Focus, field and curiosity in meditation

 

In meditation, there are three dimensions I think of as field, focus, and curiosity.

Focus can be narrow or wide. Bringing attention to the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose narrow focus. Bringing attention to lines or colors of an image, or the shapes of letters, is also relatively narrow. Bringing attention to the sensations of the breath as a whole, or a contraction in the shoulders, is wider. Bringing attention to the space a sensation, image or word happens within and as is wider. In either case, it trains a more stable attention. And a more stable attention benefits just about any activity in our life.

Attention can also be brought to any content of awareness as awareness itself. And the whole field of awareness, with its content, as awareness. The latter is an even wider and more inclusive focus.

Curiosity is an inherent part of this exploration, at least if the exploration is held lightly, and comes from a natural interest in who and what we are, and how reality reveals itself to us.

We may notice…..

How training a more stable attention allows attention to naturally stabilize over time.

How attention is drawn to identifications, to beliefs, to velcro (sensations “stuck” on words and images.)

That any content of awareness – any sensation, word, image – is awareness, it’s “made up of” awareness.

That any content of awareness, and the whole field of experience as it is, is already allowed – by life, mind, awareness.

That what we are is really this field of awareness, as it is. And looking more closely, the capacity for awareness and its content.

That identification with ideas – a.k.a. beliefs, velcro – creates an appearance of being a small part of content of experience, an I with an Other.

And much more.

Traditionally, these three are spoken of as distinct practices. We train a more stable attention. (Samatha.) We notice the field of experience, that it already allows its content as it is, and that this is what we are. (Natural Rest, Shikantaza.) We find a natural curiosity for what’s there, and explore it intentionally. (Inquiry, self-inquiry.)

It makes sense to speak of them separately, and it makes sense to begin our exploration of each of these separately. And yet, the closer I look, the more I see that they are all woven in with each other. Explore one for any length of time and you’ll notice and find the other two.

Note: I was reminded of this when a friend of mine said “those are two very different practices” when I had spoken of focus and natural rest in the same sentence. Yes, they are distinct. And yes, they also blend into each other.

Focus can be explored within the context of natural rest. We can bring attention to a sensation, image or word, notice it’s already allowed, and rest with and as it. And this focus can be expanded to include the whole field of awareness – as awareness, already allowing its content.

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