ardacigin

Why Concentration is Not Enough? - Attention & Awareness Dynamic Explained

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Posted (edited)

 Why Concentration is Not Enough? - Attention & Awareness Dynamic Explained

We all have the experience of focusing on a task singularly and very intensely. From common meditation wisdom, you might think developing an exclusive state of intense concentration is what meditation is ultimately all about.

However, this is only a part of the picture. For all beginner meditators, mindfulness and awareness collapses instantly if you narrow down attention strongly and forcefully. 

This is one of the fundamental reasons why you still experience distractions and sleepiness while trying to be more mindful. Even after years of meditation.

Let me explain:

Paying attention to an object without greater peripheral awareness is how we normally live our lives. Even without mindfulness, we’re always paying attention to something.

But with mindfulness, we pay attention to the right things, and in a more skillful way.This is because being mindful actually means that you’re more fully conscious and alert than usual. 

As a result, our peripheral awareness is much stronger, and our attention is used with unprecedented precision and objectivity. 

Mindfulness is the skillful interaction of attention and awareness.  

Attention analyzes our experience, and awareness provides the overall context and background.      

When one or the other doesn’t do its job, or when there isn’t enough interaction between the two, then we respond to situations less effectively. We may overreact, make poor decisions, or misinterpret what’s really going on.

Awareness provides the context and the background of events and experiences. It is open,   inclusive, and holistic. It’s concerned with the relationships of objects to each other, and to the whole.

Why aren’t we naturally more mindful?

 Why does mindfulness have to be cultivated?

There are two main reasons.

1- Most of us have never really learned to use awareness effectively.

2- We don’t have enough conscious power to sustain mindfulness, especially at the times when we need it most.,

The result of this is something I like to call Awareness Deficit Disorder: chronic use of attention until awareness fully collapses.

For instance, do you experience the moving sensations on your left foot’s toe while watching Inception?

An advanced meditator can experience the body fully while also wholeheartedly engaging in the movie.Body awareness is only the first step. They can watch the movie intensely and also simultaneously examine their minds, habits and mental reactions.

As a beginner meditator, you are singularly focused on watching Inception, - which is a fantastic movie - trying to follow the sequences of events.But awareness is fully collapsed. You are not aware of the body sensations as much.

Final Advice:

The most deceptive beginner mistake while trying to balance attention and awareness is to quickly re-direct attention back and forth between the breath sensations and the body (or distractions of all forms).

This technique is called intentional attentional movement.It can be used effectively in adept stages of meditation.

However, at its currently applied form, it is not helping you to develop greater levels of awareness and mindfulness.

The Solution: You need to maintain the stability of attention first and while the attention rests on the breath, now you start to experience the entire body and mind with awareness. This is how you develop mindfulness.

You need to keep these two modalities of experience in metacognitive awareness.

Keep meditating with this in mind and you'll get to know your mind at deeper and deeper levels with diligent practice.

Much love,

Arda

 

Edited by ardacigin

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@ardacigin

12 hours ago, ardacigin said:

 Why Concentration is Not Enough? - Attention & Awareness Dynamic Explained

We all have the experience of focusing on a task singularly and very intensely. From common meditation wisdom, you might think developing an exclusive state of intense concentration is what meditation is ultimately all about.

However, this is only a part of the picture. For all beginner meditators, mindfulness and awareness collapses instantly if you narrow down attention strongly and forcefully. 

This is one of the fundamental reasons why you still experience distractions and sleepiness while trying to be more mindful. Even after years of meditation.

Let me explain:

Paying attention to an object without greater peripheral awareness is how we normally live our lives. Even without mindfulness, we’re always paying attention to something.

But with mindfulness, we pay attention to the right things, and in a more skillful way.This is because being mindful actually means that you’re more fully conscious and alert than usual. 

As a result, our peripheral awareness is much stronger, and our attention is used with unprecedented precision and objectivity. 

Mindfulness is the skillful interaction of attention and awareness.  

Attention analyzes our experience, and awareness provides the overall context and background.      

When one or the other doesn’t do its job, or when there isn’t enough interaction between the two, then we respond to situations less effectively. We may overreact, make poor decisions, or misinterpret what’s really going on.

Awareness provides the context and the background of events and experiences. It is open,   inclusive, and holistic. It’s concerned with the relationships of objects to each other, and to the whole.

Why aren’t we naturally more mindful?

 Why does mindfulness have to be cultivated?

There are two main reasons.

1- Most of us have never really learned to use awareness effectively.

2- We don’t have enough conscious power to sustain mindfulness, especially at the times when we need it most.,

The result of this is something I like to call Awareness Deficit Disorder: chronic use of attention until awareness fully collapses.

For instance, do you experience the moving sensations on your left foot’s toe while watching Inception?

