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The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind Paperback – April 13, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"Indispensable for anyone wanting to understand the mind. A superb, clear set of exercises that will benefit everyone." (Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus at University of California San Francisco, and author of Telling Lies and Emotions Revealed)

"This is the best kind of practical manual: a balance of clear instruction, theoretical background, and personal sharing. Alan Wallace never talks down to you; his calm authority, borne of years of practice under the best of teachers, shines through. I recommend this book to those of any spiritual tradition--or none--who wish to grow as human beings." (The Reverend Anthony Freeman, Editor of the Journal of Consciousness Studies)

"An indispensable guide, not only for anyone who attempts to meditate, but for all those who aspire to cultivate a more harmonious relation to the agent that determines the quality of every instant of our lives: our own mind." (Matthieu Ricard, co-author of The Monk and the Philosopher and of The Quantum and the Lotus)

"Scholar, scientist, and adept practitioner Alan Wallace teaches the faculty of attention in a clear, concise, and profound manner. This book is a brilliant comprehensive analysis on the stages of the development of attentional balance and will be a classic in the field." (Joan Halifax, abbot of Upaya Zen Center and author of The Fruitful Darkness)

"Attention is perhaps our most precious commodity. Alan Wallace provides a tutorial of a rigorous form of attention training, shamatha meditation, described in Buddhist texts and practices. Wallace notes that current interpretations of meditation practices such as mindfulness may not reflect the [Buddha's] original intent. In the current rush to apply many Eastern traditions to our Western culture, some very important elements of the original teachings and practices run the risk of being lost. This careful study of shamatha is likely to lessen such losses." (Susan L. Smalley, Ph.D., Professor, UCLA School of Medicine)

"A useful and stimulating resource for experienced meditators, while for those newer to meditation it gives an interesting and sometimes inspiring overview. The book is structured around each of Kamalashila's ten stages of meditation, with interludes outlining important supportive practices. There are also some instructions on how to achieve lucid dreaming as a basis for dream yoga-making the dream state a basis for insight. [...] The book contains much that could enrich the practice of anyone who already meditates regularly." (Wildmind Newsletter)

"This is a bold little book. Its subtitle is a boast and a lure, echoing the muscular self-help books that promise to make you better, stronger, faster. But The Attention Revolution is a cleverly disguised book about pure shamatha meditation, which Wallace defines here as 'a path of attentional development that culminates in an attention that can be sustained effortlessly for hours on end.' Wallace is a former monk and translator for the Dalai Lama, and now a scientist and religious studies scholar who's logged thousands of hours on the cushion. Currently he's drumming up support for The Shamatha Project, a one-year residential retreat for thirty people that will involve scientific evaluation of the subjects before, during, and after the retreat. One imagines that this book could be the participant manual. The Attention Revolution follows a rigorous ten-stage framework described by the eighth-century Indian Buddhist contemplative Kamalashila, but Wallace repeats often that you don't have to subscribe to any particular creed to experience the benefits of shamatha-you just have to do the work." (Shambhala Sun)

"Are you in a chronic state of distractedness? Maybe you think it is just part of modern life, yet there is an answer. It's called meditation. But this is not just another book on meditation. Attention is the key: identifying just what it is that requires attention, and how to focus on it. Analytical yet practical, Wallace's style conveys very clear instructions with calm authority." (Mandala)

"The mind falls into two ruts, excitation and laxity, and both are hindrances to attentional development. [In The Attention Revolutlion,] Wallace reveals the value of meditation techniques developed in India and Tibet and explains why he is convinced they can help us all improve the faculty of attention. With great elan and rigor, he explores the ten stages of attentional development from directed attention all the way to shamatha, the last stage which may require 10,000 hours of practice. Wallace also includes interludes on the meditative cultivation of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity, tonglen (giving and taking), lucid dreaming, and dream yoga. Along the way, he offers cogent observations on genuine happiness as a symptom of a healthy, balanced mind." (Spirituality & Practice)

"Alan Wallace--ex-monk, Tibetan translator and big-wig scientist--explores how we (don't) pay attention in The Attention Revolution. You put it down feeling that meditation isn't about some existential leap to another ethereal plane, but rather the gradual and incremental development of what is ours to begin with." (Elephant Journal)

About the Author

B. Alan Wallace is president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. He trained for many years as a monk in Buddhist monasteries in India and Switzerland. He has taught Buddhist theory and practice in Europe and America since 1976 and has served as interpreter for numerous Tibetan scholars and contemplatives, including H. H. the Dalai Lama. After graduating summa cum laude from Amherst College, where he studied physics and the philosophy of science, he earned his MA and PhD in religious studies at Stanford University. He has edited, translated, authored, and contributed to more than thirty books on Tibetan Buddhism, medicine, language, and culture, and the interface between science and religion.

