06 Aug 2015

What is Being Mindful?


I’m going to ask you to daydream. In that daydream you’re sat at an old library desk working. You’re paying attention. A close attention that feels like nothing else matters. You lean into your computer, your eyes squint. Your attention is so focused your vision becomes tight, like you are looking through a tunnel.


How does it feel?


In that daydream exercise, did you notice anything about your attention? Did your attention in the daydream feel heavy? Like a thick cloud? Did it feel tight, hard, focused? Or did it feel open and inclusive? What is the quality of your attention? Ask yourself this: how does is feel to pay attention?


The Quality

When you use your attention, your attention has a quality. It has a substance – you can almost rub it between your fingers. For example, if you sit and lazily watch an action movie your attention will feel different than the attention you need to study for a final exam.

Attention is an experience. An experience so common, and so necessary, that its quality –its felt experience– is difficult for us to notice. Just like breathing, you can easily forget attention exists. But your attention is always there. And it’s always a little different.


So your attention has a quality, a feeling. Now to the next step:
Attention can increase or decrease. Lot’s of attention is easy to notice – you get a headache. Too little attention (easy to notice as well) – you fall asleep. In this way, attention is vertical. You can increase or decrease. You can have more attention, or less. Attention can go up, or down, like a thermostat. 


Attention is also horizontal – different types of attention exist. In a lazy action movie, our attention looks for entertainment. In a final exam, our attention looks for knowledge. In each case attention feels different – it has a different quality.




The quality of your attention is a silent question to your world. It asks the question, “What am I looking for in the environment?” … “Do I want knowledge?” …  “Do I want entertainment?” … “Do I want confirmation of a previously held idea?”.

Attention looks for an answer that fits its quality, finds an answer, and then offers that answer to you as your reality. Something is funny only when we find it funny. Something is frustrating only when we find it frustrating.


Reality is built on answers from the silent questions of attention.


A Worrying Notion

When you’re angry, your awareness will have a quality of anger. Your awareness will ask angry questions. And it will get angry answers.

All this simply makes you more angry. With no end in sight.


A Redeeming Idea


Thankfully, nobody is safe from their awareness. You need awareness to separate answers from an infinite environment. It’s not that you need to destroy negative (or positive) awareness from your life. You simply have to be aware of its influence. You simply need to know (and innocently try to remember) that your reality is based on the quality of your awareness.

This is what being mindful is all about.


Leave a Comment