I recently reread Rapt, Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher In an effort to better understand how mindfulness, compassion, and attention—or focus—interact. I highlighted several sections, you can read the highlights below, but in summary, the idea is that while we are not our thoughts, or our attention, our attention is driven by who we are, and that means it affects what we focus on.
So if I’m focusing on sex drugs and rock and roll, there’s probably an element of me that is built for that. But if I’m mindful, and focused on others, as Buddha suggests, then I’m more likely to be built for that. Now this could be a remnant of past lives influencing this one, but I’m not fond of the reincarnation solution.
i do, however, agree with Gallagher that there are a lot of ways in which our attention can be influenced by what we focus on. By experience, we decide what our historical self is like, and through that experience, we become more attuned to the type of thing to which we historically paid attention.
There is also evidence that meditation doesn’t matter and that mindfulness can become a state of existence without the practice. This is also interesting, as it seems to me that the highlight of Buddhism is mindfulness in order to eliminate the suffering of past and future in favor of the present. But if we can do this without having to spend hours in uncomfortable positions, without focusing on useless things, and instead focus simply on existing in the now, now, then perhaps that is where my practice will go.
your life—who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.
In her view, it’s not necessary to take time out to sit and meditate, which is after all a practice that’s designed to provoke postmeditative mindfulness. Instead, you can cut to the chase and just practice mindful attention. “This way of ‘meditating’ is fun, easy, and pleasant,” she says, “and its consequence is the essence of being happy, effective, and healthy—no small thing.”