Dear Integral Meditators,
In this weeks article I outline four ways of paying attention that, if you get really good at will render you largely impervious to intimidation from any of the current challenges in your life. Enjoy!
In the spirit of attention,
Simple, or aware, or positive, or creative
What are we fundamentally trying to do with our attention in mindfulness practice? One way of thinking about this question is to divide our daily attention into four ‘types’ Under each type listed below I detail an introduction to what it is and how to go about cultivating it. In each section there is also a link to a full article on each topic.
Simple – This type of mindful attention involves making our attention simple, grounded, uncomplicated by directing it toward our body and senses. You can take any of your senses, your breathing or feelings within your body as your object of attention here. By keeping your attention anchored to your sensory experience, you make your mind simpler, stronger and more relaxed. Without deliberately making our mind simple every day it’s all too easy to live in a permanently complex, stressful, anxious and worried mental world, that feels intimidating and not much fun. Also, when you think less, you also tend to think better!
Aware – This second type of mindful attention seeks only to pay attention and be aware. It observes and notes what is happening in our mind with impartiality, not trying to change fix, judge or alter. There is a lot of basic inner stability that comes just from observing and being curious. There is a world of difference for example between ‘My life is a disaster’ and ‘how interesting that part of my mind should be thinking that my life is a disaster!’ Awareness gives us choice and flexibility of mind. It also makes it more likely that we will then go onto make better decisions based around what we have become aware of.
Positive – This third type of attention means deliberately paying attention to what good there is in our life, or a situation; what there is to appreciate, feel grateful for, or that is to our advantage. It seeks out reasons to feel happy, glad, optimistic, peaceful, enthusiastic, even if we seem to be surrounded by problems and challenges. Developing our daily skill at this type of attention value adds tremendously to our pleasure and wellbeing. It also increases the chances of us being more effective and energized in the face of problems.
Creative – Finally, the creative mode of attention is where we think and analyze in a focused way in order to find solutions to problems. It is completely different from ruminating, over-analyzing or negative worrying. It simply observes the presenting issue with curiosity (fear or anxiety may be present, but we do not allow them to dominate) and seeks to come up with creative ideas as to how a solution could be found, or a step forward can be taken. The creative mode of thinking is not focused exclusively on the positive. It seeks to know obstacles and problems objectively and realistically and seeks ways to find resolution. This way of paying attention is also creative in the face of non-problems. It seeks to innovate, improvise and enjoy whatever circumstances we find ourselves in!
A suggested practicum: For five minutes, focus on making your mind simple by focusing on your body and senses. Then spend five minutes letting your attention roam, and greeting whatever comes up with awareness, or positivity, or creativity. It can be whichever you prefer, but it must be one. You can repeat this cycle as many times as you like in any sitting. Get used to paying sustained mindful attention to your life in these four ways and notice what starts to change!
Related article: Two fundamental mindfulness and meditation questions
© Toby Ouvry 2018, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com
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