I have just finished a course within the Certificate of Liberal Studies which was entitled ‘Innovative thinkers and Education
Within that course were asked to do 3 essays. I will present the essays for you here for your perusal and comment.
The question for the first which I answered is ” Is attention essential to life and living?”
I agree with the question’s central proposition that attention is critical in life and living. Our choice as to what to give attention and to what degree determines the outcomes and quality of life.
Firstly we must begin with a definition. Attention can be defined as the amount of energy one chooses to dedicate to the present moment. Focusing one’s full attention is important to our well being. It is optimal to devote one’s full attention to the task at hand; to consciously give full command of one’s senses to now. WE can see this in a number of instances that I will highlight in this essay:
- Attention is a choice we make
- Attention is important in terms of safety and mental wellbeing
- Being attentive is critical to relationships for them to be fulfilled
- There are many impediments to being fully focused
- There are learned techniques we can employ to help us give attention
Attention is a choice. While the brain is capable of so many thoughts at once, one can choose which tasks to devote our attention to. While the brain is capable of many tasks at once, many of these are done sub-consciously; breathing, blinking for example.
But attention is a conscious act. As the mindfulness training coursebook notes, when we are offering our attention, we can respond with awareness and clarity rather than out of habitual patterns, or learned behaviour. We can become aware and to some extent control sub-conscious tasks if we pay attention to them. Breathing, moving, sensing, seeing, hearing, even balance can be regulated by being attentive.(2012)
Attention is self- regulated. Nobody can force you to pay attention. Humans are a curious race. Our desire to learn demands that we give the subject our full attention for results to be optimal. The level of importance we place on learning the lesson subconsciously dictates the level of attention we dedicate to it.
Attention is about making what you are currently doing the most important thing in the world. Leave the past behind, it cannot hurt you. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (NIV Bible 1984, p. Matt 6:34)
“If you take care of each moment, you will take care of all time. There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. The time is now.”
(Jack Kornfield… taken from Mindfulness Training Course Book 2012)
Concentrate on now; live in the present. Focusing on the present is taking care of current needs as this is what will take you forward to the next, and the one after that.
Paying attention to the task at hand is important to our wellbeing. This includes not only our physical safety, but also our mental health.
(Oxforddictionaries.com, 2013), defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. If we are able to concentrate on the now and not worry about the future, anxiety is lessened and our mental wellbeing increased.
On the other hand, being aware of the body, with all limitations, current pains and feelings let us compensate for weaknesses so one can assess what tasks the body is capable of doing; not subjecting the body to extra stress. So we can see that paying attention to the present, not letting the past control us, nor worrying about the future is optimal to our health, and the health of those around us.
Attention is important to achieving a fulfilling relationship. Relationships of all kinds demand some level of attention for them to continue. Eye to eye contact when speaking shows attention is given to the speaker.
Relationship can be defined as communication or connection between two or more people (oral workshop “looking for Mr Right” at ACON 27 August 2013). Giving attention selflessly is an important part of a loving intimate relationship. So attention is critical for maintaining and fostering relationships.
Impediments to attention are an important consideration and we can see the potential effect on the quality of life through a number of items.
Multitasking is said to be a talent that the female of our species are blessed with. Is it an actual talent? Or does it perhaps imply a lack of attention to the task at hand? Can one be fully attentive to more than one task at one given time?
The RMS (Roads and Maritime Services of NSW) suggests in advertising that driving demands the full attention of the driver. Without that full attention, the risk of accident is far greater.
“In-car distractions can seriously impair driving and potentially contribute to accidents. In-car distractions include mobile phones, entertainment systems, interaction with passengers, and most recently satellite navigation systems. ( Nevile & Haddington.” 2010,piii).
There are many other impediments to giving full undivided attention to the task at hand. These could include personal, internal and physical distractions including comfort, temperature, and hunger.
Today’s society is an instant society demanding to be constantly stimulated. If that stimulation is not forthcoming quickly, then attention could be lost or not fully given when required.
To combat some of these impediments, there are learned techniques available to help us achieve a greater level of attention in our lives .Mindfulness training is teaching people to be attentive not only in everyday tasks, but to be attentive to oneself. Recognising different sensations throughout the body and becoming aware of different thoughts and feelings within oneself. This allows the student to be more attentive within and without to the present moment and the tasks it presents. Mindfulness helps one to overcome the distractions to attention.
As I have highlighted in the key points above, the ultimate goal for devoting full attention is quality of life. It allows the lessons that life offer to be fully comprehended. One can have an epiphany to the meaning and purpose of one’s life, giving one a goal to work towards, and the means to get there.
Attention is important to life. It assists in the development of meaningful relationships. It assists to keep one safe and well. Attention allows one to experience the fullness of the moment, getting the most out of life’s lessons and embracing all that life has to offer at that moment. There are many impediments to attention but these can be overcome by choosing to give our attention to the present time.
Openground Training and consulting: Mindfulness Training Course Book (5th ed.) (2012) Double Bay NSW
Holy Bible New International Version: Matthew 6:34 (NIV Anglicised text 4th ed.) (2008) Minto NSW
Nevile, M., & Haddington, P. (2010) In-car distractions and their impact on driving activities. Canberra: Department of Infrastructure and Transport
Anxiety. (2013) Retrieved from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/anxiety?q=anxiety Oxford University Press.
Oral workshop “looking for Mr Right” at ACON 27 August 2013
Keating, R. (2013) Reading #1; Let us begin with attention. Sydney ACU