What is Open Focus Attention
Two opposite built in systems, orchestrating our body functions.
You may have heard about a part of our nervous system which is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. It is activated when we are confronted with danger. It prepares us for action by sending lots of blood to our muscles, raising our blood pressure, increasing our heart rate.
You may not be aware that, to some extent, this system works in many other situations. For example, when we are under stress, when we make an effort to push things forward, when we try hard to make a difference or when we strive to deliver.
We could say, that the ‘fight or flight’ response is activated every time we perform an action, or when we actively DO something.
You may also have heard about the opposite part of our nervous system called ‘rest and digest’ response. It is activated after meals or when we are relaxed. It is designed to digest and absorb food and bring it to our tissues. This allows us to recharge and refill our energy storage. The ‘rest and digest’ response system is not responsible for any external action because. When it is active are not doing anything.
This is a system of BEING
In order to keep us healthy both parts should be well balanced.
In other words, DOING has to be balanced with BEING.
We live in culture which promotes DOING.
I think you will agree that we live in a culture of DOING. We worship never ending progression and improvement. Everything can be bigger, better, faster and stronger. We train our children to learn and develop skills, we encourage them to keep trying, to keep exploring, to pass exams and to succeed.
DOING things has helped us to develop a civilisation and technology we use every day, which benefits us in many ways.
However our tendency to overdo things, overstimulates the ‘fight and flight’ response system. This keeps us on guard or in alarm mode for too long and drains our energy. It can lead to health problems like hypertension, heart attacks, strokes and stomach ulcers. It can also affect our mental health, making us more susceptible to burnout syndrome, anxiety and depression.
In order to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, we need to remember to balance the ‘fight or flight’ and the ‘rest and digest’ response systems.
We need to balance two essential parts of our physiology related to DOING and BEING.
So how you can balance DOING (a lot) and BEING.
I can think of four ways.
1. One way is to DO less. It easier said than done considering the number of commitments we face in our private and professional lives. It almost feels like we have no choice but to DO more and more. The DOING part of our lives seems to balloon endlessly.
2. Another common way is to only DO what we enjoy. This enables us to DO things with less effort which saves energy. DOING becomes easier, and so it becomes easier to balance. Unfortunately, it is very rare to have a job with financial stability that we also truly enjoy.
3. Another way to balance is to allow for more ‘down time’ or ‘me time’. some people go to the gym, try pilates or yoga classes, they go out with friends, they read books, watch TV or play computer games. They try to DO some BEING to feel better.
But can you see a paradox here?
We try to BE more by DOING something. It surely helps but we ‘infect’ BEING with DOING, and it always requires some effort.
4. The fourth way is my favourite. Imagine being able to alternate between DOING, with pure BEING. Pure BEING is a state which does not involve any DOING (and this includes no thinking). Pure BEING brings profound rest in a short period of time. It allows you to keep DOING whilst balancing it with short moments of intense BEING. You can DO a lot and still live a balanced, healthy life.
But how to purely BE?
You need to realise that DOING and BEING relate to the way we pay attention.
In order to DO, we have to focus. We have to focus on our DOINGS to not make a mistake, we have to focus ON where we are going to go in the right direction, we have to focus on our goals to reach them. You are focused now, reading these words in order to understand what i am trying to explain.
Focusing our attention belongs to DOING.
When we just BE, we do not have to perform any action, so we do not have to focus on anything. We do not have to focus on anything. We can pay attention in an opposite way to focusing.
What is an opposite way of paying attention to focusing?
You can try it now. Look at the middle of the wall opposite you, and focus on one point of the wall. It could be anything. This is focusing. You can see and describe every detail of that point.
Now find two random points on the wall opposite you, and see them together. The best way to do this is to look directly in the middle of the distance between the two points, then widen your field of vision and you will see them both. You have just divided your attention between two points on the wall.
Now become aware of the points and the distance between them. Become aware of the points together with the whole area between them. You have diffused your attention. Your vision is blurred and your mind is quiet.
You can do the same in three dimensions.
If you close your eyes and become aware of the sensation coming form your right hand, you can feel what your right hand is touching. You are focused on your right hand now.
Then focus on your left hand for a moment. Then you can divide your attention and feel both hands at the same time.
you can then stay aware of your hands, and become aware of the space between and around your hands. You are aware of the space in front of you which includes your hands. Your attention is diffused, your perception is slightly fuzzy and your mind is quiet.
The diffused attention style is opposite to focusing and allows us just to BE.
Can it be so simple?
Yes, it is. That is why it is so groundbreaking, but the diffused attention style has not been recognised so far. Dr Fehmi described it and linked it to our physiology and a specific brain waves pattern called, the whole brain synchrony in alpha frequency. He designed a neuro-feedback machine which can detect it and help us to practice purely BEING.
And there is one more step now (the last one, I promise :)
There are two ways you can balance DOING and BEING by changing your attention.
You can alternate times when you DO (focus) and when you BE (diffuse)
you can DO, and BE (focus and diffuse) at the same time.
In the first option, you can work long hours fully focused, and alternate them with 5 to 10 minutes of diffusing your attention. It will allow you to feel surprisingly fresh at the end of the day and ready to enjoy your evening.
In the second option, your attention is focused, and slightly diffused at the same time. This is possible at times when you do not have to be fully focused, like eating, walking, using a bathroom, etc.
You are focused on what you are doing and you are aware of space around your focus. You could say that your focus is slightly opened.
You are in Open Focus Attention.
fight or flight —— rest and digest
DOING —— BEING
focusing —— diffusing
There are two main nervous systems built into us.
there is the ‘fight or flight’ response system, which is stimulated when we DO something.
There is the ‘rest and digest’ response system which s activated when we just BE.
Both systems have to be balanced to keep us physically and mentally healthy.
We live in culture which promotes DOING, and this can cause physiological and mental problems. Unfortunately, we cannot simply stop DOING because we have too many commitments.
We try to balance DOING but we do not know how to really BE.
The solution is to recognise that DOING and BEING are related to the way in which we pay attention.
DOING requires focusing.
We can learn how to purely BE by learning how to diffuse our attention.
This will allow us to intensify BEING, and will let us balance DOING and BEING on a higher level.
You can alternate times when your attention is focused or diffused. You can also focus and slightly diffuse your attention at the same time.
When you DO focus BEING diffused you are in Open Focus Attention.
Once you learn and practice Open Focus Attention you will know how to do reduce your physical pain, to dissolve your unwanted feelings, to fall asleep everytime you like and more.
You are about to experience the diffused attention style.
Find a quiet place, sit on the chair with your hands on your legs and follow instructions from a recording below.
I would like you to practice this exercise once daily for the whole week.
you can also try to slightly diffuse your attention in everyday situations. Even if you just become aware of the space around you when you are doing activities not requiring your full focus.