“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.


  1. The reply below is to an earlier post “The Artist is Present” http://artandzentoday.com/?p=1147 Because of the number of spam comments received, I retricted replies only to posts that are less than 24 days old.

    “The artists is present” documentary is one of the most impressive that I’ve seen in the cinema this year. Abramovic’s project is pure zen, only she doesn’t call it this way. She seems not to need any labels, just immersing in pure experience. I do find similar attempts of showing something which is quite impossible to show in works of Roman Opalka (Opalka 1965 /1 – ∞), John Cage (4’33”) or On Kawara (Today) just to mention a few. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

  2. I like how Manoj is asking us to “stay open” and I encourage you to follow his suggestions and experiment with your own awareness. If you’re don’t know it by now, I am a huge proponent of experimenting with your meditation practice. It will not only help you to be a better meditator, it’ll be more fun!
    If you do practice and experiment with your meditation you will develop the ability to shift between types of attention often referred to in Buddhist texts as janas, or levels of samadhi.
    As you develop the ability to focus your awareness in different ways, you’ll discover you have the ability to integrate with the world on a daily basis easier and more effectively, because you can choose the correct manner of being in each particular situation. As you master this you’ll “flow” (ha!) from one situation to another effortlessly, freely, and correctly.
    When I started riding performance-oriented motorcycles at age 55 it was my skill at being able to change my focus quickly that allowed me to ride with much younger riders who were physically stronger and quicker than I was. I had the mental edge and they the physical.

    Working with your ability to focus is an activity that will keep you healthy, both physically and mentally. It is a challenge that our mind/body will benefit from resulting in the production of new cells and better cellular connections.

    Flowing, reframing, and focusing are each important tools to develop as we follow our spiritual path. Let’s encourage Manoj to continue to explore his own creative practices. We are all benefiting from his experiences.

  3. I remember shortly after I began practicing at VZC, Roshi and I discussed the ways awareness could be used in meditation. That next zazen period, I took my internal awareness and started turning my awareness outward while also keeping the awareness inward. I figured out that I had to take an eraser to the edge of my body and allow inside and outside to be the same. With that realization, I expanded my consciousness to as far as my senses could reach. There was no difference between the sound of my breath, the scent of the incense, and the truck that was starting 2 streets across from the zendo. It was all happening simultaneously. I felt a like wicker sphere. Having a solid, but permeable boundary that contained exactly the same things inside as outside.

    It was a couple of years later that Roshi began discussing Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, “My Stroke of Insight”. The experiences that Jill lived and we discussed sounded an awful lot like the experiences of consciousness that I had been experimenting with.

    One of the great practical benefits that I’ve seen in my life is a decrease in the attachment to “self” and an increase in compassion. Since the boundaries that separate us are largely illusory, that means that your pain is my pain, and your joy is my joy.