*With apologies to Susie Orbach, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue
By Julia Mossbridge, MA, Ph.D., “Dr. Julia”
Science Director, Focus@Will labs
What is it about focus that matters so much to me that I’m devoting my own focus to trying to understand it scientifically? I didn’t know the answer until last week, when I was doing my ill-advised-but-still-addictive pre-bedtime review of the day’s headlines on my phone. I didn’t like most of those headlines, and I knew I didn’t want to read most of the stories, but I felt a strong pull to find out more. Unlike most nights, despite the pull, I put the phone down, turned it off, and cuddled into the blankets. I felt happy, loved, and I noticed that.
As I was drifting off, a thought occurred to me. Or maybe it was a whisper in my ear from my higher self: “That was a feminist act you just did.” “Why” I wondered, to myself. “Because you chose your focus. It wasn’t on what they wanted you to focus on. It was on you, in a positive way.”
Then it struck me — YES. This is why I am so entranced with focus. Once you take away all the parts of our lives that are shaped for us, where we put our attention in each moment is about all the freedom that’s left. And trust me — every advertisement you see is trying to take away that last remaining freedom and pull you towards its goal.
Putting my focus on myself is equivalent to saying that I matter. Not the me that anyone else portrays as me, but me. My inner space, my authentic me-ness. The real me matters.
Feminism, it turns out, describes this idea nicely. Feminism is the idea that we can all be who we are, without rules that tell us we must fulfill prescribed roles. In a feminist world, it is just as valid for me to focus on my thoughts about quantum mechanics as it is to focus on the way the sheets feel when I cuddle into them. And it is just as valid for a man to do the same. Being free to be you and me — literally — is the feminist credo.
According to Dr. Ann Dolinko, a professor at Shimer College specializing in feminist philosophy, “Most feminist theorists argue that feminism opens up the possibility for both women and men to be more fully human. The idea that feminists hate men is simply not supported in vast majority of feminist writings. Feminists ranging from radical feminists such as Mary Daley to intersectional feminists like bell hooks argue that in challenging patriarchy is crucial to the liberation of women and men from the oppressive systems that limit our lives.”
So how can we use this gift of focus to free ourselves from expectations around who we are, what we should look and feel like, and what we should do? I have a few tips, maybe you have more:
- Tune your focus — When you are focused, notice what your focus is on. Is it on internal experiences, responses to others, feelings in your body, creative ideas, and thoughts? Or is it on other people and/or media most of the day? If it’s the first, congratulations! Enjoy! If it’s the second, see what it feels like a few times a day to put down the phone, turn off the TV/computer, or create some alone time so that you can put the focus on yourself. Tune in to how your body feels in your clothes, in the space you are in. What ideas and feelings come into focus? Focus on them to see what else you can learn about yourself.
- Love your focus — Whatever you are focused on, try loving it. Really. Even if it’s the news — what does it feel like to love everything you are focused on? What I have learned is that when I try this, I quickly learn to focus on things that I love. Otherwise, it’s too difficult a task to love what I’m focused on. And I’m so lazy. I like easier tasks. I love that about myself.
- Relax your focus — We all have (and need to have) times in our days in which we are basically focused on everything at once — or nothing at all. These times are crucial to creativity, connection with others, and shifting gears between tasks. Allow and cultivate these times, but beware the pull to focus narrowly on something during them. Let them be playtime for your mind. Trust that if you let yourself have 20 minutes of free-focus playtime for every 2 hours of focus, you will thrive as a whole human, and accomplish more than anyone expects you to. That’s a beautiful kind of freedom.
Please let me know if you have other tips about how to use your focus to reveal yourself, love yourself, and bring yourself out into the world. And here’s to focus…on who we really are, and what we can really do!
NOTE: While researching and writing this blog post, I kept focused on what I wanted to say via the scientifically designed and relaxing Focus Spa channel, one of many diverse focusing channels created by Focus@Will labs.
About Julia Mossbridge:
I am a parent of a 17-year old composer and a partner to a wonderful human being. I study the science of consciousness, and I give talks about work engagement, authenticity, and aliveness. I am working on changing the culture of Silicon Valley to move it toward a greater appreciation of the gifts of being human (watch a video of me giving an hour-long talk on this topic, and also see this media coverage in PC Mag). I am the author of Unfolding: The Science of Your Soul’s Work, The Garden: An Inside Experiment, and I co-authored a textbook with Imants Baruss, Transcendent Mind: Re-thinking the Science of Consciousness, published in August 2016 by the American Psychological Association. I am also the Science Director at Focus@Will Labs, Director of the Innovation Lab and a Staff Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and a Visiting Scholar in Psychology at Northwestern University.
Daly, M. (1985). Beyond God the father: Toward a philosophy of women’s liberation. Beacon Press.
Hooks, B. (2000). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics. Pluto Press.