Orienting to space

Not too long ago, I posted Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion, providing some options for people who are interested in exploring awareness. Today I want to share some experiences with orienting to space.

First, a little backtracking. Starting in 2010, I wrote here about the 12 states of attention (and also here), which I learned from Nelson Zink on his website Navaching (which also included instructions for night walking), which sadly he has taken down. Reading his book of stories The Structure of Delight is an experience I highly recommend. It’s like no other book you’ve encountered, and if you’re interested in acquiring wisdom from a bunch of interesting characters, you’ll enjoy it.

(If you don’t want to click the links about the 12 states, here’s a summary: We primarily use our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses. Our experience can be subdivided into narrow and broad. For instance, a broad auditory state would be listening to the whole orchestra playing, while a narrow auditory state would be singling out the oboe in the orchestra. These states can be further divided into external and internal. An external visual state is seeing your environment with your eyes, while an internal one is imagining or remembering something. The image below shows the 12 states.) Continue reading

Developing attentional flexibility: the 12 states of attention

I just took four more days of training in biodynamic craniosacral therapy, and what I learned about practicing it has made me want to revisit the 12 states of attention.

Attentional flexibility is a skill that has many uses. Here’s an example: Someone has a chronic pain in their left leg, sciatica. Let’s say the person is seeking professional help in the field of alternative medicine and doesn’t want to take painkillers or see surgery as a solution, but meanwhile, there’s the pain, which can be wearisome, frustrating, and debilitating.

What if the person could transform the pain felt specifically in the left leg by diffusing it all over their body, so there was less pain spread more widely?

What if the person could then move the pain out to the skin, and then outside of their body?

What if the person could find a place on their body that was not feeling any pain and focus their attention fully on that place? What would happen to the pain?

What if the pain had a color or sound, and it changed to a healing color or sound?

These are examples of attentional flexibility, which can be a useful skill not only in managing pain, but also for dealing with any kind of state that we’d rather not be experiencing – depressive thoughts, negative self-talk, any kind of “stuckness”.

Attentional flexibility may not be a “permanent” solution to some problems, but it can create a sense of spaciousness around problems, provide options, and allow one to have a broader experience of life.

In biodynamic craniosacral therapy, a practitioner can use attentional flexibility to bring attention to his/her own body and specific sensations of biological and energetic processes, to his/her connection with the client, to the client’s processes, to the unit of client/practitioner, to the space inside the room, out to the horizon and beyond, to intuitive thoughts that arise, and more.

Attentional flexibility can be learned by practicing the 12 states of attention. For more, read my original post on the 12 states from October 2010.

12 states of attention

Update: This post was originally written in 2010, and it’s now 2018. Some things have changed. Nelson Zink has (mostly) retired and taken his website Navaching down, although you may be able to find it again in the future. I’ll let you know here when it’s up again.

You can get a used copy of his book The Structure of Delight on Amazon.

If you’re a fan of Nelson Zink and in particular his work on peripheral vision and nightwalking, you might be interested in attending a nightwalking training in August 2018 in Taos, New Mexico. Nelson will be co-teaching it with my friend Katie Raver. Details for Nightwalking are here.

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My most recent post, Refining Awareness, includes some instructions about using your vision to focus down to the pixel level, and then to open your vision and let everything come into your field of vision.

These activities are actually based on a set of exercises called the 12 states of attention that I learned about and practiced and presented on, so that now I seem to have internalized them enough that I don’t consciously think about it.

The three main senses we use are seeing, hearing, and feeling, or visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. NLP 101.

Each of these senses can be experienced externally and internally. For example, I can see the computer in front of me, and I can close my eyes and remember the image or imagine the computer morphing into a piano. That’s Visual External and Visual Internal (remembered and constructed).

You can further expand your sensory acuity by practicing using each sense as broadly and as narrowly as possible. Hence, look at a pixel, then let everything come in. Those states are Visual External Narrow (VEN) and Visual External Broad (VEB).

You can do this with hearing as well. You can focus on one sound in your environment (or in your memory or imagination), and you can focus on all the sounds.

A man I’ve never met but who has been a teacher for me came up with the 12 states of attention. His name is Nelson Zink, and he’s got a pretty amazing website, Navaching. Click here to read about the 12 states of attention. He’s got a lot to say and says it well. (And check out his other pages. It’s pretty fascinating. I also do nightwalking. And read his book, The Structure of Delight.)

The point is that through our conditioning, most of us come to favor some states and neglect others. If you enjoy having more resources, you can practice these states and gain awareness skills. You never have to be bored again, and you will reach more of your potential!

So when I meditate and do a body scan, I may bring to awareness my skin, starting with my head and slowly going down my body to my foot, bringing each area into awareness (Kinesthetic External Narrow).

Or I may attend to how my head, chest, and belly feel (Kinesthetic Internal Somewhere-Between-Narrow-and-Broad).

When I do whole body awareness, I am using the Kinesthetic Internal/External Broad state of attention.

(The convention is that the skin is the boundary between external and internal for the kinesthetic sense. But because my energy body radiates through my skin, my skin isn’t really a boundary, so I’m sensing internally and externally at the same time.)

The kinesthetic sense may actually be a lot of senses, including balance, knowing where my foot is in space, temperature, tactile, muscular, and so on. Emotions are usually classified as kinesthetic as well, since we feel them in the body.

Anyway.

Wisdom is a broad state, no matter whether we’re seeing the big picture, hearing the cosmic OM, or feeling connected to the Source. Big Mind is a broad state, and that’s a skill gained from meditation.

Check out Zink’s website and practice the exercises given, if you like. It will bring you gifts of knowing yourself and experiencing more of your full potential.