BASICS 2 – ATTENTION

Let’s do another exercise. Remember we aren’t formally into meditation yet. We are still getting to know the building blocks. This is also something you are familiar with: Your attention. “Pay attention” is the most basic and fundamental meditation instruction. Here we will try to gain an experiential understanding of how attention works.

1 – Sit down comfortably and close your eyes.

2 – Direct your attention to your right hand and allow it to be felt (See Basics-1 for more). If you don’t feel anything immediately, wait for some time while directing your attention to your hand.

3 – Notice whatever sensations there may be, such as touching, heat, cold, tingling, pulsing, pressure, lightness etc. You don’t have to name them. Just notice them and stay with them. Rest your attention there for 4-5 breaths.

4- Now direct your attention to your left foot in the same way. Again, stay there for 4-5 breaths and allow the sensations to be felt. 

5- Go back to your hand and repeat this process a few times or more by moving your attention back and forth between your hand and foot .

As you do this investigate the process of paying attention to an object. Like we said above, the goal is to gain experiential understanding. So it is something you have to see for yourself.

First of all, notice what it means to move your attention. Do the exercise until you familiarize yourself with what it is that you are moving and how you are moving it. Notice what “muscles” in your brain you are flexing in order to move your attention from one object to the other. This is important and may take some time and practice.

Secondly, notice the effortlessness of the feeling of the sensations. Notice what it means to “rest” your attention on an object without “doing” anything. And notice the way one object fades from your consciousness and another one appears as you change the focus of your attention.

Finally, notice how your attention doesn’t want to stay on one object and tends to pull away. That brings us to the topic of concentration and we will talk about it in the next posts.

For now here is some more we can do with this exercise. Playing around with these things with an attitude of curiosity is extremely helpful. So here are some interesting questions you can try to answer:

-Can you feel both your hand and your foot at the same time?
-Can you feel your fingers separately one by one?
-How about segments of fingers?
-How much smaller can you go?

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