As noted in my last several blogs, I am practicing intention. Placing a piece of birchbark in the fire every morning keeps that process moving and Aha Moments continue to surface.

I had been writing “transform negative habits” on one side of the birch bark, and “open up to a bigger life” on the other. I had been thinking about them as two separate things, and seeing the flames as transforming each of them. But then I realized that they are, together, just one action. That action involves shifting my attention. When I focus on negative behavior, I am automatically shutting out a bigger life. When I let go of my focus on negative behavior, I am automatically entering into a bigger context. Either way, I am choosing where to place my attention.

Context-shifting is part of the Buddhist practice of Taking & Sending. This is a meditative practice that was developed to work with anger, but it can be applied to any reactive emotion. It doesn’t really matter what reaction or feeling I choose to work with. It could be the shame of feeling that I am physically imperfect or the fear of being a social outsider. It could be the angry remnants of my interactions in damaging relationships, or my defensive choice to continue stewing about those effects. It could be the absorbed pain of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

In Taking & Sending, I first acknowledge my feeling. Then I imagine everyone in the world who is experiencing this same feeling at this moment. I connect with all those people. I breathe in the reaction/feeling of everyone. I take it in as black smoke. Then I breathe out silver light, sending it to everyone who is feeling that feeling. It is not a practice in transforming the feeling. It is just Taking and Sending. It is a practice in shifting attention.

The more I practice Taking & Sending, the more I become aware of a bigger world. When I focus only on my own pain, on isolating myself as the only one feeling this, I am confining myself to the small world of me-first ego. When I expand my awareness to include all of the people who feel like this (and with billions of people on the planet there have to be thousands, at least, who are feeling this same pain), I become one of many. I open my awareness to the bigger world of the human condition. I open myself to spiritual connection with all humans.

The more I practice moving my awareness in this way, the easier it has become. When I find myself focusing on my negative reaction/feeling, I acknowledge it saying “small world”. This immediately frees me up to the awareness of the bigger world, to shifting my context. I have practiced this so much that now I can just say the phrase and immediately place myself in spiritual context.

This is not something to just think about. I have to feel it. I have to practicing feeling the difference between ego and spirit, between Small World and Bigger World. In the small world, my choices are limited to repeating the same behavior over and over. In the bigger world, my opportunities for new experiences and new connections are endless. Shutting down, or opening up. The choice is yours.