Have you ever found yourself enjoying an article, having a good think, or maybe listening to a friend tell an important story, and out of nowhere, your attention falls off? Perhaps your vision blurs or you start thinking about something completely unrelated? Yes, you could say it can happen to anyone, even the Buddhists would agree—the Dalai Lama has been reported saying that even he lacks focus sometimes–and he probably meditates like crazy! But is interrupted attention normal, or just common? What if interruptions were not random? What if they were a memory?
When you’re an embryo, your body is breathed into formation. The Osteopaths call the source of that breath the Breath Of Life. Life breathes out, embryo breathes in, life breathes in, embryo breathes out, and if you watch a time-lapse of the whole early dance, you’ll see the embryo opens and closes its body with that rhythm.
Should the world we are developing in make room for us, welcome us, even celebrate us, our expanding organs, complexifying brains, and blossoming connections with the outside world will entrain with this natural rhythm. We will grow to our fullest, reach into the expanse of our soul’s calling, and emerge with senses that welcome the horizon.
If somewhere in our historical or present developing environment we encounter an obstruction, we can be left with a torsion, a sustained contraction, an interruption in our natural rhythm. This is otherwise known as an imprint. The obstruction could arise due to our parents not being ready to have a child, the presence of alcohol, drugs, or other toxins during our time in the womb, exceptionally challenging weather, exceptionally challenging environmental toxins, scary or painful birth interventions, being separated from your mother after birth when you just want to be close, an over-demanding or absent parent, adoption, neglect, violence, you get the gist.
The Breath Of Life doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t stop breathing into us at these unsavoury times, it just breathes life into us and our accompanying obstruction. Sometimes we’ve got enough love around us and enough resilience within us that the obstruction dissipates. In other cases, if the obstruction is persistent or strong enough, it hangs around, distracting us from nature breathing us.
If this is the case, later in life, long after the insult has passed, the interruption remains. Often there is no conscious memory of it, the only evidence that ever happened is that it made a recording of itself in your physiological and emotional habits.
“Sweetheart, why is it that every time I’m trying to tell you something, you look away?”
“Dear, you always leave the house so quickly, even before we’ve said goodbye.”
“Everytime I’m alone and I want to just sit down and read, this terrible feeling comes over me, and I have to get busy with something.”
“Whenever it’s my turn, something always happens where someone else barges in.”
“When I go to plan my next project, something always comes along and distracts me and it never gets off the ground.”
From these few examples it appears that interruptions aren’t just internal, they can even play out in a family or community setting.
What’s the cost?
Deeply personal expressions of vocation might never see the light of day, intimacy between loved ones might strain, self-esteem could erode, and spaces might instead open up for the frustration of all this to mount into punishment, isolation, violence, or worse. Interruption in its essence is violent. It is even more difficult to contain our natural response to it, which is to retaliate or flee. And if the interruption is submerged and decades old, all the more energy has gone towards it.
If people really took the time to observe how often they interrupt themselves, and decided that instead of accepting the interruption, they stayed steady, and asked what came up in their awareness right before their focus dropped off, they might be surprised at what’s there.
Sadly, but finally, they might discover radical heartbreak. Behind routine interruption often lives a memory of neglect, abandonment, violence, drugging, rape, and more. It could be argued that it’s better to leave well enough alone, but what gold do you not even know you are trading? What unique expression are you slated for in this life that for years has laid pinned under the effects of an early interruption? Justice begins with encountering the habits of your own consciousness and from there following the bread crumbs back to the feelings you’ve never let yourself feel. If you pad the trail with curiosity and compassion, you might find yourself finally freed from the tyranny of an old, unfortunate circumstance.
The Dalai Lama’s not wrong, we are distractible by nature, but consider the interruption a memory if when you look around the room there’s no one there but you.