How Do You Focus?

by | Aug 8, 2022 | Observations, Peter's Voice

Michael Poland writes about two kinds of consciousness. I think of them as two types of awareness.

He calls them the lantern and the spotlight.

As children, we have more of a lantern style. We are just getting used to the world and have a lot to learn. In looking at our world this way, we take in all that is around us. We are more aware of our surroundings. So much is going on and we’re not yet sure what needs our attention. This is likely why we are able to learn languages more easily, and it’s also when we form many of our core beliefs. We take it all in and believe it all.

As we get older, we shift to more of a spotlight awareness. We tend to focus on one or just a few things at a time. Our narrowed focus allows us to get stuff done. We categorize and prioritize. We have names for everything and we’ve learned to filter material out when we’ve already processed it in some fashion.

Some people maintain the ability to retain some lantern style of awareness, but as you know from trying to multitask, it is not easy.

One form of awareness is not necessarily better than another. If you walked around paying attention to everything, you would be overwhelmed and have a difficult time staying on task and accomplishing things. At the same time, if you always focus on what is on the top of your mind, you won’t see alternatives and possibilities. You end up stifling dreams, imagination, and creativity.

When I work, usually in front of a computer, I’m all about the spotlight. I’ve got my to-do items and I stay focused to get them done. But when I go for a walk or ride, and especially when I meditate, I do my best to let my lantern shine. I try to feel things rather than look at things. I try to listen more and be aware of as many things around me as possible.

As you go through your day, pay attention to what you are focusing on. Are you giving your mind a rest from focusing on what is in front of you?
Maybe try using the lantern approach when you don’t need to be as focused on a task to be open to different possibilities.

Notice how often you use one type of awareness or another and ask yourself if making an adjustment to the frequency of each would be more beneficial to you. Is your current balance working for you?

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