Open Up!

Focused attention limits our growth

We have all been encouraged at school and in our workplaces to use focused attention when responding to a person, an event or an idea in order to trigger our left hemispheres.

There is another feature of focused attention worth considering– it is actually, very focused. When we use this form of attention we only see in a narrow cone 1 ½ degrees around each eye’s axis and we have no access to peripheral vision.

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As the left hemisphere triggers it begins to compare and categorise and to do so it pulls up memories, when it does this the brain sends a signal to the ears to suppress what we are hearing.

Focused attention is reducing both what we see and what we hear.

The right hemisphere travels through a world that is always new and accepts sensory inputs as they arise, adds them to its neural networks and over time distils these into a gradually evolving world view.

When we use focused attention we are limiting these sensory inputs. When we are doing detailed work that is obviously fine, we want to be focused. But,in general, with fewer inputs we grow more slowly.

So another reason to practice sustained attention (or relaxed alertness) as much as possible is to give ourselves room to grow.

John Corrigan