What Does It Mean to Pay Attention?

How do you pay attention when you are vitally interested in something?

Can you be tender with yourself as you
extend yourself into the farther reaches of your senses?

Attention at dictionary.com
at·ten·tion   [n. uh-ten-shuhn; interj. uh-ten-shuhn]
1. the act or faculty of attending, especially by directing the mind to an object.
2. Psychology - a concentration of the mind on a single object or thought, especially one preferentially selected from a complex, with a view to limiting or clarifying receptivity by narrowing the range of stimuli.
b. a state of consciousness characterized by such concentration.
c. a capacity to maintain selective or sustained concentration.
3. observant care; consideration: Individual attention is given to each child.
4. civility or courtesy: attention to a guest.
5. notice or awareness: His deliberate cough caught the waiter's attention.

1. awareness, consciousness, watchfulness, alertness, mindfulness, heed. 4. deference, politeness, regard; respect, homage.

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2012.

tend (1) dictionary
"to incline, to move in a certain direction," mid-14c., from O.Fr.
tendre "stretch, hold forth, offer" (11c.), from L. tendere "to aim, stretch, extend" (see tenet).
tend (2) dictionary
"attend to," early 14c., aphetic of M.E.
atenden (see attend).

attend (v.) dictionary
c.1300, "to direct one's mind or energies," from O.Fr.
atendre (12c., Mod.Fr. attendre) "to expect, wait for, pay attention," and directly from L. attendere "give heed to," lit. "to stretch toward," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + tendere "stretch" (see tenet). The notion is of "stretching" one's mind toward something. Sense of "take care of, wait upon" is from early 14c. Meaning "to pay attention" is early 15c.; that of "to be in attendance" is mid-15c. Related: Attended; attending.

attention dictionary
late 14c., "giving heed," from L.
attentionem (nom. attentio) "attention, attentiveness," noun of action from pp. stem of attendere "mental heeding" (see attend). Used with a remarkable diversity of verbs (e.g. pay, gather, attract, draw, call). As a military cautionary word preparative to giving a command, it is attested from 1792.

tender (adj.) dictionary
"soft, easily injured," early 13c., from O.Fr.
tendre "soft, delicate, tender" (11c.), from L. tenerem (nom. tener) "soft, delicate, of tender age," from PIE *ten- "stretch" (see tenet). Meaning "kind, affectionate, loving" first recorded c.1300. Meaning "having the delicacy of youth, immature" is attested from early 14c. Tender-hearted first recorded 1530s.
tender (v.) dictionary
"to offer formally," 1540s, from M.Fr.
tendre "to offer, hold forth" (11c.), from L. tendere "to stretch, extend" (see tenet). The retention of the ending of the French infinitive is unusual. The noun meaning "formal offer" is from 1540s; specific sense of "money that may be legally offered as payment" is from 1740.
tender (n.) dictionary
"person who tends another," late 15c., probably an agent noun formed from M.E.
tenden "attend to" (see tend (2)); later extended to locomotive engineers (1825) and barmen (1883). The meaning "small boat used to attend larger ones" first recorded 1670s.

tantra dictionary
type of Hindu religious book, 1799, from Skt.
tantram, lit. "loom, warp," hence "groundwork, system, doctrine," from tan "to stretch, extend," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch, extend" (see tenet).
tantric dictionary
1905, from
tantra + -ic; used loosely in the West to denote erotic spiritualism.

- Etymology Online

From the introduction to The Radiance Sutras:

The word tantra has interesting resonances. Its usage here is “the teaching,” and is from the Sanskrit tantram, meaning “loom.” * There is the image of stretching or weaving threads in patterns across the framework of a loom — a tapestry of knowledge. The Indo-European root of the tan in tantram is ten, to stretch.

Thus tantra comes from the same root that gives English the words “attention,” “tender,” “intend,” “entertain,” “intensity,” and “tendon.” Each of these terms is a vital clue to how to practice. To practice tantra is to stretch ourselves, to extend our capacity for attention to the utmost. Tantra is also the pattern of interconnectedness, the continuum we discover when we do so. Tenderness is important. This text is tender in its approach to human experience, and encourages an earthy reverence in embracing your bodily sensations.

