Online Free Course

Attention and the Brain

At a Washington DC subway station, Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world, played a beautiful, intricate, and moving piece on a violin worth more than $ 3 million. During the 43 minutes he played, 1,097 people walked by. Only seven stopped to listen, and even those seven stopped for just a few minutes. Two days earlier, Joshua Bell had played the same music for a sold-out audience in Boston, where seats averaged $ 100 each. His minimum fee to play at a public concert was $ 75,000. How could so many people have passed?

That so few people stopped was not a demonstration of these travelers’ lack of insight, but of how the hustle and bustle of our daily lives can sometimes prevent us from noticing the beautiful and miraculous world around us. How many incredibly beautiful things do we miss in one day, simply because of the rhythm of our lives and the intense focus on getting to the next?

This week’s videos include The Monkey Business Illusion by Daniel Simons, a cognitive scientist at the University of Illinois, illustrating both the incredible power of attention and the limitations inherent in our ability to fully perceive what is happening around us. Shauna Shapiro gives a compelling explanation of how meditation creates physical changes in the brain in Mindful Meditation and the Brain, and in Measuring Mindfulness, Judson Brewer correlates brain scan data with subjective experience during meditation. Finally, there are two short pieces by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Life is RIght Now and Coming to Our Senses, followed by an entertaining. All it takes is a conscious 10 minutes including juggling and a provocative challenge to do “nothing” for 10 minutes.

The sitting meditation describes the practice we are presenting this week. Joshua Bell plays a $ 3,000,000 violin (and hardly anyone notices) is a more detailed description of the “concert” described above. The next two readings, How the Brain Reconnects Itself and How Meditation Affects the Gray Matter of the Brain, discuss the growing body of research that demonstrates how meditative practice, even when performed over a relatively short period (weeks, not years), can physically alter the brain in a positive and adaptive way.

Daily practices
This week, for formal practice, we introduce sitting meditation, using breathing as the main object of consciousness, alternating this with the body scanner (sitting one day, body scanner the next, etc.). It may seem that the goal of body exploration or sitting meditation is to stay focused on exactly one thing at a time (ankle, wrist, breathing) and that when you notice that your consciousness has moved (to a memory, internal narrative, sound) and questions about the sound), that you’re somehow failing. These practices will increase your ability to focus and focus, but will also expand your ability to be with whatever comes into your field of expertise, without bias. PLEASE NOTE that your attention has moved to another object is, in itself, mindfulness in action. Mindfulness includes both focused attention (think of the laser beam) and the ability to perceive a larger image (think of the reflector). Both are important. Focusing on one thing leaves the larger image unseen, and keeping only a wide focus does not allow exploration of parts.

This week’s informal practice is about becoming aware of how we experience and process enjoyable events. They don’t need to be important events, they can be something as simple as feeling the sun on your face or someone smiling at you. Just like we did last week, wait a few minutes before going to sleep to complete your informal practice registration. Below are their materials for this week:

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