Have you ever thought about why aeroplane food tastes so little? There are several reasons, but research shows that an important reason is that the noise from the plane drowns out the other senses. The fact that the plane also shakes helps to inhibit the sense of taste. Two senses overtake the third.
This strange phenomenon may seem insignificant, but it is an illustration of something essential. It is about our basic attention.
What do you have on your real estate?
In meditation teaching, we say that there is always only a limited amount of real estate in consciousness.
Imagine building a house on a plot of land. The size of the house and the surrounding area is determined by how big the real estate is. So it is with our consciousness as well – there are limits to how much can be in our consciousness at a given moment.
A certain part of the real estate in consciousness is filled by subconscious processes. Such as minor irritations or other distractions. One thing is that the physical sound from the plane takes up space in your consciousness. If you are also annoyed by the sound of the plane, it will also help to fill up the real estate.
The result is that the finer nuances of the aircraft food disappear into a sea of noise.
If you want to learn to enjoy more, you must learn to concentrate on the experience of pleasure. In a mindfulness understanding, this is about the attentional skills concentration, equanimity and sensory clarity.
You will be able to:
- relate to distractions (concentration and equanimity
- focus on fairly mild sensory experiences (concentration and sensory clarity)
This is mindfulness in a nutshell.
Attention. Attention. Attention.
In an old Zen story, we hear about a meditation student who comes to the Zen master Ikkyu who was also known for his insightful and wise calligraphy.
“Can you please write something with great wisdom?” Asked the student
Master Ikkyu picked up his brush and wrote down one word: “Attention.”
The student was surprised: “Is that all?”
The master then wrote, “Attention. Attention.”
Then the student became annoyed, “That seems neither deep nor subtle to me.”
In response, Master Ikkyu simply wrote “Attention. Attention. Attention. “
” What do you mean by the word “attention”? asked the student frustrated
Master Ikkyu replied: “Attention means attention.”
When you eat a better meal – maybe you celebrate your birthday with a five-course meal at an upscale restaurant – you do not fork over the food. You take some time and feel the flavours. Maybe some flavours harmonize more than others. Maybe there are clear contrasts. Something is soft; something is crunchy. Carefully selected ingredients and culinary art bring out finer and more delicate flavours.
The keyword here is delicate. It is no coincidence that “delicate” also means “fine” or “light”, or also “subtle”.
When you train your attention by meditating, you strengthen the ability to concentrate, sense clarity and equanimity. With a little practice of these abilities, all the delicate experiences in life can fill more and more of the space in your consciousness. Eventually, you will experience that even the most subtle experience can be wonderfully rich, fulfilling and deeply meaningful. They become delicate and complete.
An important part of this is about how much rest you have available in your consciousness. When you pay attention to what rests in your experience every moment, you get a stable platform or container of equanimity. With this equilibrium of mind, you do not react so easily to the distractions that appear here and there. You can leave everything as it is, while you are concerned with more important things. And at the same time, the rest gives you more and more space on the small plot where you live.
Or maybe your real estate is not that small after all?