While in Japan I met an American woman who had been living in that country for twenty years. I asked her how long it had taken her to learn the Japanese language. “A couple of years,” she answered. “But I still don’t understand everything. Just the things that interest me. For example, I can watch documentaries on television and understand every word. When the game shows come on I have no idea what they are talking about.”
Her selective learning demonstrated to me that we each have the capacity to tune our minds to things of value and to screen out everything irrelevant. The world is filled with all manner of subject matter and intention. You have the power to understand what is of value to you and screen out everything that doesn’t match your intention. A significant part of personal growth is finding the confidence to let in what belongs to you and release all else.
My dog Munchie was an excellent teacher of selective sifting. When I took him to the beach he would wander off in search of interesting smells and people. I would call him many times, but he would just stay on his mission. I thought he was hard of hearing, so I would go and fetch him. Then one day I opened a snack in a cellophane wrapper, the sound of which resembled what Munchie heard when I opened the treats I gave him. At a distance of twenty yards, amid the sound of waves and people on the beach, he heard the tiniest crumpling of cellophane and he came running back. He heard what was important to him and responded instantly. “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Likewise, dogs.
You can use the principle of selective sifting to generate intelligent programming with your children and friends. When your children misbehave or your friends act unkindly or want to go places you prefer not to go, do not engage with their negative behavior. If you resist it, you will only reinforce it. Pay no attention to “silly game shows.” Consider foolishness or banality a foreign language that does not register with you. When your children, spouse, or friends show up with positive behavior or activities that stimulate you, reinforce that behavior with the kind of attention you would pay to a brilliant movie. When they behave amiss, withdraw your attention. Soon they will learn that if they want your presence and support, they will need to walk on the brighter side of the street.
The most powerful currency you have at your disposal is your attention. The concept of “paying attention” reveals the key to its wise use. When you pay attention to something, you are investing in the stock of that commodity. You are saying, “This is important to me. I want more of it.” The concept of “interest”also bears crossover between the reams of finance and consciousness. When you are interested in something, you earn interest on it. What you put in comes back to you increased. Take care what you pay attention to and what you are interested in. You will get more of the same.
The Internet is a great metaphor for how we make choices. The Internet reflects the entire gamut of human consciousness. Everything that anyone has ever thought of is posted on some website somewhere, from the sublime to the ridiculous, the uplifting to the sordid. You get to choose which realm you will participate in by way of the URL you type in. It’s all there. Visiting a website is like visiting a realm of consciousness. You decide what aspect of totality that you receive. If you have your own website, people must know your URL to visit it. They must have the key that enters your consciousness. Choose your URL wisely, metaphorically speaking. It makes all the difference in the people with whom you engage.
Groucho Marx said, “’I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” He also said, “Television is where you let people into your living room that you would not otherwise let near your house.” When you watch a TV show or movie, read a book, or have a conversation, you are participating in a level of consciousness. If that consciousness is rewarding to you, dive in. If not, dive out.
I haven’t watched television in over five years. I watched it every day and night when I was a kid. I could recite the schedule of every evening show on every channel. Five years ago the local TV stations switched from analog to digital broadcasting. Oddly, the digital signal does not reach the rural side of the island where I live. We never bothered to sign up for cable or satellite broadcasting. We don’t miss TV in the least. Now Dee and I watch inspirational and educational videos in the evening. We have more to talk about and we sleep better.
There are fabulous shows being broadcast and meaningless shows being broadcast. You will watch the ones you understand. As a spiritual being, you understand brilliance. Invite people into your living room by choice, not default.
About the Author:
Alan Cohen is the author of I Had it All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy. JoinAlan and other renowned teachers in Maui this December 7-12 for an extraordinary Course in Miracles Retreat: Coming Home to Love. For information about this program, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com.
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