Meditation for Training Attention
The best way to understand meditation is to look at it as exercising our mind. It’s like a workout but for your brain. What are you working out?
Different types of meditation train different mental faculties. The meditation I’m showing you in this course is mindfulness meditation, and it trains two important faculties: attention and meta-attention. Meta-attention is the ability to pay attention to attention itself (like knowing your attention has wandered away).
Why Train Attention?
We live in an age where your attention is your most valuable commodity. Think about it. Everything (and everyone) is constantly fighting for your attention. Heck, your attention is being sold on a daily basis without your approval. Businesses pay thousands of dollars to media outlets to get their products and services in front of you on your screen.
Training your attention has become one of the most important skills you’ll need to learn if you want to be steering your own car in life. Meditation allows you to pay attention to what’s important in your life. What makes you happy. What makes you sad. What brings you pain. Only then, when we’re aware of what’s really happening, will we be able to take the right actions.
“Your attention is your most valuable commodity. Choose carefully what you trade it for.” – Tweet this.
The process of meditation is simple:
1. Create an Intention. A reason for your meditation. It could be to reduce stress, or to be calmer, or to be more focused, or just to be. Every time you set an intention, you’re subtly forming or reinforcing a mental habit.
2. Focus Attention. Bring your attention to your breathing. As you continue to maintain the attention on your breathing, you bring yourself into a state of calm and concentration.
3. Then, of course, distractions will happen. A thought will come up, or you hear something close by, or certain emotions start to rise up. This is normal—don’t freak out. Simply be aware of it, acknowledge that your attention has been drawn to this distraction. Without reacting to it, just let it go.
4. Bring Back Attention. Back to your breath. Distractions will come up again; know that it’s ok. Just repeat the process and bring your attention back when it wanders off.
5. It’s All in the Attitude. It’s important not to be so critical of yourself. It’s ok that you get distracted. Simply bring your attention back. This is what you’re training, and you will be imperfect. You will have good days and you will have bad ones—embrace that imperfection.
The Practice: Mindfulness Meditation
Let’s begin with sitting comfortably (doesn’t matter where). Sit a position where you’re both relaxed and alert. Set your intention for the meditation and start with a few deep and slow breaths. Then, as you close your eyes gently, allow your breath to return to its natural state. Continue to pay attention to your breathing.
If at any time distractions come up, remember the drill. Acknowledge that your attention has drifted off, and then slowly and gently bring it back home to your breath.
Continue this meditation as long as you wish. Then when you’re ready, open your eyes. Take a moment to notice how you’re feeling. Are you calmer, more refreshed, more focused, or maybe just more frustrated? Whatever it is, embrace it, as it’s all part of the journey.
Start a daily meditation practice. You will only get better at meditation and attention training if you practice.
Commit to carving out some time to meditate. Even if it’s just a minute every morning to start. You can build on the minute and increase a minute each day. In a week you’ll be at 7 minutes, and in a month at 30 minutes a day.
Creating a daily habit of meditation practice is not always easy. There’s a fun and engaging way to do it so that it’ll stick. I call it the Stillness Game. Want to play?
In tomorrow’s lesson we’ll talk about taking meditation off the cushion and into your day.
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