When attention is directed, it has the ability to invest an idea with energy and life. Wherever you place your attention, you give life to that seed of thought.
We've all experienced how the power of attention almost seems to have a magnetic pull. This power can be used for good or bad. When we use it for practical work, or for honest self-observation, we use it to our own benefit. However, when this power operates unconsciously to strengthen self-harming ideas, it becomes a barrier to natural strength, happiness, and love. At every moment, we stand on the threshold to a completely different and better life. If we become conscious of the true cause of our unhappiness, we can direct our attention away from its unconscious focus. At that point, something higher can come in to help us use the power of attention for our true good.
But first we must see how wrongly directed attention works against us. Perhaps a thought comes to you about a problem that's been bothering you. The thought takes an inner state and defines it for you by naming its "cause." Once the thought comes, your mind gives it attention. In that moment, you've animated that thought and given it life -- and the life you've given it is your own!
The more we feel punished by a negative state such as worry, the more we want to fight with it, thinking that its existence is separate from us, but it's not independent of us. We gave it its existence by unconsciously permitting our attention to be drawn to it. The more we resist it, the more it grows. The more it grows, the more we resist. The situation gets worse, and the worse it gets, the more we're convinced that the whole thing has been caused by something outside of us. Nothing can change until we begin to understand that our attention animated the thought, which we then wrongly fed with our own life. Only by becoming aware of this can we begin to use properly our most powerful weapon: attention.
Now that we understand that attention animates, the solution to our painful problems becomes obvious: We must use our awakened attention to catch unnecessary thoughts and withdraw our consent from them.
We've suffered because we've unconsciously consented to painful thoughts. We've animated these thoughts with our own energy, and they have then been able to direct our behavior, leading us to a thousand self-destructive behaviors. By withdrawing our consent from these thoughts, we no longer animate negative energies. We neither resist them nor try to change them, two approaches that only seem to strengthen the problem. But withdrawing our consent is a method that cannot lose.