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What we pay attention to defines us. The Sufi teachers on my path emphasize the training of our attention by dropping our awareness as much as we can into the solar plexus/heart area. Many traditions and practices offer this advice to help free us of our inner dialogue.
The most important resource we have in this life is our attention. Why do we cultivate our attention? For what purpose should we become embodied in our awareness, to use the body, the breath, and feel our “aliveness from the inside out” as meditation teacher Tara Brach guides us to do?
My Sufi teachers propose that we use our attention to serve the Other. In every moment that we are embodied in our awareness we create the potential to give to others what they need rather than be focused on what we may want or hope to get from others. When I apply this teaching to my own life, I observe how much a mindful yoga practice supports me in refining my attention. One of the most beautiful gifts of a mindful yoga practice is that it requires us to slow down and observe. The first step, which often for me is the only step, is to increase our awareness and attention into our sensations in such a way that the subtlest sensation is observed.
Often when someone first starts a mindful yoga practice this is one of the most challenging paradigm shifts to cultivate: being interested in subtle sensations, using subtle cues to direct our experience of how to move from one position to the next. We are so accustomed in our various cultures to speed through and only stop when we experience an extreme sensation that we have dulled our connection to our own living breathing body.
The path to inner peace is built on the invaluable tool of refining our attention in such a way that our embodied awareness becomes an anchor for all our interactions with Creation and ourselves. We submit the inner dialogue to its rightful place and instead spend energy, effort and time pursuing a life that is not about perfecting the “me”, gaining in significance, or any outward achievement. It is pursuing a life that is built around the belief that we are here for a unique, magnanimous purpose which no one else can fulfill on
our behalf. We are here to attend to that purpose one breath at a time. We are here to practice returning to that anchor whenever we get caught up in the miserable stories we tell ourselves. We are here to practice that generosity of attention towards others because
that will unveil our true capacity.
As we practice yoga, we gain more awareness rooted in our body’s sensations and gain access to long forgotten parts of ourselves. By coming back to our inner life, this rich expanse of eternal possibilities, we become a witness to our journey through from what is
overt to what is subtle.
All of us can create our own internal compass through the practice of staying in the moment. Yoga and any other mindful traditions can help to bring us deeply into the “process” of what we are experiencing.
My Sufi teachers remind us that we must always submit the outcome of our “doing” and strive to be in the process of “being.” One of the key ways to experience this shift is by cultivating our attention to what is here in the present moment.
Editor’s note: Aisha Sander is a practicing Muslim from Pakistan who moved to Patagonia in 2016. She spends most of her time with her two small children and her husband Brad. Aisha teaches gentle yoga classes in Patagonia and is the Assistant Editor to the PRT, pursuing her first love of writing and reading. She can be reached at email@example.com