Attention / by Yu Cao

Why pay attention to what I am doing? What is attention?


Is attention awareness? Being aware of what is going on, in me and surrounding, in physical reality and in the mind. But why it matters?

If attention misses the present, where am I? I will be in the thought of elsewhere other than the present. While the present is saturated with fresh information much more interesting to absorb than being taken away by a piece of thought. Can thought be in the present? Yes, as long as self consciousness knows it is a thought, then I am in the present. So, being attentive means being in the present?

If being attentive is being in the present, why it matters? When I am dreaming in a sleep, I am captured in the scenes in the dream without knowing that I am sleeping. If sleeping is the present, then dream is not? But dream is also a present within the first layer of present--sleeping. But I don't even know that it is a dream, I was just totally behave as if I was in reality. Then that reality is a third layer of present. Now we have three layers of present: reality in a dream, dream, sleep. When I wake up, I will realize it is not real, it is just a dream and I was asleep. But in the reality in dream, if I pay attention there, do I need to care about the other at least two layers? Doesn't the waking up the same way as a dream scene functions? If I keeps paying attention to what's happening, then waking up itself is just a happening, and then I respond to it from which arises the realization that it was a dream. Is it possible to being in the present of a dream and knowing it is just a dream? I don't know. I guess no, because attention can only attend one layer of present. If it pay attention to two layers of present, then it is distraction.

What I get so far is paying attention is being in one layer of present. The realization of layers comes from thinking--the recollection of attention in different layers of present. Then whether it is in a dream, or in reality doesn't matter. The only nature of attention is to be in the present in the immediate layer, thinking will take care of other layers. Can we really tell which layer of reality we are? How could I tell it is not in a another dream that I just woke up and realized that I had a dream? The transition of layers of reality is not self-consciousness's business. Self-consciousness just need to be there, absorbing and responding, whatever is happening. So self consciousness is unable to tell between dream and reality, it is arranged so and realizes afterwards. Paying attention to other than the immediate present is not attention's necessity. It's unnecessary.

Now it is clarified that the essence of attention is to be in the immediate present, absorbing and responding to whatever is happening. Happening means whatever reaches into the consciousness, a thought, a feeling, a touch, sound, color, warmth, etc including both objects per se and per se for consciousness. Happening taken by attention is real. They are the only and all materials for generating "true knowledge." This helps attention to grasp its real essence and discard all the unnecessary. 

Attention need and only need to be in the immediate present--the happening. 

Testify by examples.

Fran O'hara on attention. "I am bored but it's my duty to be attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above th earth." "Don't be bored, don't be lazy, don't be trivial, and don't be proud. The slightest loss of attention leads to death." He exemplifies the awareness of the duty of attention. No wonder to notice "his day-by-day awareness of the lightest tremors in the atmosphere--and how much he thought about so much of it!" The efficiency comes from attention's taking on all and only its own duty.