Attention is a soft-focused moment of pure awareness. Attention is mirror-thought – it reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. Attention is non-judgmental observation: it is that ability of the mind to observe without criticism. When attention is awakened, one takes a balanced interest in things exactly as they are in their natural states. One does not decide and does not judge. One just observes. No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake – what is there, is there.
Attention is impartial watchfulness. It does not take sides. Attention does not get hung up in what is perceived. It just perceives. Attention does not get infatuated with the “good” stuff. It does not try to sidestep the “bad” stuff. There is no clinging to the pleasant, no fleeing from the unpleasant. Attention sees all experiences as equal, all thoughts as equal, all feelings as equal. Nothing is suppressed or repressed. Attention does not play favorites.
Attention is pre-conceptual observation of reality. It is NOT thinking. It does not get involved with thoughts or concepts. It does not get hung up on ideas or opinions or memories. It just looks. Attention registers experiences, but it does not compare them. It just observes everything as if they were occuring for the first time (even, and especially if, that phenomenon has occured many times before). Attention is not analysis which is based on reflection and memory. Attention is the direct and immediate experience of whatever is happening, without the medium of thought. Attention becomes before thought in the process of perception.
Attention is present-time awareness. It takes place in the here and now. It is the observance of what is happening right now, in the present moment. Attention stays forever in the moment.
If you are remembering a friend from childhood, that is memory. When you then become aware that you are remembering, that is attention. If you then conceptualize the process and say to yourself “I am remembering”, that is thinking.
Attention perceives all phenomena without refference to “I”, “me” or “mine”. For example, suppose there is a pain in the left leg. Ordinary thinking would say: “I have a pain”. Attention would simply note the sensation as a sensation. One would not add on that extra concept “I”. Attention does not add or subtract anything to perception. Attention just observes what is there – without distortion.
When one is attentive, one experiences reality in whatever form it takes. There is nothing to be achieved, there is only observation.
Attention is awareness of change. It is watching things moment by moment, continuously, as they are changing. It is seeing how the thing make us feel and how we react to it. It is observing how it affects others, keeping track of the constantly passing show within and without.
Attention is participatory observation. The person who has awakened attention is both participant and observer at one and the same time. Attention is objective, but not cold or unfeeling. Attention is the wakeful experience of life, an alert participation in the ongoing process of living.
As opposed to attention, conscious thought pastes things over our experience, loads us down with concepts and ideas, immerses us in a churning vortex of plans and worries, fears and fantasies. When you really pay attention, you don’t play that game. Attention sees directly those realities which are at best theoretical constructs to the conscious thought process. Attention actually sees these things: it does not think about them, it sees them directly.