An advanced meditator can experience the body fully while also wholeheartedly engaging in the movie.Body awareness is only the first step. They can watch the movie intensely and also simultaneously examine their minds, habits and mental reactions.

As a beginner meditator, you are singularly focused on watching Inception, - which is a fantastic movie - trying to follow the sequences of events.But awareness is fully collapsed. You are not aware of the body sensations as much.

Final Advice:

The most deceptive beginner mistake while trying to balance attention and awareness is to quickly re-direct attention back and forth between the breath sensations and the body (or distractions of all forms).

This technique is called intentional attentional movement.It can be used effectively in adept stages of meditation.

However, at its currently applied form, it is not helping you to develop greater levels of awareness and mindfulness.

The Solution: You need to maintain the stability of attention first and while the attention rests on the breath, now you start to experience the entire body and mind with awareness. This is how you develop mindfulness.

You need to keep these two modalities of experience in metacognitive awareness.

Keep meditating with this in mind and you'll get to know your mind at deeper and deeper levels with diligent practice.

Much love,

Arda

 

   Great post. I've noticed in me similar experiences when I had done informal mindfulness practices like mindful eating or mindful walking, sometimes if I do it long enough, I get bored and sleepy. I have some questions about this and some parts if your post for further clarity for me:

   Is the object of focus limited to the breath first?

   Do thoughts and sensations also play a role in the awareness and attention dynamic?

   Is the international attentional movement similar in what Shinzen Young described when dealing with pain/irritation points in the body, switching from the location to the entire body?

   What about attention deficit disorder, if I have this firet before awareness deficit disorder? Is there a solution to this? Does the order not matter? Is there a solution to this?

   Is attention the same as analysis? Could you please elaborate on this, as for most of my life I've thought that analysis and attention are more different, that analysis is more closer to logic than attention.

   What is your solution to raising conscious power in order to sustain both attention and awareness dynamic during the day? Is this limited to times when you are more alert?

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Some good distinctions here.


You are God. You are Love. You are Infinity. You are Leo.

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Great insights!

I would add concentration can never be enough because it already is enough. 


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Posted (edited)

@ardacigin Interesting post. I can have attention on something but it's narrow and I don't have awareness of other things. Your watching the movie Inception example. 

16 hours ago, ardacigin said:

Final Advice:

The most deceptive beginner mistake while trying to balance attention and awareness is to quickly re-direct attention back and forth between the breath sensations and the body (or distractions of all forms).

This technique is called intentional attentional movement.It can be used effectively in adept stages of meditation.

However, at its currently applied form, it is not helping you to develop greater levels of awareness and mindfulness.

The Solution: You need to maintain the stability of attention first and while the attention rests on the breath, now you start to experience the entire body and mind with awareness. This is how you develop mindfulness.

You need to keep these two modalities of experience in metacognitive awareness.

Keep meditating with this in mind and you'll get to know your mind at deeper and deeper levels with diligent practice.

Much love,

Arda

Not sure I myself grasp what is attention as opposed to awareness, but I can try to get something from this anyway.

As a solution to this "Awareness Deficit Disorder", are you saying that working on attention and having a stable attention will naturally lead to awareness? 
I'm not trying to push you into an uncomfortable framing. Respond or answer me how you wish. 

Edited by lmfao

Hark ye yet again — the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough

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Posted (edited)

@ardacigin What you describe in full is actually just "concentration(stillness)/Samatha done right." Even this is not enough for awakening -- you need to use the power of the stilled mind to play with the lens you're necessarily viewing experience through, essentially. Some options:

1. Observe/objectify objects of dualistic experience until they fade, thousands of times. Viewing them as either impermanent, unsatisfactory, not-me/mine/self, or empty of existence outside the mind's construction -- watch closely, many times, how deliberately simplifying your lens to one of these "insight-lenses" more tends to fade experience, while using them less tends to build experience.

2. Maintain extremely open awareness by practicing merging attention and awareness together.

3. Self inquiry

4. Noting

5. Witnessing -- the technical description of which is basically just "find the place beyond movement and place attention on it, so that attention collapses back in on itself, and the actual focus of attention becomes: watching from a detached perspective," which gets attention out of the way so that metacognitive awareness predominates.

 

I'll add... In the early stages, a great formula for getting the ball rolling with concentration/Samatha is: Unless you can remain attentive to the breath sensations indefinitely, your main focused intent should be cultivating the readiness to emit appreciative joy upon noticing you're distracted from the breath sensations. Then gently and firmly return to the breath sensations (the only physical sensations you should ever deliberately intend to focus on, in the early stages). This creates positive feedback loop through repeated positive reinforcement, and eventually the mind will "notice distraction the instant it occurs" (i.e. introspective awareness is constant; distraction does not occur) -- though it may take some time during a session to get to that point. Sets the foundation for later skilled practices like Jhana; Witnessing; etc.