The tra of tantra means “technique.” The same root shows up in mantra (manas=mind, + tra=skill, thus, “a tool of thought”). Each verse of a tantra is called a sutra, (there’s tra again) which means “thread,” and is cognate with the English “suture,” the thread that joins together, as well as “seam” and “couture.” So we are presented with images of skillfully weaving together all the elements of life — mind, body, emotions, breath, soul, individuality, and infinity – into one exquisite tapestry.

- from The Radiance Sutras

Attention in Psychology

Question: What Is Attention?


Attention is a concept studied in cognitive psychology that refers to how we actively process specific information present in our environment. As you are reading this, there are numerous sights, sounds and sensations going on around you – the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sight of the street out of a nearby window, the soft warmth of your shirt, the memory of a conversation you had earlier with a friend. How do we manage to experience all of these sensations and still focus on just one element of our environment?

According to psychologist and philosopher William James, attention "is the taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what may seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thoughts…It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others."

Think of attention as a highlighter. As you read through a section of text in a book, the highlighted section stands out, causing you to focus your interest on that area. Attention allows you to "tune out" information, sensations and perceptions that are not relevant at the moment and instead focus your energy on the information that is important.

- About.com

The Quality of Surprise

We WANT our meditative experience to be unpredictable, surprising, and interesting. There are SO MANY senses, sensations, sensory modalities (imagery, kinesthesia, gustation), emotions, feelings, instinctive modes - that there is an infinite possibility of experience.

In a healthy meditation for someone on the path of Intimacy, there is generally a festive turbulence, camatkāra.

ad-bhuta [L=2488]

adbhuta [p= 19,1] [L=3800]
([once adbhutá RV. i , 120 , 4]) (» 1. at) , supernatural , wonderful , marvellous
adbhuta [L=3800.1]
the marvellous (in style)
adbhuta [L=3800.2]
adbhuta [L=3800.3]
N. of the indra of the ninth manvantara
adbhuta [L=3800.4]
a marvel , a wonder , a prodigy.
adbhuta [p= 1310,1] [L=303050]
(H3) mfn.
(H1) mfn.
(H1B) m.
(H1B) m.
(H1B) m.
(H1B) n.
(H2) (in

camat [p= 388,2] [L=72058]
" an interjection of surprise " , only in comp.
(H1) ind.
camat--karaa [L=72059]
astonishment Sa1h. iii , 4 a÷b



(H3) n.
[L=72060]producing wonder , causing surprise
[L=72061]spectacle , festival
[L=72062]high poetical composition
camat--kāra [L=72063]
astonishment , surprise Katha1s. xxii , 257 Prab. &c




aspera L.
(H3) m.
[L=72064]show , spectacle
[L=72065]riot , festive turbulence
[L=72066]high poetical composition
camat--kti [L=72078]
astonishment , surprise.
(H3) f.

Getting Into Attention

Paying Attention With Love

Meditation is a lot about attention, all the ins and outs of it. Paying attention is similar to loving — if you love someone, or something, you have attention for her or him or it. It is a delight to pay attention. It’s easy.

The word, “Attention” is etymologically related to tenderness. Attention, tender, tend to it.

In the outer world, we pay attention: we are interested, we are in wonder, appreciation, curiosity. When you pay attention to yourself, you use the same attention, and let attention be tender. Loving attention is a tender appreciation of your humanity, for all the paradoxes and complexities of your incarnation.

Enrich your attention continually. Let yourself learn to love from everything you do: music, art, literature, love relationships, meditation, children, play time, parties, study. You can learn to love yourself and be tender toward yourself by having friendships with people who are healthy human beings.

Meditation is Being With What You Love

Meditation techniques are ways of paying attention to life that you never tire of. It is obvious, if you think of it. How else could people meditate for years? All meditation techniques are derived from ways of paying attention that worked so well, that were so delightful, someone just fell into it naturally. Meditation is not rocket science. It is surrender to love. What are meditation techniques? Breath, listening to internal music, paying attention to light and to the Light of Awareness, movement itself. Meditation techniques are things which you would delight to attend to for years.

