I can play or learn.

I can stop to see the beauty around me, smell the flowers, listen to the music, or I can half-live life, never noticing the amazing things around me.

I can focus on the incredible ability of my body to heal, and listen to it warn me of problems, or I can worry about my health.

I can try to control my life and others around me (and probably steer into huge problems), or I can learn to surf the waves of life with awareness and a sense of joy and play, and let others live their own lives and learn their own lessons.

I can stay stuck, or realize and explore the tremendous variety of possibilities that exist (even given whatever I might be stuck with).

I can bemoan all the tragedies going on in the news, or I can a) do something about a problem (if I'm called to do it), and b) realize the overwhelmingly greater number of good things people are doing for each other and the world, that are rarely in the news.

I can fear change, or I can accept that it will happen, and find ways to preserve positives from the past and welcome the opportunity to discover new ones.

I can get stuck in ruts. or I can intentionally travel new routes, sit in different areas of a room, try new things.

A few related writings and quotes (many taken from and

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.” -- Henry David Thoreau

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” -- Charles R. Swindoll

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” -- Ashley Smith

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -- Howard Thurman

Serenity Prayer (used in Celebrate Recovery)

God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did , this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. In Jesus' Name, Amen     -Reinhold Niebuhr

My Identity in Christ

Because of Christ’s redemption,
I am a new creation of infinite worth.
I am deeply loved,
I am completely forgiven,
I am fully pleasing,
I am totally accepted by God.
I am absolutely complete in Christ.
When my performance reflects my new identity in Christ, that reflection is dynamically unique.
There has never been another person like me
In the history of mankind,
Nor will there ever be.
God has made me an original,
one of a kind, really somebody!

From Search For Significance, by Robert S. McGee

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-this version is credited to Mother Teresa


The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.”-- James Dean

“To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”-- Flora Whittemore

“Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.”
-- Horace

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure”-- Peter Marshall

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