“The reader can experiment with developing a more inclusive attentional orientation even while continuing to be engaged in the act of reading. Is it possible for you now to permit your various somatic sensations to be also present in your awareness while you read? That is, can you imagine yourself reading and also simultaneously experiencing the volume of your whole body? Perhaps you will need to pause for a moment to allow your body feelings to emerge in your field of attention. Can you imagine, however, that you can proceed with reading and simultaneously attend to these body feelings? Can you imagine that when you feel a sense of effortlessness about reading with your whole body that you can then gradually expand your attention to include any thoughts, emotions, peripheral visual experiences, tastes, smells and sounds which may be simultaneously occurring as you read? Can you image that you need not scan in an effortful or sequential fashion among your various experiences in order to attend to them ? Is it possible for you, while allowing your attentional field to broaden to include simultaneously occurring experiences, that you can attend equally or without any particular bias to the various experiences surrounding the act of reading?” That is, can
you permit your attention to be equally and simultaneously spread out among body feelings, thoughts, emotions, sounds, etc., while you continue to read further? The material in quotes above, was taken from an article titled “Open Focus: The Attentional Foundation of Health and Well-Being” by Lester Fehmi and George Fritz? What you are reading at this point is not actually from the article but you can continue allowing yourself to simultaneously attend to the meaning being conveyed in this article as well as whatever else is going on internally and externally. It may have crossed your mind that you are multi-tasking, but I am wondering whether that is really true. I have read that the mind can only focus on one thing at a time. When we are asked to focus attention simultaneously on what we are reading and what we are sensing, are we really doing that? Or, is the mind shifting back and forth between various object so quickly that it just seems simultaneous? If you have been able to experience an Open Focus as you read this, what is your perception of what is happening to you? As you think about that, try to focus as well on any bodily feelings, sensations and emotions. If you have practiced meditation, do you think that that has affected how you carry on the task you are being asked to do here? If so, how? Have you found yourself holding this opened focus orientation in other situations in your life? Are there situations where you think doing so would be useful? Fehmi and Fritz do not talk about spiritual practice and personal transformation, but I’m guessing that such practices facilitate what the authors call “Open Focus modes of attention attention”. This fits with what James Olsen says in
his book The Whole-Brain Path to Peace as well as with the emphasis in the Zen literature on integrating Absolute and Relative modes of consciousness. Are you still aware of your internal signals as you read and think about all of this? I know that after I read stuff like this, certain parts of my body are tense. It might be a tightness in my jaw, the top of my head , my shoulders or my legs. Sometimes it is felt in my stomach. Generally, when I read I’m caught up in thoughts of the past (how does what the author says relate to my past experiences?) or thoughts of the future (how can I use this information in my life?). In other words, in this narrow focued mode, I’m not fully present. (Are you, right now, feeling whatever somatic sensations are present?) (Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we read, had these little reminders interspersed throughout the text?) Lately I have noticed that I have become better able to sense any tension in my body as I am reading. I am hopeful that ,if this continues to happen, I will be able to relax those area of tension more quickly. I attribute this change to practicing Zazen, where over and over again, I catch myself moving out of the present moment and bring my attention back to internal
and sensory sensations. Zazen and similar meditative methods are primarily techniques for “remembering to remember“.
Since this is an experiential post, it would be useful for readers to hear from others about their experiences. Please consider leaving a comment telling us how this exercise went for you (and while you write your comments, remember to ” permit your attention to be equally and simultaneously spread out among body feelings, thoughts, emotions, sounds, etc.). STAY OPEN!
To leave a comment, click on the white bubble at the right of the title. To make an anonymous comment, write “anonymous” when prompted for a name. You can also send comments to me directly.