Right Mindfulness, Attentiveness, and Concentration (1) are three ‘folds’ in Buddha’s Eight Fold Path. Just what is the difference between these virtual synonyms? Over the years I’ve parsed out my own ‘splitting of hairs’ to solve this puzzle. All the same, don’t they all refer to closely related states of mental awareness? Specialis Revelio! is a Science News report on cognitive research and magic that delves into inattention blindness. This research sheds light on this puzzle of mine. (photo: neurons in the brain)
“We’re good at focusing attention,” says Simons. “It’s what the visual system was built to do.” Inattentional blindness, he says, is a by-product, a necessary consequence, of our visual system allowing us to focus intently on a scene.
This “necessary consequence” causes us difficulty. This makes the virtue of ‘being in the moment’ feel a bit ironic. Surely then, Buddha’s Right Attentiveness is not be the same as “being good at focusing attention”, as Mr. Simons put it. No, in fact I see Right Attentiveness as similar to peripheral vision — focusing on not focusing, so to speak.
The Correlations table here (below) illustrates this point: The “attentiveness we are good at” ≅ focus, conscious, forward, mainstream, clear, straight, active, certain, narrow, part, hard, certain, life.
Conversely, Right Attentiveness ≅ edge, oblivious, backward, peripheral, obscure, passive, circular, past, whole, soft, tentative, death.
I guess language isn’t an ideal way to communicate or ponder a ‘taoist’ point of view. Language is an outgrowth of evolution and biology, so it is heavily biases toward survival. Focus, active, and certainty feel positive. Edge, passive, and tentative often feel negative, i.e., not the best for survival. Correlations helped me notice this bio-hoodwink of language.
Finally, what is the connection between inattention blindness and Buddha’s view? Briefly, consciousness blinds us to feeling ‘nothingness’ — the negative side of reality that correlates to the magical Mystery upon mystery, The gateway of the manifold secrets noted in chapter 1. Put simply, seeing something makes it difficult to see nothing.
(1) Note: I finally found a more accurate translation of Buddha’s Eight Fold Path. These three change to Resolution, Thought, State of Peaceful Mind, respectively.