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The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind: v.ution [Paperback]

B. Alan Wallace
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

31 May 2006
Meditation offers, in addition to its many other benefits, a method for achieving previously inconceivable levels of concentration. Author B. Alan Wallace has nearly thirty years' practice in attention-enhancing meditation, including a retreat he performed under the guidance of the Dalai Lama. An active participant in the much-publicized dialogues between Buddhists and scientists, Alan is uniquely qualified to speak intelligently to both camps, and The Attention Revolution is the definitive presentation of his knowledge. Beginning by pointing out the ill effects that follow from our inability to focus, Wallace moves on to explore a systematic path of meditation to deepen our capacity for deep concentration. The result is an exciting, rewarding''expedition of the mind,'' tracing everything from the confusion at the bottom of the trail to the extraordinary clarity and power that come with making it to the top. Along the way, Alan also provides interludes and complementary practices for cultivating love, compassion, and clarity in our waking and dreaming lives. Attention is the key that makes personal change possible, and the good news is that it can be trained. This book shows how.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Frequently Bought Together

The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind: v.ution + Stilling the Mind: Shamatha Teachings from Dudjom Lingpa's Vajra Essence + Dreaming Yourself Awake: Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga for Insight and Transformation
Price For All Three: £37.65

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications,U.S.; 1st Wisdom Ed edition (31 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861712765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861712762
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Few things affect our lives more than our faculty of attention. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 26 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is well written in a logical format. It leads the reader through the various levels of meditation and mindful states. The majority will reach level three at best, but it is valuable to be aware of what lies ahead if one should choose to dedicate themselves. It is not a five minute read, It takes time to assimilate the content and absorb it before taking a few more steps.. Some might describe it as 'heavy going', which is understandable. Taken in bite sized chunks it is enlightening and rewarding. I commend it.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Introduction to a Useful and Little Known Technique 26 April 2007
By Dr. Richard G. Petty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It often seems as if half the population has a problem with paying attention. Apart from the different types of attention deficit disorder, a former Apple and Microsoft executive called Linda Stone has identified another problem: continuous partial attention.

We have all been multitasking since before our ancestors came down from the trees, but now people's attention is constantly being distracted by an array of new inputs: email, text messaging, instant messaging and a hundred other things. Just think of the way in which many television programs now have multiple items on the screen at once. Many of us are suffering from information overload, and it would be very valuable to be able to improve our ability to focus our attention without putting ADHD medicines in the water supply.

This is a very interesting book by an interesting individual. B. Alan Wallace spent fourteen years as a Buddhist monk and was ordained by the Dalai Lama. He is also the founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. He is the author of several other books, including the superb book Contemplative Science.

In this book he describes the ten stages of Shamatha meditation, a technique for developing extraordinary levels of attention and focus. As Alan Wallace describes it in the preface to the book, "Shamatha is a path of attentional development that culminates in an attention that can be sustained for hours on end."

Alan is a committed meditator who has spent the eight hours a day necessary to perfect the method. There are obviously not that many people who could - or would want to - dedicate that amount of time to the practice. But there is still plenty of value to the individual who can only dedicate a few minutes a day to the practice. As with most forms of mental or physical development, the returns that you get from this kind of meditation are strongly related to how much effort you can put in.

The ten stages are:
Directed attention
Continuous attention
Resurgent attention
Close attention
Tamed attention
Pacified attention
Fully pacified attention
Single-pointed attention
Attentional balance
Shamatha

Some books about meditation are a little dry and focused almost exclusively on the mind. Alan has done something very nice with this book: in between his explanation of the ten stages, he has inserted what he calls "interludes;" short ancillary practices that complement the training in attention. The first four of these interludes are designed to cultivate one of the four qualities of the heart: compassion, loving-kindness, empathetic joy and equanimity.

This is a book that you can easily read in a few hours, but you could spend years putting it into practice. As many of us have discovered, applying the basic techniques for just a few minutes a day can be very helpful. If you want to get all the way to the final stage it would require a great deal of time and effort, and ideally also a personal teacher.

The type of focus and attention that is developed by these methods was originally intended to focus inwards and to control and still the mind, but the techniques can be equally useful for focusing on things outside of you.

Alan Wallace has done us a great service by recording and explaining this method, and the book is well worth reading if you have any interest in trying to improve your own ability to focus and to pay attention.

