Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Awareness and Attention, and ....

hands on elbows, moving
It's easy to say Awareness. Just as it has become a cliché to say, the Here and Now. One of life's sweet ironies is that you or I can say Here and Now, and just be chattering along in robot mode.

Which is to say, we can be saying Here and Now, and nodding our hearts and heads vigorously to the idea, to the faith, to the Way of Being Present, and all the while not be present.


If we could just mutter: Be Here Now, and we were here now.

Of course, the words might awaken in us a realization that this is possible and might well encourage us to examine: am I here, right now. Am I Aware of myself in this moment?

And how can we tell?

It seems as if thinking about being present should give us good points in that direction, Brownie points, good little boys and girls points, to be sure, but what is the flavor of being aware?

I went the other day to visit a Feldenkrais® Training. I'm already a Practitioner, but after you've done your four years and 160 days of training, there is still plenty more to learn and to relearn and to re-view. So the trainings have a policy of allowing practitioners to drop in at half price and re-experience whatever is being taught. As in all trainings the combination is moving with attention lessons, and moving other people lessons and the theory and ideas behind this all.

This particular day, Dennis Leri, who was my primary trainer in my 160 day program, was the guest trainer in another program that was very near its final weeks. He brought up the distinction between attention and awareness. According to him, this was an important distinction for Moshe Feldenkrais.

(If you wish, see perhaps, Dennis' website, Semiophysics, its series of articles on the influences on Moshe Feldenkrais, from Judo to Gurdjieff to engineering and Darwin, some a bit challenging to read at Mental Furniture, and his quite amazing article on the core of the Feldenkrais Way, a copyrighted article Learning How to Learn.)

So let's see if we can experience the difference between attention and awareness. Right now, in the famous and elusive and always available (no extra charge, though usually extra effort required) Here and Now.

Here and Now we can shift our attention into sensing our right hand. We can feel the bones, the shapes of the fingers, the warmth or lack thereof, the general muscle tone, the feelings of nerves and blood and whatever else might be in there. The quality and specificity of our sensing might vary greatly from person to person and from day to day, but basically, we can do this (Now): sense our right hand.

And now we can do this. Shift our attention from in our right hand to inside our left hand. Sense our left hand.

This is a shift, this brings us into the present: first sense our right hand and then sense our left hand, and we can even go back and forth.

Very often in Feldenkrais lessons, a little movement goes a long way to helping to interest and hence focus our attention, so we could, say, first not only sense our right hand, but move slowly our thumb and little finger together and apart. We could do this a number of times.

Then we could rest and remember what that felt like and imagine doing this in our left hand.

Then we could begin to move our left thumb and left little finger together.

All this we can do with our attention.

What then is awareness?

Part of awareness, as I understand it just now, is a Knowing that we are Doing Something when we are Doing it. So as we sense our right hand and move the thumb and pinkie, we are aware of ourselves as a larger unity and we are aware that this is one of the things this larger unity (our ME) is doing.

We might even be aware of a sense of This is Me, doing this, as we move slowly our thumb and pinkie.

Why do I keep saying slowly?

Because once we start to crank something out, we often lose both attention and awareness.

Anyway, back to awareness: we move our right thumb and our right pinkie together and apart. We notice this. (Awareness). We stop. We notice how our hand feels when we stop. (More awareness.) We imagine doing this on the other side. (Another kind of awareness.). We try it out on the other side. (More awareness).

And on top of all of this, we can be aware of our awareness.

This is pretty cool, I think. But, you might protest, thumbs and pinkies are no big deal. Well, tell that to someone who's had a stroke, or wants to improve their guitar or piano playing. Or wants to improve their awareness. Anything that helps us know ourselves as alive right now and knowing what we are doing and feeling and thinking and sensing right now, is a rightful tool on the path to Awareness.

And what good is Awareness anyway?

Stay tuned, it might be good for lots.


Sensitive Strength


Waking up to now.
Embracing Change.
Learning to learn.
Loving to move, improve and transform.

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