Differentiating between awareness and attention as a body experience

Front Page Forums Meditation Differentiating between awareness and attention as a body experience

This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Bernadette 3 months, 1 week ago.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #2539

    Bernadette
    Member

    Hello,

    Is it true to say that introspective awareness includes the sensations of anything i perceive from outside and inside me at the same time? Is my purpose to be splitting my attention between my breath primarily and all other sensations secondarily and at the same time maintaining awareness that that is exactly what I am doing?

    I have been sitting regularly for two years but using TMI only for the past 3 or so months. Something good is definitely happening going by my daily experiences off the cushion but i have no idea when im in the right space or not once I turn my attention/ awareness inwards.

    Comments welcomed. Bernadette

    #2540

    Becky C
    Member

    Bernadette,

    “Is it true to say that introspective awareness includes the sensations of anything i perceive from outside and inside me at the same time?”
    I believe introspective awareness is stuff inside us and extrospective outside, external (sights sounds smells)

    Is my purpose to be splitting my attention between my breath primarily and all other sensations secondarily and at the same time maintaining awareness that that is exactly what I am doing”
    I believe in the beginning this is so.

    I have been sitting regularly for two years but using TMI only for the past 3 or so months. Something good is definitely happening going by my daily experiences off the cushion but i have no idea when im in the right space or not once I turn my attention/ awareness inwards.” i am having the same off cushion experience if quality if life improving and i dont know the termanology!

    Wishing you good fortune!

    #2541

    Frederic
    Member

    Hi,

    Introspective awareness includes thoughts, feelings, etc. This faculty allows you to catch distractions so you won’t forget to follow the breath. You can see it as “the background”. You’re not supposed to split your attention (“the foreground”) between the breath and other sensations, as they are different faculties. Introspective attention, on the other hand, is used while checking-in, to develop this introspective awareness. You can read more about it in the stage 3 and 4 chapters or to get a better feel for the difference between attention and awareness here.

    Basically, you try to keep the sensations of the breath at the center of your attention without shutting out anything at all. More than “concentration”, you want stability of attention whatever happens.

    Let me know if this was helpful or if you need more clarifications.

    I wish you well,
    Frédéric

    #2542

    Ted Lemon
    Member

    To expand briefly on what Frédéric just said, one thing you should be aware of is that having a clear experience of the distinction between something that is “in awareness” and something that is a subtle distraction is something that doesn’t happen early in the process. You get glimpses of it when stage four practice is close to the stage four goals, but more so in stages five and six.

    So there’s not much point in worrying about getting a clear understanding sooner than that. So although as Frédéric, you should not be “splitting your attention” between foreground and background objects, as long as the breath feels like it’s in the foreground and the other stuff feels like it’s in the background, it’s fine.

    Mechanically, the way this works is that things appear in awareness, and once they have appeared in awareness, they become candidates to appear in attention. If they appear in attention, they can appear as subtle distractions, and those can turn into gross distractions. What you will discover as you work in stage four, if you haven’t already discovered it, is that subtle distractions are stickier than things in awareness. But aside from that, it’s hard to see the difference clearly, and until you can, there’s not much point in worrying about it. Learning to notice the stickiness will help you to avoid having subtle distractions turn into gross distractions, of course.

    #2548

    Bernadette
    Member

    I am unsure of how to reply to separate individuals comments to my post. Would you kindly let me know how to reply to for example, Frederic’s comment only first and then Ted’s?

    Hi Frederic,

    Thank you for your answer. The following part of your answer made sense to me and the rest fell, sadly, on an inexperienced mind.
    “Basically, you try to keep the sensations of the breath at the center of your attention without shutting out anything at all. More than “concentration”, you want stability of attention whatever happens.”

    Here are my questions as a result of considering the (immediately) above words of yours along with my experience on the cushion this morning.

    When I am on the cushion I can stay focused with attention on the breath but when I move, inwardly, off the the breath to expand my field of attention into awareness that movement gets mixed up, sensation wise, with a movement to follow a distraction.

    Am I misnaming what is actually going on? Straight feedback on this point is most appreciated. I am a hardy soul.

    Is the inward perception of awareness and attention on the breath an expanding (for awareness) and contracting (for attention) experience and therefore an experience of sequential states? Should I be feeling a movement introspectively to perceive the change from one state to another?

    Thank you for your kind attention to these questions.
    Bernadette

    #2549

    Frederic
    Member

    Hi,

    Awareness is more like the field, the background where everything you’re, well, aware of is happening. Attention is that part of the field that is more vivid, with more details.

    One usual habit when trying to keep focus on something is to try to ignore everything else. That’s because we tend to get distracted by many things: sounds, toughts, feelings… Distractions that are in awareness. That’s normal and that’s okay. Your goal here isn’t to keep a tight focus on the breath, you can’t do it. The goal is to set an intention to follow the breath and when you get distracted and you notice it (the “aha” moment), to gently bring back your attention on the breath sensations, enjoying that moment of “waking up”.

    Over time, you’ll get less and less distracted because you’re training the mind to stay on the breath. It’s a bit like training a puppy to sit: you say “sit!”, and either you help it to sit, or you give some treat when it sits, or you bring it back when it starts to move around. (I hope it’s clear, my experience with puppies is very limited).

    Inwardly, attention and awareness aren’t an experience of sequential states, they go together but can contract or expand.

    This thread with an answer from Culadasa may help.

    Come back if you have more questions!

    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by  Frederic.
    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by  Frederic.
    #2554

    Lesley Baker
    Member

    Hi Bernadette Differentiating between awareness and attention feels obscure when you first start to watch whether your mind is using one method of knowing or another, because we are so used to automatically using them and flipping from one to another. I found it really useful when I first started to practice to correlate attention/awareness with aspects of vision. I might be watching a butterfly moving around a bush and only loosely aware of the colours, shapes, plants, scents, warmth etc around me. ‘I’m’ watching the butterfly and noticing how it moves, what it is doing etc. This focus on the butterfly equates to my attention of the sensations of the breath. The haze of almost indistinquihable sensations in the background of the rest of the plant and the garden are in my awareness, but I know they are there. If my gaze flits even for a second to a rustling leaf, a sound in the background etc, my focus/attention has shifted. ‘I’m’ now noticing the sound. Wherever the notion of ‘I’m’ doing, knowing, feeling, seeing something is, that’s where my attention is. The sound started to pull on my attention, as Ted said – it get’s sticky or magnetic to my attention. This attraction starts to pull my attention away from the butterfly/breath sensations. It continues until either it succeeds (now the centre of my attention), or ‘I’ notice and redirect my atention back and reinforce it with praise for responding and fresh intentions to continue to notice this movements of mind. Attention cannot be split but it can move quicly from one object to another. This object might be singular and small or larger and more complex, but only one object at a time. Everything else is in awareness. This awareness includes external and internal sensations and mental objects such as thoughts, memories, imaginationation, feelings, emotions. In meditation, the internal sensations begin to stand out more. Some have a really magnetic pull 🙂 With consistent practice of noticing how objects in the background have taken your attention, you firstly notice attention has gone, then you notice attention is tempted but it is only alternation between the two, then you notice attention might want to be tempted and then one day you notice that nothing has actually become clear in the background, but you have noticed the mind being gently pulled without leaving its attention on the breath sensations, then the attention can rest quietly and in that quietness, awareness can develop further.

    #2693

    Bernadette
    Member

    Thank you for this to all. I am processing your answers.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.