Richard G. Petty, MD, author of Healing, Meaning and Purpose: The Magical Power of the Emerging Laws of Life
74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Star Explanation and Credentials; Five Star Topic 15 Jan 2007
By Brad4d - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
-"Attention" is written by an experienced and respected Buddhist practitioner, and summarizes an advanced method for improving Attentiveness with meditation (and vice-versa). The book also investigates how Attentiveness can be stabilized and trained in a positive manner (as opposed to simply correcting an attention deficit). Many spiritual traditions and Western psychologists (notably William James) have examined Attentiveness, but "Attention" focuses on a ten-stage training pioneered by an Indian Buddhist monk Kamalashila. This method simply works, in the studied experience of the author and other practitioners over several centuries. The book is most useful for those already familiar with Buddhism or advanced meditation methods.

-The training first absolutely demands cultivating an attitude of decent kindness towards oneself and others, solid ethical integrity, attention cultivation, and refined insight development (these prerequisites clearly distinguish it from more psychological methods). As the mind, including the emotions, and consciousness settle into a more natural state, sustained but relaxed Attentiveness will allow Insight to be more predictable, prolonged, and wise (instead of a "flash of insight," one might develop more of a "path of insight"). The Goal includes reducing or eliminating suffering and developing what might be called eudaemonic happiness -- and I might add my opinion that science (for all its miracles in reducing unhappiness) has fallen flat on its face in providing this. "Attention" develops each step in a separate chapter, followed by a brief interlude discussing a relevant "aside" of mind training. Of course, any brief summary is unrealistic, but the ten steps sort of progressively evolve from a focused awareness of one's sensations and thoughts to a subtle dis-covery of the origins of those sensations and thoughts. Sort of. Although one may not master all ten steps in the program, it sure helps to have a reasonably good map and a valid idea of where one is going!

-The author notes extensive mind training is like going on an expedition (clearly, given the practically infinite extent of the mind -- see Gerald Edelman's discussions -- it is among the most exciting expeditions imaginable). Alas, the schedule for complete Attentiveness training is rigorous, requiring several consistent hours per day with some "coaching" by a qualified teacher (the same could be true of being an Olympic medalist or a neurosurgery attending). Other reviewers have noted this. Reading "Attention" is therefore like receiving training or reading about high-altitude physical conditioning from Reinhold Messner or Matt Carpenter -- one may not duplicate their stamina, but it's surely worthwhile to know how the legitimate super-experts do it and one will more likely pick up very useful tips from them. Importantly, the author and the method, seem demonstrably qualified, gentle, trustable guides with credentials, perspective, and heart. This seems among the best recommendations of all, and one of the best reasons for dedicated practitioners to examine this book. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant 23 Oct 2006
By Daniel R. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I disagree with a previous review that states "a great deal of this book will not be of practical use to you." Just the opposite. It is not for a limited audience, it's for everyone at a time in history where disciplines such as this are highly needed. The instructions are simple, easy to follow. If you are a self starter and highly motivated then this book is an invaluable aid (the author also recommends a teacher as mentor in your efforts if one is available. If not, then the author's recommendations can still take you far by your own efforts).

The book walks you through several stages of meditative practice. Even if you only master the 1st or 2nd stage, it will be of immense value to your life and to those around you. The inspirational guided meditations at the end of each chapter are wonderful.

Yes, the advanced levels may be hard to reach, but it's good to know they are there and what they are...at least intellectually to give one a perspective on what is possible waiting to be uncovered. The diamond cutter chips away obscurity to reveal the perfect clarity that is always present.

Maybe it will inspire someone to give up being a couch potatoe and dive into the wondrous depths of their mind and soul.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great manual on Samatha practice 14 Nov 2007
By Gabe Bona - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I have been inclined to believe that samatha was a foundation of any kind of vipassana training and this book reinforced this notion in me. The ten stages of samatha training are well laid-out and I liked the interludes and reflections on the practice at each stage. The description of each stage is very vivid and sprinkled with some detailed personal experiences of the author. It's interesting as well as somewhat reassuring to read about these experiences when one finds that his or her own practice brought up similar experiences. While we're not to look for progress in this practice, it's hard to avoid making comparisons.