Daniel Goleman is the author of the international bestsellers Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence, and Social Intelligence, and the co-author of the acclaimed business bestseller Primal Leadership. He was a science reporter for the New York Times, was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and received the American Psychological Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for his media writing. He lives in the Berkshires.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; 1st Wisdom Ed edition (April 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861712765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861712762
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Richard G. Petty on April 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It often seems as if half the population has a problem with paying attention. Apart from the different types of attention deficit disorder, a former Apple and Microsoft executive called Linda Stone has identified another problem: continuous partial attention.

We have all been multitasking since before our ancestors came down from the trees, but now people's attention is constantly being distracted by an array of new inputs: email, text messaging, instant messaging and a hundred other things. Just think of the way in which many television programs now have multiple items on the screen at once. Many of us are suffering from information overload, and it would be very valuable to be able to improve our ability to focus our attention without putting ADHD medicines in the water supply.

This is a very interesting book by an interesting individual. B. Alan Wallace spent fourteen years as a Buddhist monk and was ordained by the Dalai Lama. He is also the founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. He is the author of several other books, including the superb book Contemplative Science.

In this book he describes the ten stages of Shamatha meditation, a technique for developing extraordinary levels of attention and focus. As Alan Wallace describes it in the preface to the book, "Shamatha is a path of attentional development that culminates in an attention that can be sustained for hours on end."

Alan is a committed meditator who has spent the eight hours a day necessary to perfect the method. There are obviously not that many people who could - or would want to - dedicate that amount of time to the practice. But there is still plenty of value to the individual who can only dedicate a few minutes a day to the practice.
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-"Attention" is written by an experienced and respected Buddhist practitioner, and summarizes an advanced method for improving Attentiveness with meditation (and vice-versa). The book also investigates how Attentiveness can be stabilized and trained in a positive manner (as opposed to simply correcting an attention deficit). Many spiritual traditions and Western psychologists (notably William James) have examined Attentiveness, but "Attention" focuses on a ten-stage training pioneered by an Indian Buddhist monk Kamalashila. This method simply works, in the studied experience of the author and other practitioners over several centuries. The book is most useful for those already familiar with Buddhism or advanced meditation methods.

-The training first absolutely demands cultivating an attitude of decent kindness towards oneself and others, solid ethical integrity, attention cultivation, and refined insight development (these prerequisites clearly distinguish it from more psychological methods). As the mind, including the emotions, and consciousness settle into a more natural state, sustained but relaxed Attentiveness will allow Insight to be more predictable, prolonged, and wise (instead of a "flash of insight," one might develop more of a "path of insight"). The Goal includes reducing or eliminating suffering and developing what might be called eudaemonic happiness -- and I might add my opinion that science (for all its miracles in reducing unhappiness) has fallen flat on its face in providing this. "Attention" develops each step in a separate chapter, followed by a brief interlude discussing a relevant "aside" of mind training.
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I disagree with a previous review that states "a great deal of this book will not be of practical use to you." Just the opposite. It is not for a limited audience, it's for everyone at a time in history where disciplines such as this are highly needed. The instructions are simple, easy to follow. If you are a self starter and highly motivated then this book is an invaluable aid (the author also recommends a teacher as mentor in your efforts if one is available. If not, then the author's recommendations can still take you far by your own efforts).

The book walks you through several stages of meditative practice. Even if you only master the 1st or 2nd stage, it will be of immense value to your life and to those around you. The inspirational guided meditations at the end of each chapter are wonderful.

Yes, the advanced levels may be hard to reach, but it's good to know they are there and what they are...at least intellectually to give one a perspective on what is possible waiting to be uncovered. The diamond cutter chips away obscurity to reveal the perfect clarity that is always present.

Maybe it will inspire someone to give up being a couch potatoe and dive into the wondrous depths of their mind and soul.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I have been inclined to believe that samatha was a foundation of any kind of vipassana training and this book reinforced this notion in me. The ten stages of samatha training are well laid-out and I liked the interludes and reflections on the practice at each stage. The description of each stage is very vivid and sprinkled with some detailed personal experiences of the author. It's interesting as well as somewhat reassuring to read about these experiences when one finds that his or her own practice brought up similar experiences. While we're not to look for progress in this practice, it's hard to avoid making comparisons.

This book is an good manual for someone practicing samatha meditation. I personally took some good hints from it. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars was one flaw that sort of bothered me. The author makes several references to his belief that an everyday person living in the Western world cannot possibly proceed beyond stage 2 on the path to samatha. I know for a fact that this is not correct. The more problematic issue however with the reinforcement of this notion is that it can potentially discourage fledging meditators or foster doubt and lack of enthusiasm in their practice. That would be a pitty, since in my experience, one's doubt is stronger when starting out on the path and gradually recedes as one makes progress - however small that progress may be :)

It would be for the benefit of humanity as a whole if more individuals took up meditation practice. Therefore, discouraging people from the practice by saying that progress can hardly be made while living an engaged life does not serve much benefit.
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