Singular Attention produces deeper states of presence than Divided Attention. (Read: What is Singular Attention and Divided Attention?)
Singular Attention can lead to the satisfying experiences of inhabiting your body and feeling grounded, feeling comfortable in your own skin, that you are in charge of your life, of moments of profound stillness, to times of intimacy.
Singular Attention is being present and aware of internal and external experience. It is being present and aware of ourselves, while, at the same time, being aware of what is taking place around us. Being present to ourselves generates the awareness of the world outside of us. Awareness of me generates awareness of you. In fact, the extent of awareness within is matched by the awareness without.
I seek to include myself in every relationship. I seek to be present to myself when I am in the presence of my wife Melanie, my friend and editor Jim, my students in class, the teller at the grocery store cash register who asks me every time whether I want to take the groceries home in a plastic or a paper bag, Being present to myself means I am aware of my own body, my own emotions – their responses and reactions – the thoughts that drift through me, my placement in the area I am inhabiting, my defense parts as they take action for what they perceive to be, my protection. In being aware of myself, I am equally aware and present to you and the environment around you. Being aware of you while being aware of me does not mean I am going to silently delve into the life and emotions of the person next to me in the check-out line up. This would be interference, a breaking of boundaries. (Read: What are defenses?)
In this degree of presence there is equal awareness. I am present to myself and I am present to the sunset in the evening sky. I am present to myself whilst being present to the antics of my dog bouncing around urging me on to throw the stick so he can run and retrieve it. I am present and aware of myself as I write of my experience of presence. This morning, as I was eating breakfast with my wife my presence extended outwards, so that I was equally aware of my own feelings and emotions as well as what my wife was saying, alongside the parrot behind me who was wanting a piece of apple that Melanie was cutting up and eating, and my attention extended to ten year-old Max who was wandering around the room looking for something to do before heading off to school. My attention did not flit away from one singular experience to the next. I held all equally and extended my attention out to include each experience that was occurring in and around me at that moment.
Presence to this degree is an experience of expansion. From this singular awareness of myself I am in a place of choice. I may choose to focus my awareness in a bi-lateral way, where there is only me and you. Should something occur outside of that bubble I can choose to include it or not. I can stretch my awareness to include the parrot without sacrificing my awareness of you. My attention is not divided – it is now expanded.
I am fond of telling my class a story of an example of expanded awareness. The Apache people who inhabit the region of southern New Mexico trained boys to be scouts. The Apache scout would sit in stillness, with inner quietness in a particular area of his territory and observe. If he chose to focus on the mountains in the distance he would allow his vision of the mountains to widen. He would not need to move his head from one section of the mountain to the next; he would expand his vision so that the whole of the mountain range was in his range of vision. As well, he would become aware of the sounds of the land around him. He would feel the air, its movement, its temperature. He was fully involved and alive to what was taking place within and without. If there was a change in what he saw, heard or felt – if the crow cried out where there was no crow before – his alertness would increase, to the possibility that an unwanted enemy may have intruded upon his people’s land.
Being present to myself allows me to choose to expand my awareness outwards. It allows me to choose to focus my awareness to a point where I can focus down, to become exclusively focused upon a singular person or object. I can choose to focus my awareness totally upon myself. When my focus is upon myself I can then name any experience that may be taking place for me in this moment. I am therefore intimate with myself. I am aware and therefore present to a feeling – or to the part of myself who is so passionate about writing this book. Another part of me is anticipating starting the working day and seeing a full load of clients in my private practice. Another part is wondering if the tiredness I have felt these last few days will interfere with my focus for my clients. (Read: What are parts)
Were you to ask me what I am experiencing at this moment, I have the option to relate any one of these present moment experiences to you – or all of them.