Comforting Thought: Soft Fascination

Ancient word of the day: Augury

We pay attention differently when we are in nature. This is called ‘soft fascination’


The great 19th century thinker William James (brother of novelist Henry James) proposed that there are two ways of paying attention. The first is voluntary and directed, which is used for tasks that demand concentration. For example doing work, walking along a city street and being bombarded by billboards, loud sound and visual stimulation.

The second form of attention is ‘involuntary’ and is sometimes called ‘soft fascination’.

This involuntary attention requires no mental effort, it just comes naturally. This is the kind of attention we use when we are in nature, our minds are captured effortlessly by clouds and sunsets or by the movement of leaves in the breeze or the sounds of birds whispering on the wind. These soothing sensory experiences give our minds a break and allow us to wander and reflect, and so restore our capacity to think more clearly.

On the way to the Isle of Skye via Fort William in Scotland. Copyright Content Catnip 2011

Extracted from Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li

Book Review: Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li

[Pictured: Ryoan-Ji zen garden in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Content Catnip 2018]

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

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