Trying to catch Django’s attention is a daily battle. In training school we learned that dogs only possess seven “attention slots”. If these are full of exclusive attention to one or more stimuli, there is no space to add anything else. Basically this means that when you give your dog a trained command – e.g. “sit” – and he does not respond at all, it is in fact useless to get angry or keep repeating the same command in an ever louder voice. He is not being disobedient, as we tend to think – it is just that his seven slots are already full of attention to other stimuli.
Waiting patiently is the only solution. All of a sudden you will notice that a slot has freed up – you can literally see this happening. You need to seize this moment and fill the slot with your stimulus – like the sit command.
You can also see this happening to us, people. We let our attention be drawn to certain things, to the point of complete absorption. Think about the situation when you are watching an exciting movie or reading a compelling book. Social media and computer games can also fully grasp our attention and practically make us lose the notion of where we are. It is addictive and requires quite some willpower to aim our consciousness at the here and now again.
What makes us different from dogs – and other mammals – is that the same can happen to our thoughts and feelings. We can become completely absorbed by a vortex in our head, like some unwanted, babbling guest who is just sitting there. Buddha calls this the “Monkey Mind”. He described the human mind as a place filled with drunken monkeys who are endlessly jumping around, shouting and screaming.
We all have a Monkey Mind, Buddha said, with scores of monkeys, all demanding attention. The fear monkey is the loudest of them all, he is constantly ringing the alarm bell, drawing our attention to things we should be wary of and to everything that can go wrong. We are used to heeding what these monkeys are shouting about, every time again, and we take it seriously. It makes us withdraw into our head and worry about things that happened in the past or that could possibly happen in the future.
Being aware about this process is a first big step. Instead of these feelings and thoughts ‘having’ you, you need to realise that it is you who ‘has’ these thoughts and feelings, and that you can look at them in a conscious way. And that you can opt to go along or not, to get absorbed by them or not, to let them go or not. This is the freedom you have as a person, and you can cultivate this.
If you recognise the endless babbling of your own inner monkey world and you want to take back control, then coaching is there to help. Contact me for a free sample session. I will try to catch Django’s attention when you arrive, so he won’t greet you too enthusiastically and ignore all my commands.