This book is an good manual for someone practicing samatha meditation. I personally took some good hints from it. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars was one flaw that sort of bothered me. The author makes several references to his belief that an everyday person living in the Western world cannot possibly proceed beyond stage 2 on the path to samatha. I know for a fact that this is not correct. The more problematic issue however with the reinforcement of this notion is that it can potentially discourage fledging meditators or foster doubt and lack of enthusiasm in their practice. That would be a pitty, since in my experience, one's doubt is stronger when starting out on the path and gradually recedes as one makes progress - however small that progress may be :)

It would be for the benefit of humanity as a whole if more individuals took up meditation practice. Therefore, discouraging people from the practice by saying that progress can hardly be made while living an engaged life does not serve much benefit. Very few of us can take to the mountains a'la Thoreau for a couple of years and practice samatha in complete seclusion. But many of us can take an hour or even a couple of hours a day for practice. While I have no doubt that progress would be faster on the shores of Walden, that doesn't mean that progress is out of the question in the city.

This is still a good book though. Do yourself a favor and read it. Then, do yourself an even greater favor and practice it.
141 of 166 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Answer in Search of a Question 16 Nov 2006
By Robert T. Maclachlan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My impression is that the highly regarded author intended this book mostly for a Western audience unfamiliar with Buddhist practice, and chose a striking title to announce objective scientific-like findings about the value of cultivating "attention" through Buddhist meditation practice. Never mind than many books have "uncovered" this before. To his credit, the author, who evidently experienced the same rigorous sequential 10-stage meditation practice based upon the writings of an eighth century Indian contemplative, avoids over-interpretation and appears to deviate little from this traditional Theravadan/Hinayana instruction. Students already familiar with Buddhist meditation will likely gain helpful clarifications about how to better refine their practice, regardless of their level of experience or personal allignment with other branches of Buddhism.

Nevertheless, this book's title promises much more than it delivers. I don't completely agree with the criticism that the author recomends (and the bulk of this book describes) practices that demand "meditation as a vocation", to use the author words. No harm in "reading ahead", since insights and temporary states along the path aren't sequential, and the author's worthy commentary about more advanced experiences may be very helpful. I can even understand (but disagree) with the author's suggestion that form-less meditation, as opposed to breath-as-an-object meditation, is best begun once one commits to practicing a full-time (stage four) eight or more hours a day, (running against the grain of most American Tibetan and Zen teaching methods).

But what isn't delivered in this book is the "revolution", and what undermines the author's claims of scientific credence begins with the second paragraph of his introduction which launches a stereotypical fear-based infomational-like rant about greedy pharmaceutical companies, severe side effects, risks for addiction, inability to "cure", etc. about medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Despite not even having the attention for correct punctuatation (has the author ever read a medical journal?) we learn by page five that the meditation methods described "may be helpful for PREVENTING... ADHD", (good grief, a disorder that indisputeably arises from genetic and pre-natal influences). How bold to make such an amazing claim--almost as if meditation might be a cure for anything. And how unscientific. Is this the revolution referred to in the title? No, there isn't a single mention of ADHD, prevention or cure, in the remaining 170 pages of this book, because it was nothing but a sleazy pop-culture teaser to begin with. Regretfully, in one chapter, the author has revealed his bias and removed himself from serious scientific credibility.

Overall, this book has the feel of a tremendous PhD.-like thesis in need of an editor. Brilliant and helpful paragraphs interupted by so many distractions. Why, for example should the reader learn that tremendous Vipashyana teachers such as Bhante G may not actually be teaching what the Buddha said, only to learn, chapters later, that it's largely semantics? Why the impossibly advanced chapters on daytime and dream yoga, other than for the author to boast about awareness of alternative states--are these helpful Buddhist teachings for the vast majority? Probably not. Why throw out the claim that Western scientists have "established" that it takes about 5000 hours to master a "task", any task, (the convenient inference is 50 hours per week of meditation for two years) without even a single Western psychology footnote? What are we talking about--playing piano well, dunking a basketball, one year of medical school, meditating without distraction for two hours? Are they really the same? The author may indeed be exploring cognitive science through objective observation of extended retreatants, but fundamentally the "scientific" aspects of this book are distressingly weak--so what's the "revolution"?

There are so many good books about Buddhism today. For a more thorough and profound discussion about the role of attention within the context of Buddhist practice I would recomend Ken McLeod's "Wake Up to Your Life, Discovering the Buddhist Path of Attention".
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