Stable attention

 

Inviting attention to stabilize is a potato among practices. It can be used for almost anything.

A more stable attention helps with other practices such as prayer, shikantaza/choiceless awareness, inquiry, self-inquiry, yoga, and service in the world.

And a more stable attention helps us with just about anything in daily life.

Already now, there is research on some of the effects of a more stable attention.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if that is not going to be a growing field of research in the future. Especially since a more stable attention can be invited in through very simple practices that just about anyone can do independent of age, religious background, education and so on. And since it – most likely – can support just about any aspect of our lives, and can be combined with just about any other tools and approaches.

For instance, what are the effects of a more stable attention on well-being, physical and mental health, learning, work life, adhd, athletic performance, addiction prevention and interventions, self-regulation, anger management, sleep problems, anxiety, relationships, experience of physical symptoms, and so on. The list is endless.

Maybe more importantly, what is the effect of a more stable attention on these things when it is combined with other – often more traditional – tools and approaches?

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Even in itself, it provides fertile ground for investigation and noticing. I notice how easy attention gets distracted. I may notice how attention really gets distracted by a story, when that story is taken as true, even when it may appear to be distracted by something else. I may notice how images – imagined boundaries – is what guides attention to, for instance, the sensations of the breath at the nostrils. I get to notice the shifts into alertness and relaxation combined, and what happens there. Through noticing how attention is guided by imagined boundaries, I may notice how my whole world is made up of those imagined boundaries, and what happens when they are taken as substantial and real, and what happens when they are recognized as imagined boundaries and imagined labels for each one. I may notice that the apparent doer and observer of the breath and the practice is content of experience, just as any other content of experience. And I may notice how the doer and observer are made up of pure perception (sensations mostly) and images, just as any other apparent objects in my world.

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outline…

  • stable attention
    • bringing attention to breath (or any other object)
      • alert and relaxed
      • notice when strays, gently bring back
      • part of most spiritual traditions/core practices (support prayer, meditation, contemplation, inquiry, body-centered practice etc.)
    • useful in inquiry & daily life
      • stable attention, a tool – useful in any area of life & inquiry/self-inquiry
      • lots of applications + research opportunities
      • adhd, school/studies, work, athletes, well being, sense of control, addictions, sleep problems, anger management, any other area of life (one of many tools, in combination)

Finding a more stable attention is part of all the main spiritual traditions, either as a separate practice such as bringing attention to the breath, or included in other practices such as prayer or yoga.

And that is no surprise since it supports just about any other practice and activity. (Except fragmented attention and distraction.)

It supports prayer, allowing experience, contemplation, inquiry, body-inclusive practices and service in the world.

It supports any daily activity, including work and learning.

It supports relationships.

And it supports a sense of clarity, focus, well-being, energy, direction and more.

In just about anything we do, it can be a support used in combination with other tools and approaches.

There is already research on the effects of a more stable attention, and I wouldn’t be surprised if research on it won’t flourish in the coming decades.

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