Stealing Our Attention

People indignantly condemn thieves to steal material goods. I worry about the kind of thief who steals souls. People act to protect their property. They build walls. They hang every thief they catch. What measures do they take to protect their minds from corruption and loss?

Han Shan Deqing

 

Han Shan is being a little clever here. He’s making a comparison. The things that distract us from the path are like thieves. There are always things that are ready to steal your attention.

When I’m trying to be in the moment and focus, the past and future are both trying to steal my attention. When I’m sitting on the cushion all sorts of elaborate fantasies are trying to steal my attention. When I’m working, my phone is consistently stealing my attention. Even when I’m playing a game with my kids, some thoughts or memories or projections are trying to steal my attention.

We don’t think of these things as stealing because there’s not really a thief. We can’t point to a guy in a black mask with a bag with dollar signs on it and say, “He stole from me!”

Han Shan is telling us the effect is the same, so we may as well try to handle it in the same way. We don’t think of our attention as important, but it is. We have a limited amount of it, so it’s important to learn how to focus our attention on the things we want to pay attention to. A lot of times the things that steal our attention end up being meaningless nonsense anyway.

We stop thieves by locking our doors at night. We can work on the things that steal our attention by training our minds. That’s what he’s talking about here. This is a big encouragement for our practice.

———————————————————-

 Daniel Scharpenburg is a meditation instructor and dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.
Find out more about Daniel on his website and connect with him on Facebook.
"For what it's worth, not all Buddhists believe in reincarnation, supernatural ordering, and 'holiness'. It ..."

Is Buddhism a Religion or What?
"Please be specific about what you are saying. I haven’t talked to creationists, psychics and ..."

Is Buddhism a Religion or What?
"Looks like you have no idea about theoretical aspects of Buddhism! This is a question ..."

Is Buddhism a Religion or What?
"Science is evidence based. You’re using the exact same argument creationists and people that believe ..."

Is Buddhism a Religion or What?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Buddhist
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment