The way that we pay attention is integrally related to the reality that we perceive as "true." By the time we have grown into adulthood most of us live within a certain repetitive and narrow band of attention; boredom and a certain degree of numbness is the result. Often, we can sense a kind of spaciousness outside of our habits of attention but rarely do we feel capable of accessing this. Our attention is habituated on many levels: We have a repetitive range of emotion that we continually return to, a narrow and habituated way of using our vision, a narrow range with which we attend to auditory input, a belief system that narrows our perceptual field and a way of processing intellectually that reinforces our view of the world. Often a "midlife crisis" or other kinds of struggles in adulthood are, in part, crises related to this narrow way of attending. We become bored with ourselves, longing to access a more spontaneous way of being in the world. We assume that our boredom has to do with the exterior world, so we buy a new car or get a new haircut. We are often unaware that our boredom arises from a self-created prison of habituated attention. We lose touch with the fact that the way we are attending affects the degree to which we feel connected to the world around us and to life itself.
Les Fehmi is a forerunner in the field of biofeedback and he has studied how we pay attention for over forty years. He contrasts two ways of attending when he describes a pride of lions relaxing together on the African savannah. They are breathing slowly, their muscles are relaxed, and their attention is diffuse and wide open. An injured animal comes into their sight, and suddenly the lions move from this relaxed state to an intense, single-pointed focus. Their muscles tense and their heart and respiratory rates increase. The lions have shifted to an emergency mode of paying attention. Once the injured animal has become dinner the lions quickly return to a state that is wide open, alert, and relaxed.