Focus and awareness

An important lesson I learned from different meditation techniques is the difference between awareness and focus. Awareness is the general knowing of what’s going on in your senses, it is generic,holistic and impersonal and it is being scanned constantly for anything that is of interest. When something of interest is found, focus is brought to it and you become aware of it. This can be a car that comes speeding towards you or somebody calling your name etc. Focus is narrow, detailed and personal.

In concentration-based meditation it is often thought that focus is the only important factor and that which you are focusing on should be the only content in your awareness, to the exclusion of anything else. This is called absorption. Though this is appropriate in some contexts , in most meditations it is important to have a balance between the two. So it is good to maintain focus on what you are doing, for example moving energy around, but it is good to keep a general awareness of thoughts and senses at the same time. The trick is to stay aware where attention (focus) is.

This has made quite a difference in my practice. For a long time I thought my meditations were ‘bad’ because I could not focus enough to get absorbed in the object of focus.

Now when I have a deep meditation, I forget that I’m meditating in a room, and all there is is the object of focus and all the sensory input of my body in awareness.

Being aware of where attention is without preference could be a good definition of the term ‘Mindfulness’.

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