October 26, 2010

Paying attention doesn't cost anything

Several years ago, a friend and I spent a day and night at a Theravada Buddhist monastery in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. It was old school (which is kind of what "Theravada" means) as in no food after the noon meal, hour-long meditation sessions, chanting in Pali and English.

The main item on the bill of fare was mindfulness meditation. We were supposed to be mindful of every step, every breath, every bite of food. The scripture that we chanted was the Mahasatipatthana Sutta or Great Discourse on Mindfulness.

During the sitting sessions, we were supposed to focus on the breath. When the mind wandered, as it inevitably did, we were to note the thought or feeling without reacting to it and return the mind to the breath. Over and over again. The idea was to develop one-pointed concentration and ultimately the ability to apply awareness to all activities.

The closest I came to one-pointed awareness that day was thinking about how bad my knees were hurting. As I've said before, seated meditation isn't my strong suit; the moving kind works best for me. But one of the main points of either kind is simply paying attention. We are on automatic pilot most of the time, but with practice we can learn to bring conscious awareness to all kinds of things.

That would be another practical Buddhist insight for people interested in social justice. There is and never will be any substitute for paying attention to what is going on. Noticing things is the first step to changing things.

CLASS WAR? More like a one-sided class beatdown.

FROM THE UBER-BLOGGER OF ALL THINGS COAL. Ken Ward of Coal Tattoo had two interesting posts yesterday. The first is about changes in a possible severance package for Don Blankenship if Massey Energy is sold, as some rumors hold. The second is the warm and tender relationship between that company and former WV supreme court justice and current congressional candidate Spike Maynard.

IT'S ALMOST DRESS-UP-YOUR-DOG-DAY. Whether they like it or not.



1 comment:

Hollowdweller said...

When I was in college the last 2 years I meditated every morning.

It was actually harder than physical conditioning because I'm somewhat ADD anyway.

However the positive benefit of working on being aware and concentrating was that it did improve my mental conditioning and my retention of material presented in class lectures went way up and I studied less and got better grades.

I have no way of proving this but I think computers are to meditation and concentration what high fructose corn syrup is to weight loss and physical conditioning. I think they have totally blown my concentration.

May be a lie but I read somewhere that surfing the net activated the same centers in the brain as THC. I believe it because I feel like computers affect your concentration and retention way more than THC even.