In English, attention is something we are asked to pay, as if it were a scarce resource, like money. ‘Pay attention!’ is also a negative injunction, like paying your taxes. But attention is not really scarce, and when practised, rather than paid, it is positive and rewarding. As positive psychologist, Czikzsentmihalyi once said: ‘Where attention goes, energy flows.’
The challenge is that we live in an increasingly distracting world, and need a method to make our attention, the touchstone of consciousness, more readily available to us. The challenge is that the speed of the world and the nature of our technology makes it difficult to make best use of this precious resource, which is a core component of mindfulness. John Teasdale captured the centrality of this point as follows: “Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort… it’s a skill that can be learned. It’s accessing something we already have."