Edited by The0Self

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Posted (edited)

6 hours ago, Danioover9000 said:

Is the object of focus limited to the breath first?

This is your formal technique. See, attention can move around in daily life. When you are watching Inception, attention should be fully focused on the sequences of events but awareness should be fully open, holistic and deep with body and mind.

6 hours ago, Danioover9000 said:

Do thoughts and sensations also play a role in the awareness and attention dynamic?

Yeah! Awareness can take care of them and increase tranquility and equanimity while attention is on an object.

6 hours ago, Danioover9000 said:

Is the international attentional movement similar in what Shinzen Young described when dealing with pain/irritation points in the body, switching from the location to the entire body?

Yeah but this dynamic is keeping attention on the object AND THEN spreads the whole body awareness at the same time. It requires more conscious power and mindfulness to do it. You don't switch from pain to whole body etc. Switching implies attentional movement which is not what I'm advocating for beginners.

 

6 hours ago, Danioover9000 said:

What about attention deficit disorder, if I have this firet before awareness deficit disorder? Is there a solution to this? Does the order not matter? Is there a solution to this?

Awareness deficit disorder (the exact way I describe it) is 100x deeper and challenging issue to deal with. This is how every non-meditator spends their life in. Once you develop stronger awareness and attention dynamic in meditation, it will permeate your entire life.

Attention deficit disorder is also similar in the sense that stronger introspective awareness cues you into the fact that boredom arises or distractions appear. This makes it easier to form intentions to keep doing the homework etc. It is a deeply integrated feedback loop.

That is why both are needed and so essential to understand the dynamic interaction.

6 hours ago, Danioover9000 said:

 Is attention the same as analysis? Could you please elaborate on this, as for most of my life I've thought that analysis and attention are more different, that analysis is more closer to logic than attention.

Analysis is just an aspect of attention. Logic is also tied with attentional movements. But each are different.

 

6 hours ago, Danioover9000 said:

What is your solution to raising conscious power in order to sustain both attention and awareness dynamic during the day? Is this limited to times when you are more alert?

Your formal practice should facilitate this dynamic deeply. Once you rise out of the cushion, it will persist. Eventually, you start to live there.

But this will take a few years even if you are diligent :) Alertness and calmness is a result of your tranquility and equanimity skills which you also should be developing in meditation.

Tranquility is contentment and calmness. Equanimity is non-reactivity to pain and pleasure. Samatha vipassana techniques facilitate the growth of these skills with mindfulness.

Edited by ardacigin

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@ardacigin  A lot of great observations here! Thank you. I will try to put it into practice.


Release me.

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21 hours ago, lmfao said:

As a solution to this "Awareness Deficit Disorder", are you saying that working on attention and having a stable attention will naturally lead to awareness? 
I'm not trying to push you into an uncomfortable framing. Respond or answer me how you wish. 

Well, this is exactly the misconception I'm talking about. Just concentration and stable attention with strain and intensity will collapse awareness due to lack of conscious training and as a result distraction and sleepiness will arise.

After some level of access concentration is attained, back pedal on breath concentration a little bit and spread the body awareness, introspective and extrospective awareness while attention is still in touch mainly with the breath at the tip of the nose. Doing this will develop awareness efficiently and quickly.

Introspective awareness is awareness of thoughts, sensations and feelings. Extrospective is sounds, sights and touch. Both can be attended just with awareness while attention is observing the breath sensations.

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Posted (edited)

@ardacigin Thanks for the posts!! I usually just practice my concentration, so I'll see if this ever works or helps 

Edited by lmfao

Hark ye yet again — the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough

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On 5/1/2021 at 5:52 PM, The0Self said:

Unless you can remain attentive to the breath sensations indefinitely, your main focused intent should be cultivating the readiness to emit appreciative joy upon noticing you're distracted from the breath sensations. Then gently and firmly return to the breath sensations (the only physical sensations you should ever deliberately intend to focus on, in the early stages). This creates positive feedback loop through repeated positive reinforcement, and eventually the mind will "notice distraction the instant it occurs" (i.e. introspective awareness is constant; distraction does not occur) -- though it may take some time during a session to get to that point. Sets the foundation for later skilled practices like Jhana; Witnessing; etc.

Exactly! This is how I formulate it as well. That gentle and joyful direction of attention back to the meditation object is the key to progress in the beginning. Almost everyone I know develops tension and craving (aversion and desire) to this process and makes it a form of torture.

This is something the mind ascribes to this activity. The more you positively reinforce, the easier meditation will get for you. That is why I see a lot of value in conscious physical relaxation in sits and daily life. It informs the consciousness of new and more effective ways of interacting with the world and people.

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