Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life Paperback – 20 May 2010
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aAs the 19th-century philosopher William James wisely understood, what you selectively notice and attend to is what makes up your experience. It is your life! Winifred Gallagher gets it. She has written a provocative, illuminating, and captivating book on the power and importance of attention in multiple domains of life a relationships, work, leisure, health. What makes some people happier, healthier, more fulfilled, more creative, or more engaged than others? Because of what they pay attention to.a
aSonja Lyubomirsky, author of "The How of Happiness"
"Many will benefit from this thoughtful book. Among other 21st century challenges, the increasing velocity of communication threatens to drive us into a permanent sea- storm of distraction. Thank you, Winifred Gallagher, for bringing our attention back to the essential matter of attention."
aDavid Shenk, author, "Data Smog" and "The Forgetting"
aThis wonderful and inspiring book asks readers to remember something so simple and yet so little appreciatedawhat you focus upon profoundly affects your quality of life. I canat think anyone who wouldnat benefit from the message contained herein. Itas a powerful and much needed prescription for these tumultuous times.a
aSarah Susanka, author of "The Not So Big Life" and "The Not So Big House series"
About the Author
Winifred Gallagher's books include House Thinking, Just the Way You Are (a New York Times Notable Book), Working on God, and The Power of Place. She has written for numerous publications, such as Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. She lives in Manhattan, and Dubois, Wyoming.
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Top customer reviews
The author uses state of the art research findings to describe how our attention works and how to make best use of it when we want to feel better and get the most from our day/life, when we work as well as in our personal lives. Moreover, the author discusses some of the common attention-pitfalls that have a significant detrimental effect on our lives.
The book is very well written, which makes it seem like you are having an enlightning conversation rather than as if you were consulting the latest research.
Personally, this book has confirmed my belief that it really matters what we attend to. Common sense might say there is only one way to experience life, but the opposite is actually the case. Making the effort of carefully choosing what to attend to (and what not to attend to) is no less than life-changing.
Her central thesis is that in order to make the most of life and what you do during it, the quality of experience is based on how you attend to what you are doing, thinking and being.
As she says at the beginning of the book, the ability to focus on anything in a state of being "rapt" is dependent on interest,skill and culturally and socially aquired ways of experiencing the world. This state is a process by wich you focus attention on a text, a sensory experience or activity to the exclusion or near exclusion of all else for a finite time. It is also about way of giving of yourself, and loving.There is also an element of fear included in being rapt, as beautifully stated early on in the book when she analyses a work by painter George Stubbs of a horse being attacked by a lion.
In short the reoccuring theme is, you are what you pay attention to and this is a guiding principle for many of us throughout our lives, consciously and unconsciously.
At the heart of her theoretical approach is the work of nineteenth century psychologist and philosopher William James who is mentioned several times. He is an author I have read of rather than read, and now due to her use of his work feel drawn to.
Gallagher's project is to reveal how through meditation, psychology and the benefitsof belief religious or otherwise we can enhance our abilities to learn and focus on the life enhancing aspects of our experience. From this point of view it is a deeply religious book but falls short of being explicitly so. However her social conservatism does reveal itself on occasions but not without using strong empirical evidence to support her case. Using disciplines as far ranging as art history, social anthroplogy, science and theology this is no simple self-help book. There are also few cliches and the content and subject matter are never less than challenging.
Elegantly written it ends on a touching personal note, providing the reader with a tiny detail of Gallagher,s life as demonstration of how she applies her own teachings to herself.
That sparked her research into attention, ways of controlloing it, how what we focus on can afffect our work and motivation, our relationships and our children. She looks at what attention really is, and what it means to 'pay attention' as well as covering disordered attention - i.e. ADD. Gallagher offers some thoughts on how to live a more focused life that range from the straightforward tip to spend 30 minutes a day immersed is some activity you really enjoy to the more spiritual and a discussion of the methods of Eckhart Tolle.
This book is very accessible to the lay reader yet clearly backed up by meticulous research. There are passages that really make you stop and take personal responsibility, such as "Your life - who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love - is the sum of what you focus on". It's a wake up call to remember you hold the key to your own destiny, that (more than one thinks) attention can be directed in the right way, so as to improve decision making, motivation etc. etc.
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