Gurdjieff on the three kinds of attention
Attention exists in all the centres: there is attention in the intellectual centre, the emotional centre, and the physical centre. One day, one must learn to distinguish the different types of attention. This is particularly important for those who practice the movements. Once you understood intellectually you have to put in action when you are in some physical actions.
What is this difference between the different types of attention? On the point of view of their quality?
What I am about to tell you is very important, for everyone, but in particular for those who are deeply involved in the practice of movements. This are the next steps for you to perceive I will try to explain simply, but then you will have to make the connection with your life, otherwise, it remains a theory.
The attention connected with the physical centre, in particular the instinctive centre and the moving centre, is an attention of organic nature. It comes from the instincts, so it comes through the senses, eyes, ears, and touch... It is the one that little children have. The small child has only a physical organic attention. That’s the reason why he captures and registers everything, because, being of an organic nature, this attention does not know preferences, and it is not directed by anyone or anything. This phenomenon is still in action in the child that is growing: often, a child is playing, you have the impression that he is totally taken by his game, but in reality he hears everything that is happening around, he registers everything. This process is in action in any training, for ex. the one of a language, and in everything that a child may learn.
organic kind of attention is the deepest in learning the movements, the
body “imbibing as a sponge for water” what he hears, sees and senses
Next to this energy of natural attention in the physical centers, instinctive and moving, there exists in the emotional center an energy of attention, which gets naturally triggered when we love, when we appreciate something or someone. That’s why, when we love or appreciate something, it is much easier to learn, because one more quality is added to the learning and the memory: the interest, the value we give to what we are learning.
Finally the worst type of attention: the one of the intellectual center. It is an attention that is associative, which belongs to the world of associations, and the formatory apparatus. It is the most mechanical attention, the one that you are directing towards things, in order to learn, to watch. You are using it to direct your attention. This one transforms everything into mechanic. It is necessary, but the problem is that in most of the cases, people function only with this type of attention, because, usually, they don’t love enough what they are doing, what they are seeing. So the attention of the emotional center is not present enough, and we forget much more easily. Moreover, as many people have big problems with their physical center, at the level of movements, instincts, they are also cut from this type of attention, the natural attention, the organic attention of the body does not function correctly. Hence the difficulties to learn, because it is not happening in a natural way, as in the child.
That is why a correct transmission of the movements does not work by association, by ex. Teaching a full posture at once (arms and head and legs). But one must teach the movements each part of the body separately, and then combine, so as to avoid the automatic association of the brain, but on the opposite, create new neurological connections by combining then 2 then 3 then 4 elements.
In the practice of the movements, -with a lot of practice- there is a way to, one day, be able to differentiate these different types of attentions In fact, there exists a 4th type of attention, higher than all the rest, which settles once the others function together. : The attention of the higher intellectual center, which means something that does not belong any more to the physical, intellectual, emotional centers, but which belongs to the essence. And everything happens then naturally, because the other kinds of attentions are united.