The Difference Between Focused Attention, Open Awareness And Effortless Presence

In my in-depth article about different meditation techniques, I mention that there are Focused Attention and Open Awareness techniques. And there is also a third type, called Effortless Presence, which comes from yoga.

As you know, my passion and purpose is to bring meditation to a million people, and of course, as a reader of this site, you yourself are one of those people.

With that in mind, I’d like to explain open awareness meditation, focused attention, and effortless presence, and we’ll look at the benefits and differences between these methods as well.

Focused Attention Meditation

What is focused attention meditation? These are meditations in which you focus on one thing.

These are actually the most popular type of technique and there are very many examples of focused attention.

Some focused meditation examples:

  • Breath-based techniques
  • Mantras
  • Visualizations
  • Sound methods
  • Candle meditation

As you can see from these examples, focused attention activities are about concentrating on one thing at a time.

So, what are the benefits of focused attention exercises?

When you use these focused activities, you are training your mind to focus on one thing at a time. So, the immediate and obvious benefits of this is that it improves your concentration.

However, because you are forcing your mind to focus on one thing, you are also letting go of everything else. Focusing 100% of your mind on your breath means not focusing on anything else. In other words, you let go of your thoughts, feelings, mental imagery and so on. And this creates very many secondary benefits.

We’ve already looked at the benefits of meditation (that link will take you to a very extensive article about how meditation helps you). So, let’s look at some specific benefits of focused attention techniques.

  • They help you to overcome negative thoughts.
  • They make you more productive at work (because they help you to focus).
  • They help you to tune-out background noise
  • They help you to stop multi-tasking
  • Increase harmony between brain hemispheres
  • Make you more able to enjoy life (because you are focused on the present moment)
  • Relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.

This is just a snapshot, you can read far more about the science of mediation using the link above.  But as you can see, the majority of the ways in which focused attention helps is that it removes unnecessary information from your mind and improves focus. And because these are fundamental mental competencies, they help with very many other tasks and processes (for instance, it is easy to see how the improved focus will help you at work).



Open Monitoring Meditation

Now that we have detailed focused attention, a definition of open awareness is needed.

Open monitoring techniques, which are also called “open awareness” are the opposite of the above. The concept of open awareness activities is that they are about opening your mind to the entirety of the environment.

In open monitoring exercises, you let the entire world in, without focusing on any one specific thing and without being judgmental about anything. You simply let the whole environment into your mind with complete acceptance.

To give you an example of an open awareness exercise, step outside, turn your head up to the sky, and simply observe everything. Silence your mind and let the whole world in. That is an open awareness meditation.


The benefits of open awareness meditation

The main benefit of open awareness is that it makes you more creative.

Unlike in focused attention, in open awareness activities you are letting the whole world in. That puts a lot of information in your mind. And because you are very relaxed, that information is able to flow more freely. This essentially means that there is lots of information flowing freely through your mind. Those chunks of information then meet one another (in your brain) and new associations are made. You see a round object next to a box and you suddenly realise that those two things together make a car.

So, when you practice open monitoring technique you increase your creativity. This is the primary benefit of open awareness.

Because you are letting your mind open and relax, there are many secondary benefits too. For instance, your body relaxes, tension releases, and this creates many physical and mental health benefits. Plus, in my personal experience, open awareness simply feels incredibly liberating.


Effortless Presence Meditation

Effortless presence actually comes from Yoga. If you have ever done yoga your teacher probably told you, at the end of the session, to lie down, let go and to exist without effort. That is effortless presence meditation.

Effortless presence meditation is about pure acceptance and relaxation. This technique lets you relax completely. It is very similar to open awareness, and the benefits are the same. Though you could argue that because effortless presence requires zero effort it is even more relaxing and even more liberating.


Open awareness, focused attention, and effortless presence, offer three psychological definitions for all the different meditation types.

Which of these types have you tried? And what are your experiences with them?

Leave a comment.

( REFERENCE: National Institute Of Health )


Paul Martin Harrison

Im on a mission to spread spirituality and enlightenment. How? By writing and teaching. You guys asked me to write a book that will teach you how to meditate properly and how to find enlightenment. Guess what? The book is out now. It's called Welcome To Silence : A Practical Guide To Mindfulness And Meditation.

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