Early on in my spiritual studies one of my teachers told me that if I wanted to study with him, I could study with no one else. At first, I found this rule very restricting and struggled with it greatly (I had a mechanical habit of seeking advice from many people all the time). As time went on, however, I came to understand the reason for this restriction. By not allowing me to seek input from others, this restriction forced me to focus my attention in only one place, and in doing so, sharpened my attention so greatly that I learned and experienced much in a short amount of time.
With the advent of the Internet and other sorts of media, our world has shrunk and we have access to so many more different types of spiritual teaching. There’s a tendency to get caught by the glamour of this one, the dazzle of that one and the promises of yet a third one. We may dabble in meditation, chanting, praying, yoga, bodywork, astral travel, communication with various kinds of spirits and so on. But what we need to remember in our spiritual journeys is that beneath all the different trappings of any kind of study is the development of attention. Every teacher may approach this differently, but ultimately they seek to develop the level and focus of our attention. Why? Because we create that which we attend to. Our attention is a tractor beam that calls to us that which we focus on.
In the Apprenticeship Program, we put students through hundreds of different exercises that teach them to balance energy, put up shields, create spells, do divination and travel out of body. The main goal of all of these exercises, however, is to develop the attention. In ordinary life, our ability to control our own attention is virtually nil. The phone rings and our attention is drawn to the sound of the ringing, the physical action of picking up the receiver, and the associations we usually connect with phones and callers. When the TV is on, our attention is trapped by whatever the producer has in mind. Think about it. When the show is about murder, don’t our thoughts and conversation automatically turn to murderers, crime, the degradation of society and other related topics? Would you think of discussing pink elephants at that point? Not unless you were working on controlling your attention.
The other thing to keep in mind on your spiritual journey is that time does count. Many esoteric teachings, especially the more ancient ones, warn us that once we start our journey, we have a certain window of opportunity to gain a new level of consciousness or we will fall back to level of life and go back to sleep again. So while it’s tempting to dabble in all different areas, remember that the spiritual clock is ticking. Once you step on the path, you have a certain amount of time to get serious and begin honing your attention. Remember that spiritual work is always about attention! The Bible teaches, “Let thine eye be single,” Abraham teaches us to find the thought that feels better, the Navajo Beauty Way teaches us to be still in our attention for moments each day, Deepak Chopra teaches us to heal ourselves by placing our attention on painful areas of the body or mind, and the list is endless. Don’t let your attention become trapped by your mental concepts of what spiritual study is about. It’s not about parlor tricks, though you’ll certainly be able to do those! Whichever path you choose, begin to find the aim of every exercise you are given. Isn’t it all about attention?