Cultivating Your Attention

A basic mindfulness practice for creating more harmonious circumstances for ourselves and for others, raising our awareness and stirring our curiosity.

The simple act of paying attention is really the kindest thing you can do for yourself. When our mind is scattered it creates pain and disconnection, and that pain and disconnection gets picked up by others. It’s contagious. You’ve likely experienced what it feels like to take on that pain and disconnection from other people. The fact is, we’re sending it and sharing it together like a little virus all the time. But if each of us can take a moment or two to pay attention to where we’re at and what’s going on, that’s the kindest thing we can do. It’s being kind to ourselves and that kindness wears off on others. 

So that’s really what this last practice is about—a little bit of the basic breath-awareness practice, followed by a generosity practice.

You can choose to watch the video, listen to the audio, read the practice, or all three!

Cultivating Your Attention

Watch the video:

Listen to the practice:

Cultivating Your Attention

  • 8:00

Read the Practice:

1. Take a good posture, wherever you are, seated in a chair or on a cushion. Sit up straight, but don’t stiffen your spine. Angle your chin slightly down. You can have your eyes open or closed. Now begin to pay attention to your breath as it goes out. And as it comes in. Just keep doing that for a few moments.

2. When you notice thoughts, just notice them and catch the next breath. You can’t go wrong. So let’s just do that for about a minute, without any further guidance.

3. Now we can take a moment to expand our awareness a bit. How does your body feel? Do you have any aches or pains or tensions? Just go to them, notice them. Ease them if you can. Notice your emotional state. Are you excited? Are you thinking of someone you love? Is some detail from work bothering you? Just take a moment to notice how emotions feel in your body. Notice your emotional state at this time.

4. Let’s come back now to paying attention to the breath as it comes in and out. As thoughts arise, come back to that and to your body, well seated, composed.

5. Now let’s conclude with some generosity. Thinking of someone you know, someone who’s in pain or in need: take a moment to imagine that person. Now imagine that any kindness or composure or well being you’ve developed can relieve that pain and satisfy that need. Give it to that person mentally. You are literally giving away the good that we’ve developed here. In your mind, allow that good to rub off on others.

6. Expand your thinking to the pain and needs of your community, however you define that currently. That could mean your family and friends, your town, just a little broader than one person. Imagine these feelings of well-being helping them to ease their pain and satisfy their need.

7. Let’s expand much broader now—to your whole country. Send out that feeling of well-being and goodness to your country.

8. Take it even farther for a moment: out to the whole world. Breathing out, and breathing in.

By doing such a generosity practice, we’re not saying there will be immediate relief of the pain and need in the world, but it rouses our own intention and goodwill to keep working toward that. It’s a very good way to end something in which we’ve developed some well-being together. The point is to share it—because, as we know, it’s not just about you and me.

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About the author

Barry Boyce

Barry Boyce is Founding Editor of Mindful and Mindful.org. A longtime meditation practitioner and teacher—as well as a professional writer and editor— he is the editor of and a primary contributor to The Mindfulness Revolution: Leading Psychologists, Scientists, Artists, and Meditation Teachers on the Power of Mindfulness in Daily Life. Barry also worked closely with Congressman Tim Ryan, as developmental editor, on A Mindful Nation and The Real Food Revolution. Barry serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for a Mindful Society and the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto as well as on the advisory board of Peace in Schools, in Portland, Oregon.

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