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Turning Inward

Turning Inward

(p.1) 1 Turning Inward
Michal Pagis
University of Chicago Press

This chapter introduces the practice of meditation as an inversion of the direction of attention as practiced in daily life. As social beings, we interact in the world with an awareness of how others perceive us. Thus in everyday interaction one diverts attention to one’s body, emotion, or behavior in order to adjust to or influence others’ perceptions of us. While such awareness of the embodiment of the self is key for social interaction, it is mostly under wraps, kept at the background of awareness, a base from which one attends to the world. It is the world that is at the focal point of attention, not one’s interiority. In contrast, meditation entails a diversion of attention away from the world and toward the self, bringing the tacit “inner lining” of experience to the forefront of attention, rendering it a subject of reflection and manipulation. The chapter introduces the challenge that the practice of meditation holds for sociological inquiry, illustrating how the study of vipassana meditation can be used as a window onto the complex relations between bodies, selves, and social worlds.

Keywords:   attention, reflection, perception, experience, embodiment, daily life, practice, self, sociological, social interaction

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