So what do we focus our attention on?

Having established that one of our few powers is the power of attention, to what should we attend?

Our attention is habitually turned outward, towards the world of phenomena, towards what we can see and hear, and smell and taste and touch.

We can also turn our attention inwards. This can be towards our body and its inner sensations. The inner world of our body has two main modalities of sensation, one of which is I will call kinesthetic, the other visceral.

The former refers to our skeleton and muscles, and their position in space. We can sense the position of our limbs, and the tension in our muscles. This is often called the kinesthetic sense. The word derives from the Greek kinetikos, from kinein, to move. Part of the awareness of our breathing will be kinesthetic, as we sense the movement of our chest and abdomen, and the muscles of our chest, between our ribs, and of our diaphragm.

The latter refers to our deeper sense of gut or heartfelt awareness. This is a more subtle awareness, mediated largely through the vagus nerves, supplying the lungs, heart, stomach, liver, pancreas and intestines.

There is a more subtle awareness still, which seems to lie in the organs themselves. There is growing evidence of transplant patients experiencing feelings that the donor had before they died, such as the heart transplant patient who developed an inclination to drive fast and drink Coca Cola. The donor had been a young rally driver who died in a fatal accident. Since, as far as I know, the vagus nerve connections are not hooked up in transplant, these inner experiences are conveyed in some other fashion, as yet unknown.

There is a further possibility still for the focus of our attention, and that is on the sense of ourselves as a totality, what John Sherman (see Fiona’s link in her comment) calls the sensation of ‘just me’, or Douglas Harding (cf. headless.org) refers to as the no-thingness out of which I and the Universe arise. My original nature, the face before my parents were born, the Godhead of Meister Eckhardt, the consciousness in which all of this arises.

It is not normal for us to attend to any of these phenomena, unless they are the source of physical pain, and even then we prefer to avoid, or anaesthetise ourselves to them.

But it seems to me that the traditions have spent great efforts to attend to these very experiences, with interesting results. Attending to our very source is a bit different to attending to our bodily felt sense, as the awareness in which everything arises cannot itself be perceived, in the same way as the eye cannot see itself. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What I want to convey here is that there is a whole nuther world available to us if we turn our attention (from its usual outward direction), 180 º towards our interior, towards our inner subjective world, the very world that science regards as unworthy of attention.