The whole idea of a breath meditation is to fall in love with breath. Love is a state of perceiving great value in the beloved. In meditation great value is experienced in the things everyone takes for granted: the air we breathe, space, sound, light, movement, gravity, existence.

Always remember, have it as your touchstone, that meditation is being with that which you love. Your path in meditation will emerge from exploring what it is you love to pay attention to. The skills of attention are the skills of rapport and intimacy with the self.

What Do You Really Love?

What do you really love doing? What images, activities, people, come to mind? What remembered sense impressions do you hear or feel?

It could be anything. You could be in any time of your life past or present, in any country, alone or with someone or many people. Go with whatever pops into your mind right now and let the memory become vivid.

Which of your senses are most active? Which senses bring you the greatest joy? What do your eyes see, your ears hear, what does your body feel when you are in the midst of that joy? Let yourself become completely immersed in the experience. Take as long as you like.

You could be flyfishing, playing piano, cuddling, making love, lounging in bed in the morning, driving fast, waterskiing, singing, watching a movie, anything. How do you see the world, how do you perceive colors and sounds? What do you smell, and how long do you linger with that smell?

Be in your body and notice how you breathe when you are engaged in that activity. Take a deep breath now, as if you are inside that experience. What does it feel like to breathe? Are you breathing freely? Are you so excited you are breathing rapidly? Explore.

Go ahead and give over to what the experience has to teach you. Be there inside your body in that activity, attending to your senses and to life.

Sometimes when you do this exercise you may be recalling an activity you do alone. Other times you will recall experiences may have to do with shared attention.

In shared attention you are attending to someone and he or she is paying attention to you in a special way. In doing the exercise you are internalizing that quality of attention you love, taking it inside yourself, memorizing the way of it. This could be another person or an animal. Animals can be amazingly attentive and give unconditional love.

Other experiences may be solitary but may not feel so because you are being with yourself.

As you enter the experience of that activity, notice how you are paying attention. What quality of alertness do you have? Are you vigilantly alert or languidly aware, or somewhere in-between?

Re-entering your memories of your favorite times will teach you about the qualities of attention you love and crave.

Reminder: Pause and take a few breaths as you read.

Always be alert to the qualities of attention you love. Cultivate them in yourself and others.

You can do this exercise a few minutes a day for years on end and never come to the end of it. Over time you will learn to enjoy the sense of inquiry also, the process of asking yourself questions and then receiving answers in whatever language the body speaks in the moment.

When you recall an experience, it is real as far as your brain is concerned. When you call up an experience in the context of meditation, you are giving permission to your nervous system to remap itself and make more connections. What your nervous system wants is to have all learning, all its best resources available at every moment. The brain only needs the slightest permission to do this. It knows how to un-fragment itself, how to weave all the disparate elements of your being together.

Attention is additive — the more colors you add, the closer to white you get. RGB is Red, Green, Blue, and with them you make all the other colors including pure white. The more qualities of attention you bring to meditation the better.

For some reason, most people think of meditation as subtractive attention, that you get there by deleting everything interesting. This is an option -- the hermit cave-dweller’s path. There is no particular reason to seek this out if you live in the world, though. So let your colors fly.

Compassion For Yourself

One of your tasks with attention is to learn how to be good to yourself. Compassion starts at home. If you are not compassionate to yourself, how could you ever be compassionate to someone else? Compassion is com, with + passion. Be with your passion.

If you do not make meditation a healthy place right from the start, it’s likely that it never will be. Healthy means you do not repress yourself, brutalize yourself, edit yourself. You want to accept all impulses so they can join the family, become integrated. Any part that is excluded becomes slightly insane. Good healthy anger that is blocked can then seem like feral rage. But when you accept it and work with it, it becomes the ability to stand up for yourself.

If you do not intentionally cultivate your best attention in your native state, then you will tend to recapitulate the worst attention your kindergarten teacher or parent gave — disapproval, criticism, scrutiny.

When you develop compassion for yourself, then you will discover that even the most critical of your inner voices are trying to love you.