Buddhism and Attention Take 1

November 20, 2011

While Western psychology has focused on attention since the late 19th century, the Buddhists have been students of attention for the past 2,500 years (B. A Wallace, 1999). Western psychology looked at attention from the behavioral perspective (in the period of 1920-1949), from the information processing perspective (in the period of 1950-1974), from a model perspective (early 1970’s and on), and now from a neuropsychological perspective (Johnson & Proctor, 2004, pp. 4–23). For 2,500 years, Buddhists “have formulated elaborate, sophisticated theories of the origins and nature of consciousness and its active role in nature; but their inquiries never produce anything akin to an empirical study or theory of the brain” (B. A Wallace, 1999, p. 176). However, their major contribution has been

examining and probing the mind first-hand, and the initial problem in this endeavour was to train the attention so that it could be a more reliable, precise instrument of observation….Thus, the first task in the Buddhist investigation of the mind is to so refine the attention and balance the nervous system that the mind is made properly functional, free of the detrimental influences of excitation and laxity. (B. A Wallace, 1999, p. 176)

This type of Buddhist attentional training is called shamatha (also referred to as samatha), which involves various attentional meditation practices. In The Attention Revolution, B. Alan Wallace (2006) further describes “shamatha [as] a path of attentional development that culminates in an attention that can be sustained effortlessly for hours on end” (2006, p. xii).

Stay tune next week for more on shamatha…

Johnson, D. A., & Proctor, D. R. W. (2004). Attention: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Wallace, B. A. (1999). The Buddhist tradition of Samatha: Methods for refining and examining consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, 2(3), 175–187.

Wallace, B. Alan. (2006). The attention revolution: Unlocking the power of the focused mind (1st ed.). Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

(To comment, click on the title of this post above. The comment box will then appear below.)

Comments

4 Responses to “Buddhism and Attention Take 1”

  1. Financial advisor on November 30th, 2011 6:32 am

    Awesome post, where is the rss? I cant find it!

  2. ATCLisa on December 5th, 2011 6:17 pm

    The rss feed is at the upper right of the web page.

  3. ATCLisa on December 5th, 2011 6:17 pm

    Point taken. Thank you!

  4. ATCLisa on December 5th, 2011 6:19 pm

    I hope you keep coming back for more. I’m doing my PhD research on the topic of attention, leadership and sustainable business.

Got something to say?





What is Attention?

Attention is a specialized subtle energy of your awareness. Paying attention to your attention is the first step to understanding it. Continue...

Attention Traps

Our attention is a gift that changes those who receive it. The quality of this gift is often diminished by the unconscious ways we pay attention—these are attention traps. Continue...

Attention is a Precious Resource

What you choose to pay attention to matters, because you only have so much. What will you do with your precious, limited resource?