Without being dogmatic, or preachy, or definitive, what does it mean to be in a state of attention?
I feel this is the most crucial question to ask.
Several threads have already attempted to grapple with it, but I still feel we haven’t come to terms with this question properly.
An older thread - titled ‘If you could write K’s teaching on a T-shirt’ - asked people to briefly summarise what they took to be the core of Krishnamurti’s teachings, or aspects of it that they considered to be essential. @Drax wrote:
“Attention.” It’s all about attention. It starts with attention, ends with attention.
So what is attention? Not according to neuroscience, or to Buddhism, or to Advaita Vedanta, or even to Krishnamurti.
I feel that attention - or awareness, if people prefer to use that word - is attention both to things in the world (nature, people, things); as well as to ideas and thoughts in the mind (including emotions, thought-created experiences and contents); and to sensations and sense-perceptions which take place through the body.
In addition to this attention may be something in itself, something that exists without objects, something for itself.
Attention has to do with being in the present moment - one might even say that it is the present moment. It is not synonymous with thought (indeed, thought is a barrier to being fully attentive), and it is more inclusive than any particular sense perception.
To be in a state of attention means that one’s body has a certain stillness, is sensitive, relaxed; one’s mind isn’t racing around, preoccupied with thinking; there is no strain, no effort being made to be attentive. There is a certain quietness in the mind. The sense of ‘me’, of ‘I’, is greatly reduced.
There is a sense of openness, honesty, vulnerability, quiet curiosity. One’s senses are awake, alert, without being absorbed in what is sensed.
In this state it becomes easy to look at oneself, one’s problems; to see clearly, to feel deeply, to be present, to care.
Attention has more to do with the heart than with the head (which does not mean imply sentimentality or excessive emotion). It has more to do with the present than with the past: it is the ‘now’.
When we see a beautiful statue of the Buddha, or of a bodhisattva, sitting cross legged, or seated in a relaxed, dignified posture, we are looking at a physical representation of the state of attention. In attention there is no ‘I’, no ‘me’: it is not a selfish state to be in. There is no ideology or belief involved in the state of attention. There are no debates or arguments, no silly disputes.
Everything is possible in the state of attention. Nothing is closed off. This doesn’t guarantee that one’s mind will ever touch something sacred, eternal, immeasurable: to have such an expectation is to be living in a dream. But there is no exclusion of such a possibility either. In that sense, it is an infinite state of mind. Attention may be the ground of insight.
Attention may be more or less than what has been written about here. But I feel it is still worth talking about, looking into, exploring, without being too dogmatic about it if we can help it.