Wednesday, November 17, 2010
According to brain scientists, "attention" is their holy grail. For years, scientists have been trying to discover what causes us to focus on one thing rather than another and why.
We've all heard of "attention deficit disorder" (ADD), a condition in which attention moves quickly from one thing to another. This is an impediment to learning, as the ability to pay attention to what we're reading or writing is a key academic skill.
When it comes to spirituality, attention also plays a key role. Being able to focus our attention on the sacred dimension of life is a critical spiritual practice. When our attention wanders, our soul meanders.
Attention is an important dimension of "mindfulness"-- being present in the here and now. Another way to understand mindfulness is "being fully present in the present moment." When we are mindful of what we are doing (or not doing) our spiritual connection is strengthened and deepened.
Another name for mindfulness is "flow," the ability to be fully engaged in what we are doing. I find that mindfulness/flow is fostered by "losing" myself in whatever I'm doing. That's where paying attention comes in. To focus our attention serves to keep us from being distracted or having what Buddhist's call a "monkey mind" that moves rapidly from one thought/feeling to another.
I don't believe it's possible to always stay in the present moment. But when I do, I am engaged, energized and, at the same time, calm and balanced.