Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Attention vs Concentration

There is a difference between concentration and attention. Concentration is to bring all your energy to focus on a particular point. In attention there is no point of focus. We are very familiar with one and not with the other. When you pay attention to your body, the body becomes quiet, which has its own discipline; it is relaxed but not slack and it has the energy of harmony. When there is attention, there is no contradiction and therefore no conflict. When you read this pay attention to the way you are sitting, the way you are listening, how you are receiving what the letter is saying to you, how you are reacting to what is being said and why you are finding it difficult to attend. You are not learning how to attend. If you are learning the how of attending, then it becomes a system, which is what the brain is accustomed to, and so you make attention something mechanical and repetitive, whereas attention is not mechanical or repetitive. It is the way of looking at your whole life without the centre of self-interest.Difference between concentration and attention

Attention is not concentration. When you concentrate, as most people try to do—what takes place when you are concentrating? You are cutting yourself off, resisting, pushing away every thought except that one particular thought, that one particular action. So your concentration breeds resistance, and therefore concentration does not bring freedom. Please, this is very simple if you observe it yourself. But whereas if you are attentive, attentive to everything that is going on about you, attentive to the dirt, the filth of the street, attentive to the bus which is so dirty, attentive of your words, your gestures, the way you talk to your boss, the way you talk to your servant, to the superior, to the inferior, the respect, the callousness to those below you, the words, the ideas—if you are attentive to all that, not correcting, then out of that attention you can know a different kind of concentration. You are then aware of the setting, the noise of the people, people talking over there on the roof, your hushing them up, asking them not to talk, turning your head; you are aware of the various colours, the costumes, and yet concentration is going on. Such concentration is not exclusive, in that there is no effort. Whereas mere concentration demands effort.

JK The Collected Works vol XV, p 321

You know what concentration is—from childhood, we are trained to concentrate. Concentration is the narrowing down all our energy to a particular point, and holding to that point. A boy in school looks out of the window at the birds and the trees, at the movement of the leaves, or at the squirrel climbing the tree. And the teacher says: “You are not paying attention, concentrate on the book”, or “Listen to what I am saying.”This is to give far more importance to concentration than to attention. If I were the teacher I would help him to watch; I would help him to watch that squirrel completely; watch the movement of the tail, how its claws act, everything. Then if he learns to watch that attentively, he will pay attention to the book.

JK Questions and Answers, p 43

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