Why Is It So Hard to Pay Attention, or Is It? Mindfulness, the Factors of Awakening and Reward-Based Learning
- 1.4k Downloads
Core to many clinical and spiritual practices ranging from stress reduction to self-actualization to self-transcendence is the ability to pay attention in a nondistracted manner. Yet, many, perhaps even a preponderance of people who wade into these waters quickly return to shore as soon as they become even a little muddied, saying to themselves and others, “this is too hard,” or “I can’t concentrate,” or “how can this possibly lead to happiness, it feels quite the opposite.” On my (JAB) first weeklong meditation retreat, 2–3 days in, I found myself literally crying on the shoulder of the retreat manager, choking out these exacts words between sobs. The teacher, Bhante Gunaratana, well-respected and seasoned in such matters, had even met individually with me and given suggestions such as “start with counting the breaths up to seven” when I could not keep my mind still. The problem was that my mind would have none of it. No matter how much I tried, my mind could not be...
KeywordsOperant Conditioning Mindfulness Training Mindfulness Practice Experienced Meditator Sensual Pleasure
We would like to thank Leigh Brasington, Alice Brewer, Nikolai Haylay, Bill Hale, Stephanie Hertz, and Mahri Leonard-Fleckman for feedback on the manuscript. This work was funded by the following grants: NIDA K12-DA00167, 1R03DA029163-01A1, and the US Veterans Affairs New England Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC).
- Anālayo. (2003). Satipatthāna: the direct path to realization. Birmingham: Windhorse.Google Scholar
- Bodhi, B. (2005). In the Buddha’s words: an anthology of discourses from the Pali Canon. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
- Brewer, J. A., Worhunsky, P. D., Gray, J. R., Tang, Y. Y., Weber, J., & Kober, H. (2011). Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity. PNAS. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1112029108.
- Brewer, J. A., Elwafi, H. M., & Davis, J. H. (2012). Craving to quit: psychological models and neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness training as treatment for addictions. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. doi: 10.1037/a0028490.
- Davis, J. H., & Thompson, E. (2012). From the five aggregates to phenomenal consciousness: toward a cross-cultural cognitive science. In S. Emmanual (Ed.), A companion to Buddhist philosophy. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: why we do what we do in life and business. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
- Dunne, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness & Buddhist Contemplative Theory. Paper presented at the 5th Annual 5th Annual Conference for Clinicians, Researchers, and Educators: Integrating Mindfulness-Based Interventions into Medicine, Health Care & Society, Worcester, MA, March 29–April 1, 2007.Google Scholar
- Gethin, R. M. L. (1992). The Buddhist path to awakening: a study of the Bodhi-Pakkhiyā Dhammā (Brill’s Indological Library, vol. 7). Leiden: E.J. Brill.Google Scholar
- Ireland, J. D., trans. (2010). Dvayatanupassana Sutta: the noble one’s happiness (Snp 3.12). http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.3.12.irel.html. Accessed April 23, 2012.
- Ñānamoli, B., & Bodhi, B. (1995). The middle length discourses of the Buddha: a translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
- Pandita, S. U. (1995). In this very life: the liberation teachings of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
- Schmidt, A. (2005). Dipa Ma: the life and legacy of a Buddhist master. New York: BlueBridge.Google Scholar
- Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms: an experimental analysis. New York: Appleton-Century.Google Scholar
- Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. Free Press.Google Scholar
- Thanissaro, B. (2008). Mindfulness defined: street smarts for the path. Insight Journal, 30, 11–15.Google Scholar
- Thanissaro, B., trans. (2010). Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: setting in motion the wheel of truth (SN 56.11). http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html. Accessed October 7, 2011.
- Wallace, B. A. (2008). A mindful balance. Tricycle, 60–63, 109–111.Google Scholar
- Whitfield-Gabrieli, S., Moran, J. M., Nieto-Castan, A., Triantafyllou, C., Saxe, R., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2011). Associations and dissociations between default and self-reference networks in the human brain. NeuroImage, 55(1), 225–232. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.048.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar