Oct 19, 2007

Attention and awareness

Attention is not awareness and awareness is not attention. When we think of awareness and attention, they are often used interchangeably, but the dictionary definition of attention is a selective narrowing or focus of consciousness, to concentrate on something. Whereas awareness is having or showing realization, perception or knowledge; having knowledge of something especially something not generally known or apparent.

Attention today is not as valued as it once was. It is considered a strength and a virtue to be able to multi-task. To be able to write an email, IM, and answer the phone while surfing the web all at the same time is normal and accepted. Reading takes too long if we can get the gist of it in pictures, and writing is complete sentences is way too time consuming. RU going 4 a star$?

Chado has certainly helped me to focus my attention. I am an enthusiastic starter, but my attention tends to wander if it takes too much time. With learning tea procedures, wandering attention only makes me make mistakes. Sensei says, “complete this moment before you go on to the next.” To fix my attention until the moment is complete is very good training for me.

Awareness on the other hand is much different. When someone you love enters the room, even if you do not see them, there is an awareness that they are there, close by; or when your children are in the next room you are aware if they are getting along or fighting.

Gradually as I learned tea procedures, and as I trained sitting seiza for longer periods of time, I became more aware of what was going on in the tea room. While making tea, I could tell if guests were uncomfortable sitting too long, or if they were unsure of what to do next or if their attention was wandering. It was at this point, that I began to be able to concentrate my attention, yet still be aware of what else was going on around me.

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