Rembrandt (Self Portrait)

Almost without exception when you try to divide your attention, you will be keeping one part of your attention on your internal world—your thoughts, emotions, reactions, etc—and keeping the second part of your attention on the external world—what you are observing or doing. This ability to keep your attention on the world and, at the same time, on your reactions is a key element in being present and self-remembering, and in almost all exercises that are designed to awaken a higher centers.

With a little self-observation, this distinction between our internal world and what we observe externally can be used to make our divided attention more powerful. All of us sometimes become identified or lost in what’s going on in our internal world, and, at other  times, we all sometimes become fascinated with activities outside of us. For instance when I write I have a tendency to observe my thoughts, but to forget to see the room where sit. On the other hand if I watch a movie—one that I actually enjoy—I tend to become lost in the movie and forget to observe my reactions or the simple fact that my body is sitting in a chair watching a movie. By recording these observations, I can teach myself to compensate for my tendencies by focusing the main part of my attention on the external if my tendency is to be internal and on the internal if my tendency is to be external.

Here’s what I mean: if I am watching a movie, since I know that I am likely to identify with the movie, I can actively try to be present to my body sitting in the chair. I can to some extent allow my attention to be passive in relation to the movie because I know my attention will be held there mechanically. Here’s another example: I have noticed that when I walk I tend to be in imagination. I have observed many times that moving on foot or in car usually evokes imagination. So when I walk I try to be present to the scene around me, which is fine for me, especially when walk in mountains near where I live. Because my tendency is to be in my head, I actively take in the sky, the trees, and the hills where I walk.

Like all legitimate actions, divided attention requires three forces to be successful. In the example of watching a movie what we’re doing is making our attempt to be present to our body sitting in the chair the first (or active) force, which makes watching the movie the second (or passive) force. The third force in this triad is whatever is motivating us to make the effort. I won’t go into this anymore except to say that these ideas fit very well into the Law of Three, and that if you have studied the Law of Three, you should be able use it to help you understand what I saying.

Divided attention is a marvelous exercise: it teaches you how to be present while going about your life. It is also a wonderful way to teach yourself to keep your focus or your grounding while, at the same time, extending consciousness beyond the body.