What You Don’t Pay Attention To

Attention is our currency, and it’s precious. Florence Williams

Without it we don’t see, hear, taste.  Paul Atchley

We only experience what we pay attention to. Attention has two basic types:                 1) voluntary, active, directed attention and 2) involuntary, reflex action. Voluntary attention is clearly a very significant human commodity. But it is limited; there is only so much at our disposal, and it isn’t free. When you spend it on one thing, it costs you the ability to focus on something else. Paying attention to one thing necessarily comes at the expense of another thing.

The reason you can’t see the forest for the trees is that you are paying attention to the trees. You can’t pay attention to the trees and the forest. Attention is a finite source. Acknowledging that you can’t see everything helps you “see” your inattentional blindness, acknowledging being blind to what you don’t pay attention to.

For example, when you look at the trees, try to imagine and visualize the forest. You know more trees are there; you know much is hidden underground. And you realize past experience of hundreds of years has had an effect on the present. None of this you can see. Try to place your mind’s eye on what you don’t see. And ask yourself, “What am I not paying attention to?”  Can you do this with other hidden “forests” (the hidden wholeness) in your observable world?

Compared to living in the past, modern life presents challenges with overwhelming attention loads. Even paying attention to what you are selectively, voluntarily, actively paying attention to, is not easy. You need to learn how to be aware of your voluntary attention and your involuntary attention.  And of course this is probably not possible.

What is possible is knowing that there is voluntary and involuntary attention and that inattentional blindness exists. Encouraging you to be more consciously aware of what you are paying attention to and not paying attention to is the purpose of this blog.

Here is some helpful comments and advice:

“Out of necessity we learn to run on ‘auto-pilot, paying attention mechanically and passively most of the time. This underscores the need to pay attention deliberately and voluntarily, thereby liberating our awareness from robotic activity.”  Daniel Goleman

The eye sees in things what it looks for and t looks for what is already in the mind. Scientific School of Police, Paris  (Notice what is already in your mind.)

In all visible things there is a hidden wholeness. Thomas Merton. (Visualize the hidden.)

* The term inattentional blindness was introduced in the 1998 book of that name by psychologists Arien Mack and the late Irvin Rock.


This entry was posted in Words to Live By. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eugene Unger says:

    Very nice H! Road fatalities are up significantly !? Why are we not paying attention to this problem?



  2. Marianne says:

    Right now, I think I lose focus on all good things going on in the country, because I am so focused on what is the next crazy thing Trump is doing. Makes me depressed. This topic helps me try to focus on what is important right now in my life’s family and friends.. Well, I’ll hope it will.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.