The Doors of Perception
A brief exploration of attention, awareness, concentration and consciousness.
Many of us feel a bit unsure as to the differences of these terms or just tend to lump them all together with more or less the same meaning. So this post will take a quick, non academic look.
Attention is really best described as a kind of force within us that can be focused on something or used in a broad sense. Interestingly the qualities of attention can be developed by practicing concentration exercises. Concentration can be described as the marshaling of our attention and maintaining this force steady, usually on a chosen object or topic.
Our five senses, especially our eyes and gaze, both the physical eyes and our inner eye are very intimately tied up with our attention and concentration.
Awareness refers to some-thing we become aware of via our attention. Attention itself can be used at least two different ways. ‘Peripheral’ attention is diffused, casual, open and receptive. On the other hand we can access a torch beam style, narrow and highly focused type of attention.
Un-trained attention (scattered) is broken easily when we try to gather it, un-trained attention ‘jumps’ around from topic to topic etc. We experience a jumble of thoughts and words in our head.
Most folk don't have much problem using there attention well if they are interested in a subject. If they are very interested, their attention becomes easily riveted and you have difficulty even asking a casual question of someone in this state. We can say attention has become so absorbed in some-thing that general peripheral awareness has narrowed right down, for example when engrossed in reading a fascinating book.
It is common for say, one person to be aware of some-thing others are not within a small or large group. Perhaps that one person is the only one to be aware of this ‘some-thing’. Conversely, many folks within a group could be aware of some-thing, while a few or one person is not aware of this some-thing.
Consciousness is the next issue and is often defined as ‘sharing awareness with others’. So consciousness is the faculty that allows us to participate together with others within the greater field of awareness. Consciousness (sharing with) may include or exclude the contents of various individual’s awareness.
From this discussion so far we can easily see how ‘consensual perception’ arises. Dominant agreement about ‘some-thing’ will take place overtly within a group even though individually, some, or even one person may ‘see’ something else or say they ‘agree’ and yet privately disagree. This goes beyond an ‘opinion’ about matters to include elements of personal awareness.
Consensual perception can and does mushroom to encompass from small families to whole societies, whole races and literally then extend to millions of people. The thing to realize here is that consensual perception (this is frequently belief or opinion based) is not unquestionably absolute. To an indigenous folk living deep in an ‘un-explored’ jungle, a strange light moving across the sky at night could be taken unanimously as ‘gods from outer space’. To millions of ‘civilized’ folks it’s just a radio satellite doing its rounds of the globe or an airplane. This concept extends fully into the world of science with its currently ‘proven’ and later genially ‘dis-proven’ theories. Quantum physics has been telling us for quite a while now that the outcomes of an ‘experiment’ are impacted by the person or persons conducting the said experiment. (Different persons may render a different result) The fascinating revelations around the ‘placebo’ effect, especially within the realm of pharmaceutical advertising are another eye-widening, thought provoking subject.
So, perception, as much as many would love it to be (would be much safer) is not concrete, ultimately verifiable and absolute, but is unique to individuals and greatly subject to one’s innate conditioning, education and so on. Personal and group perception is a composite of socialization + attention, awareness and concentration that gives us the ability to be ‘conscious’ or share and participate with others. Attention and the resulting awareness can go beyond ‘normal’ or common interpretations and boundaries to reveal obscure and unknown ‘things’.
Paul Carlos Y.A.I 500h Sacred Spiral Yoga