There are times in life when we put all of our attention on something and we just can’t seem to stop thinking about it. Often our fixations are based on things we wish we could have right now.
Food, money, and sex are big examples.
The comedian John Callahan said, “Sex is like air; it’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.” It steals lots of our attention sometimes.
Sometimes we also fixate on things we don’t want or wish we could change. “I wish it wasn’t so loud here” is a good one.
Now, it’s ok to want things and it’s ok to want change. That’s not the issue. This is about when we want things to change so much that we can’t stop thinking about it. We just dwell on it and dwell on it and dwell on it.
Not too long ago my daughter really wanted to go roller skating. She asked if we could go over and over, trying to annoy me into submission after I told her no the first time. She wasn’t doing that because she thought annoying me into submission would work, she knew it wouldn’t. She was doing it because she was fixated and she couldn’t stop thinking about skating. She couldn’t be in the moment.
I had a friend on Facebook who would post every day complaining about how whiny people are these days (isn’t complaining every day about something also whining??) There’s not much point I can see in just repeating a complaint like that over and over. In that case, it’s really just becoming more and more like the thing you hate. But he was fixating. He didn’t know how to stop.
What can we do?
First, know your weaknesses. We all fixate, to a greater or lesser degree, on different things. Understanding what you tend to fixate on is something that, in itself, helps.
A cartoon once told me, “Knowing is half the battle.” I think that’s true. Knowing what our weaknesses are is a big step in overcoming them.
Second, we have to have what I call the witness, the still voice within. This is a voice in the back of our minds that just asks questions like, “Am I fixating right now?”
Like many of the things we talk about when we talk about meditation, being fully present in the moment is what helps. Knowing I’m fixating helps manage my fixation.
Here’s an exercise you can do.
In your meditation, just spend a moment asking yourself, “Am I fixating right now?”
And, at the end of the night before bed ask yourself, “Did I fixate today?”
In this way, you can train your mind to notice when you start to fixate and at least become aware of the problem.
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.
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