Several years ago, an experiment was done at Harvard University by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. Students were asked to watch a bunch of people passing a basketball to each other and they had to count the number of times the ball was passed. Meanwhile, a man dressed as gorilla would walk in towards those people, stand right in between them, perform some action and then walk out. This might sound pretty stupid, but I bet you wouldn’t think so when I told you that half of the subjects in the experiment DID NOT SEE THE GORILLA. Surprising, isn’t it? I mean, how can anyone miss something that obvious? How can anyone not notice a gorilla pass by? The gorilla spent 9 seconds on screen- that’s a pretty long time- and yet, 50% of the people did not even notice it.
Just this video is enough to show us that we miss out so much of what happens around us- even if it’s right in front of our eyes. This nature of our brain to filter out information that we do not need to focus on, the information that is unwanted, and to focus on what is needed- is termed as selective attention. It’s better in a way that we can give all our attention to attend to what’s important- while filtering out what isn’t. However at the same time, it’s fascinating to think how it would be if we could be aware of, and focus on every little thing that happened around us.
And for that, meditation has been found to be very helpful. Meditation is a mental culture through which one can train their mind to increase concentration and awareness of what is happening in their body. It is broadly of two types- concentration meditation, that focuses on enhancing concentration, and insight oriented meditation or, more popularly known as mindfulness meditation, that focuses on the here and now. Mindfulness meditation helps you in being aware of what is happening around you- and of things as they happen in their natural way. This way, one can increase their attention span and even focus on little details that tend to be filtered out.
This can be done by anyone, provided he/she meditates in a particular posture. Its important that the person is calm and relaxed; and the surroundings are peaceful and quiet. The posture should be in the form of Padmasana, which is important so you don’t sleep. Eyes and mouth should be closed and spine should be straight.
Meditation not only helps you increase your concentration and attention, it also helps you become a better person. And when you successfully learn this art, maybe somewhere far away, you’ll see Buddha smiling. And till then, happy meditating!