Coming to Attention

Notice sometime when you are engaged in an activity that holds your attention. How you don’t have to try so hard to concentrate, it just happens. Spontaneous focus, effortless attention. Recognize what that feels like.

Then play with purposely focusing your attention while doing simple everyday things that are not so inherently interesting. Recalling the sense of ease you experienced when the focus happened spontaneously on its own.

Notice when you get distracted, and shift your mind back. No big deal. You might have to do it over and over again. Rather than fighting your mind, play with it. Keep coming back to what you are doing. Sharpening your mind with the focus, and letting your mind rest in attention.

Not to block out all of your thoughts, or that thinking or contemplation isn’t ever useful. Yet slowing down the momentum of your compulsive habitual thoughts and developing the capacity to pay attention at will. Not only when attention arises organically, whenever you want it, or need it.

By practicing this in less charged situations you give yourself experience so that when you find yourself in more difficult scenarios where you need to stay aware and important moments when you want to be present, you have developed an increased ability to do so by choice.

Why Meditate? One practical application…

In both Yogic and Buddhist meditation practices, to my understanding, the progression is from concentration to meditation.  The action is focusing your mind, and the result is meditation – sustained attention and awareness without, or at least with less, effort.

First you continuously bring your mind back to whatever the focus point is, often the breath, or a point in the body, or sensations in the body, or the sound, or even the silence – whatever you are “mediating,” or perhaps concentrating, on.  The focus point helps anchor your mind and keep it from wandering.  After awhile the concentration starts to sustain itself and you are just aware, both of the focus point as well as everything else, without blocking anything or being distracted by any of it.  Noticing.

Any potential distraction is not problematic in itself, it is just a part of what’s happening.  When you realize you have followed the thought or sound or whatever away from being present in the moment, or, when you notice you are caught up in the discursive thought of your mind telling you what is happening and keeping you from directly experiencing it, shift your mind back to the focus point.  You don’t have to block anything, just shift your mind back.  Over and over again.  Not that your mind can’t ever wander.  Just cultivating the ability to maintain concentration, to sustain awareness, so you can when you want or need to.

Then, when you are not “meditating” and just existing in realtime, you are potentially more likely to notice when you are distracted and be able to bring yourself back.  And each time you bring yourself back it gets easier and easier to do.  When we are conscious and directly experiencing life, we are more likely to be able to deal with whatever comes up as skillfully as possible.  And even when we aren’t able to deal with things all that well, we can watch ourselves fumble along and learn as we go.  Noticing.

Constantly evolving.