Based on a 1988 lecture by Harry Palmer
It's really nice to come here and talk with you, because I can really let go. If I'm too happy out there in the world, people think I'm on something. But I don't let that bring me down. I just go ahead and smile. After awhile people relax, and the happiness becomes contagious. The attitude that is reasserted the most times is the attitude that wins. That's really a self-evident axiom, and it's true for your own life as well as for society.
There are three things that have a strong influence on awareness: attitude, the ability to relax, and the ability to concentrate. Of these three, attitude is the most obvious.
I suppose that someone might say that attitude is optional when you are working. The important thing about working is finishing the job. Of course, work is a lot more fun and a lot less stressful if you have a positive attitude. Negative attitudes are usually reflected in the quality of a person's work. I would guess that if you ordered the same food from two different restaurants, one chef with a negative attitude and one chef with a positive attitude, you could taste the difference in attitudes.
But a good attitude is important for another reason. What is the real work to be done on this planet? What needs to be done in our society? It's to make people more aware, to remind people that their essential nature is a nonviolent spiritual being, and to increase the amount of compassion and cooperation on the planet. How do you get paid for doing that? How do you pay the rent, buy food, put gas in the tank? Well, you could become an Avatar Master, or if the people you know don't find increased awareness worth paying for, you can still find something to do that they will consider valuable. And while you're doing that, you can use your attitude to increase awareness. Every moment you are happy is a gift to the rest of the world.
What is the real work to be done on this planet...? It’s to make people more aware, to remind people that their essential nature is a nonviolent spiritual being, and to increase the amount of compassion and cooperation on the planet.
I've worked at as many as three jobs just to pay the bills, but every job that I did had an important sub-product that had nothing to do with my getting paid, but had everything to do with the real work to be done. What was it? I raised people's awareness with my attitude toward the job that I was doing. Even when I was burying cable in the rain, wet and miserable, I'd crank up my determination to show a positive attitude, because I knew that a positive attitude was helping the real work to get done. The cable got laid, and I got paid. But even more, the people who paid me were positively influenced by my attitude. The opportunity to do the real work, on yourself and for others, exists 24 hours a day. People who say they don't have time to work on themselves just don't get how easy it is—be happy.
Have you ever noticed how some people have a lot of time, and other people don't seem to have any time at all? That's weird. I mean, there are 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day for everyone. But some people spend the 24 hours happy and relaxed, and some people spend the 24 hours serious and stressed. Relaxation and stress determine the consideration of how much time you have. Really we are talking about free attention.
If you ask a stressful person to do something they'll say, "Oh, I can't possibly do that. I don't have time." Yet, from their viewpoint, time seems to pass at an agonizingly slow pace. Another person, more relaxed, might say, "Okay, I'll work that in this afternoon. No problem." Yet, from their viewpoint, time is whipping by. Doesn't this seem contradictory? To the person who sees time as passing slowly, there doesn't seem to be much time, but to the person who loses track of time, there seems to be lots of it. Actually time passes at the same speed for both of them. What is different is their ability to concentrate. Concentration requires free attention.
Generally speaking, if you compare the people who are relaxed with the people who are stressed, you will find some interesting differences. The people who are relaxed have much better self-control of their attention. They look, listen to, and feel what they want, when they want. They have a positive attitude. They concentrate on one thing at a time and either finish it or schedule time to finish it before they go on to something else. The ability to concentrate attention determines how much work can be done in a given period of time. And what they concentrate on affects their attitude. That's really what an attitude amounts to. It's a consideration you have about what you have your attention on.
You will find that people who have a good attitude are more relaxed, are able to concentrate, and are better able to recognize opportunities to do the real work. Their awareness is higher.
People who are stressed have difficulty controlling their attention. Usually their attention is fixed on something. And it's the something that draws their attention out rather than their deliberately placing their attention on something. You see the difference? In one case you are controlling your attention, and in the other case the something is controlling your attention. Stress results from something other than you controlling your attention.
The opportunity to do the real work, on yourself and for others, exists 24 hours a day.
You could say people who have trouble concentrating their attention don't have their attention under control. Their minds are out of control. They feel stressed. And the stress causes them to shift between identities and lose continuity of purpose.
