Let’s talk about attention today, shall we? Our main question is the importance to train attention. We will discuss how to do it by means of mindfulness meditation.
Have you noticed that many of the job openings advertise the necessity to be good at multitasking? It has been going on for years and many of us think that it is a skill worth developing. It cannot be far from the truth – multitasking is harmful to our brain and it results in attention deficit disorder.
On top of that, we constantly feel that we lack the time and when we finally get our few hours of ‘me time’, we may fixate on doing things that actually do not matter so much to us. This ‘busyness’ and constant pre-occupation negatively affect our ability to focus and sustain attention.
Something opposite to a development happens afterwards. We are not able to work productively, it becomes more difficult to get things done, and what’s more, we stop taking pleasure from what we are doing.
Untrained attention becomes a cause of many modern diseases
We stop paying attention to our physical health, what we’re eating and how we are consuming food. As a result, we are getting sicker.
We are not attentive to our mental health and we let stress rule our world. As a result, our anxiety levels are rising.
We do not pay attention to our relationships. As a result, partnerships break up and our world is as single as ever.
We all could be more attentive to our inner values and meaning of our lives. We could live happier simply knowing we are creating a better life for all.
Finally, we could definitely pay attention to wider society and all sentient beings – our world needs better environmental protection and we should care much better for animal welfare.
The very concept of attention
Attention re-establishes and strengthens the connection. Connection leads to greater regulation, which leads to a state of dynamic order. It is a signature of ease, of well-being, of health (as opposed to disease). For this to take place, attention has to be nourished and maintained by intention.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a serious dis-regulation in the process of attention. We can also see more often people developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Learning how to train and refine our ability to pay attention and to sustain attention may be a lifeline back to what is most meaningful in our lives (taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn “Meditation is not what you think”).
Another great work on attention was carried out by Alan Wallace PhD, who wrote a book called ‘The Attention Revolution’. He said: ‘Investigation into the nature of the mind is meditation and truly effective meditation is impossible without focused attention. The untrained mind oscillates between agitation and dullness, between restlessness and boredom. When we train attention, it has a profound impact on the character and ethical behaviour. Purification of the mind requires training in 3 things: ethics, attention and contemplative insight’.
Meditation to train attention
We can see that attention and meditation go hand in hand. If you’ve tried our concentration meditation on breathing instructions, it was very difficult to sustain attention whilst counting your breaths. Yet it trains your mind and with time it re-learns how to pay attention. Attention allows us to develop meditation practice too. After we are comfortable with meditation practice for beginners, we can start developing vipassana meditation (insight meditation), which may bring us contemplative insights indeed. You can use elements of insight meditation to help with anxiety, depression and PTSD (you can find our tailored meditation programs on the Courses page).
On a physical level, studies have also confirmed that amygdala shows dampened activity after just 30 hours of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction practice. It can be as substantial as 50% down from baseline. It means that lessening of the brain’s stress reactions will eventually result in an improved ability to regulate attention (taken from “The Science of Meditation” by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson).
A complex system of attention and our ego
Our health, both physical, mental and emotional, is quite a complex system.
What happens when we start paying close attention to something or someone is that our own sense of self just vanishes. No fixation on it anymore. This letting go of your ego is very beneficial for your mental health.
This state of awareness, when we are able to pay attention, help us to cultivate curiosity, reflection, honesty and open-mindedness in our life views.
We at Ahimsa Meditation are convinced that this interconnectedness of mental health and meditation benefits, plant-based nutrition and nonviolence serve us a lot of good when we are attentive to ourselves, but also to our relationships and all sentient beings. This ability to pay attention can energize our ethical action, so we are inclined to act for the benefit of all interconnected lives.
Start developing and training your attention with our meditation for beginners
We invite everyone to start your meditation practice and gradually train attention and cultivate your mind. Meditation for kids is another gentle exercise every parent can add to their child routine. Increased attention will make everyone’s life more colourful, full of more harmonious relationships and joy.