Normally, we have three states of attention. The first is near zero attention where we may be walking along the road but dreaming of some desire being fulfilled. The walking becomes automatic. If, while reading a thriller novel, we are totally absorbed then it is attracted attention. And when we are making an effort to pay attention to something — it could be a lesson or a lecture — that is directed attention.
There is one more state of attention called double-arrowed attention. Any student of spirituality aims to observe the workings of his own mind. To be able to do so, he must be able to divide his attention into two parts. That is, one arrow of attention on the events of life and the other on his reactions to them. His aim is to slowly take a ray of light in the form of attention into the deeper layers of his own mind so he can understand his psychic nature. The great sage Raman called this the quest — ‘Who am I’.
Dividing attention is an art. It has to be done in the ratio of 10:90. That is, ten percent inside and ninety on the events of life. If we pay more than ten percent of attention on our inner life, our reactions change and we will not be able to, then, authentically observe our psychic nature. Say, if I look at my irritation with more than ten percent of attention, it will vanish and I will not be able to understand the mechanism of its working and with what intensity it occupies space within my subconscious mind. In meditation, we try to pay hundred percent inner attention and this is meditation’s biggest flaw because we can never really observe the reality of our psyche.
The specific aim of learning rhythmic breathing is that with this technique, we automatically divide our attention into this 10:90 ratio. It gradually leads to the perfect double-arrowed state of ninety percent attention on life and ten percent on breathing.
Arjuna asks Krishna to lead his chariot in between the armies. He was seeking double-arrowed attention but was instead hypnotised by what he saw, leading to despondency.