That's one of the sub-products of stress. It causes people to redefine themselves, to act differently, and to change identities. The problem is that each identity has a different purpose. So they start things and don't finish them. Why? Because in the course of the project, stress builds up and their attitude changes. Soon they are surrounded by unfinished projects. The new stress of the unfinished project may even motivate them to resist the identity that once thought that project a good idea. That's a bad idea. Now there is a new struggle going on in their head. The resisted identity is projected into the environment as a costume for someone else to wear. And every time the other person shows up, he or she triggers the identity that resists that costume. And the stress builds up. Stress causes stress. It multiplies itself like a virus. It's very busy in their head, and there's not enough time. Actually, there is not enough free attention. The being becomes submerged in his or her negative attitudes. It's quite a dilemma.
Of course, when your attention is scattered and you feel stress, you miss life's opportunities to do the real work. The appearance is that you are unlucky. If any of this makes your world seem like it needs a little adjustment, just realize that your awareness is coming up. Understanding is actually a form of relaxation. Confusion produces stress.
People without time look at all the unfinished projects and they think, "I just don't have enough time." That's the feeling you get when your attention is scattered—no time. This feeling affects your attitude. And your attitude actually creates the personal reality that you experience. The attitude is the consideration you have about the things your attention is on.
If you improve any one of these three things, attitude, ability to relax, or ability to concentrate, the other two things will improve as well. They reinforce each other. Together they add up to awareness. Improve your attitude, and your ability to relax and concentrate will improve. And yes, it goes the other way too. Lose the ability to relax, and it will affect your attitude and your ability to concentrate. A momentary scare might make you alert, but continual stress will reduce your awareness.
You can restore your ability to relax by learning how to concentrate. Concentration, under the right conditions, actually quiets the mind. It opens time up. It creates a relaxed state and restores a confident attitude.
But what are the right conditions? The answer is determined by what you concentrate on. If you concentrate on a problem that you don't have enough information to solve, that's worrying. Worrying doesn't calm the mind. It intensifies the confusion. If you concentrate on a grudge, you develop an angry attitude and feel stress. If you concentrate on a wrong that has been done to you, you develop a victim attitude and have trouble relaxing. If you concentrate only on fulfilling your own desires, you develop a selfish attitude. A selfish attitude is really a feeling that you are lacking something or that there is not enough of something. So stress is also the result of a selfish attitude.
People who say they don’t have time to work on themselves just don’t get how easy it is...
If you concentrate your attention on the wrong things, you lose it. Does that give you any insight into why there is so much stress in the world?
The subjects of meditation and prayer, before selfish people profaned them, were concerned with teaching people to concentrate on things that developed a relaxed, selfless attitude—the welfare of all life, patience, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, reverence for the creator. Things like that, the real work. The calmness, the relaxation, and the boost in awareness were bonuses for developing a selfless attitude.
Spend five minutes concentrating on deepening your compassion for all life. Then spend five minutes concentrating on the new car you want. It doesn't produce the same attitude. One subject causes you to relax and actually generates healing power. The other subject causes dis-ease and stress.
A simple way to restore time and attention is to coax people to prioritize their projects and then decide to either finish them or abort them. Of course, the worse off cases are under such stress that they have no idea of what they want, no goals beyond the momentary desire of some identity that they are being, so asking them to prioritize will just add one more incomplete project to their lives. These people should just be taught to relax.
So here we come again to the importance of attitude. People who are in pretty good shape can just decide to assume a positive, selfless attitude and generate the determination to create it. Their awareness will expand. Stress will transform, magically, into an opportunity to do the real work. Try on the attitude, "I am contributing to the creation of an enlightened planetary civilization®." People who have trouble creating a positive attitude can practice relaxing and concentrating on something positive.
Concentrating on a goal that is broader than the momentary desire of this or that identity will motivate you to command your attention. The problems and stresses of self-centered living fall away. A spiritual attitude develops.
Attitude determines whether you are tuned in to negative or positive feedback. If a person has negative attitudes, such as: "I can't change," "Things always go wrong," "It's tough to get ahead," "People won't let you," and so on, they will concentrate on negative feedback. On the other hand, if they have positive attitudes such as: "The world is getting better," "I can make a difference," "Kindness is important," they concentrate on positive feedback.
Anyone who sees selfless practices as a sacrifice of his or her happiness, rather than as a path leading to true happiness, is simply stuck in some identity.
When you find yourself wanting to explore the inner workings of consciousness, wanting to become more familiar with the creation that you regard as self, read Living Deliberately.