Start Paying Attention!

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Even basic meditation practice can improve attention skills, bolstering the capacity to reason, judge, and focus. And there’s nothing barring anyone from trying it out.

Not only does meditation feel good, “it’s not nearly as difficult as people want to make it,” Brad Warner wrote in Utne Reader in March 2008. A former punk-rock bassist, Warner is a Zen Buddhist monk and the author of several books, including Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up. His essay, excerpted from the Buddhist review Tricycle, is a memorably humble, humorous distillation of Zen meditation for beginners, specifically the daunting state of non-thinking.

“It’s like this,” Warner writes. “If you start really paying attention to your own thought process, you’ll notice that the thoughts themselves don’t go on continuously. . . . Most of us habitually fill these spaces with more thoughts as fast as we can. . . . Try to look at the natural spaces between your thoughts. Learn what it feels like to stop generating more and more stuff for your brain to chew on. Now see if you can do that for longer and longer periods. A couple of seconds is fine. Voilà!”

Read Warner’s complete article and other meditation tales from the alternative press at  www.utne.com/Focus .