February 2023 Workshop on Attention Notes


Hi, I am Maureen Bakis. I am a Yoga teacher and behavioral health professional.
I help people discover, learn about, and leverage their inner resources and use behavioral tools for improving health and wellbeing. I support people in becoming fully actualized, in my role as mental health counselor, coach, and wellness educator, using my experience and resources from the world of mind-body health.

Most people use self-help materials and various resources outside themselves to problem-solve, heal emotional pain or suffering, or make behavior changes. I direct people to study themselves from the inside out– to be their own resource. When you know yourself and how you function as a human being, then you are better able to apply those other “self-help” resources more efficiently and effectively. There is no one size fits all because we are each so unique.

So, Why are we starting with Attention?

As we conduct monthly wellness challenges, fitness and health workshops, and pop-up classes and bootcamps throughout 2023, we will build on our inner resources. A foundational resource is your attention. When you pay attention, on purpose, it affords you an opportunity for deeper self-awareness and further learning about how you function as a very specific and unique mind-body being.

Starting with attention will help you better understand your nervous system so you can regulate it, and attention is also at the core of mindfulness– another essential tool for wellness and wellbeing.

Why is attention so foundational to all the upcoming wellness themes and challenges?

Starting with attention will help you better understand the power of mindfulness and your nervous system and its regulation which are useful to know for leveraging wellbeing. You might be thinking of mindfulness as the “mind” or “mental health” piece, and nervous system regulation as the “body” or “physical health” piece; however, these are integrated, not separate, as western science now knows that the body influences brain function and vice versa.  It’s a two way highway! We have historically, in Western medicine, separated the mind from the body, but it is no longer the case that mental and physical health are divided.

When you study your own attention, you can see what grabs your attention — usually sensations, emotions, thoughts– all within your mental and physiological inner experience. Why does awareness of inner experience matter so much?
Because humans are 2 things– 1. conscious and intentional; we have choice and our brains can plan into the future to help us survive and thrive. And, 2. We are also “automatic,” that is– we have an autonomic nervous system that functions “beneath” our conscious awareness, or subconsciously, without conscious thought. We don’t tell our heart to beat. We don’t have to tell ourselves to breathe.
We can learn, through paying attention to BOTH, to positively impact our functioning for optimal health!

Thus, the MONTHLY Wellness themes for 2023 are FOUNDATIONAL ELEMENTS of HEALTH in a holistic sense that ensure resilience. RESILIENCE is a healthy stress response in the nervous system to life’s challenges, whether those challenges come from the outside of us or within us. Leveraging attention for increased mindfulness will also help us become resilient. Leaning into stress (mental, physical, emotional) or what Bikram would call “hard way,” is the “right way”– the correct path to wellness.



When you can understand your attention more deeply, you can leverage it more deliberately to direct your life. Nobody can know you from the inside out– except you!  The challenge is asking you to pay attention to your attention.


  1. WHAT IS ATTENTION? You can’t pay attention to everything at once, right? You can only pay attention to so much and for so long. Our attention is limited and selective. It is voluntary when we narrow our attention or broaden it to panoramic. It is involuntary when something captures our attention. It catches us “unaware.” Our attention can be “grabbed.” Thus, attention is something we can control and it is also something that can be manipulated by the environment. Something can capture us (like an idea or scene) or we can focus our attention on something deliberately. Becoming aware of how attention works as limited, selective, voluntary and involuntary helps us make choices about how to direct it.
  2. ATTENTION & VALUES. Because attention is limited, it is directly linked to your values. Your values are the things that matter most to you; these are the things that orient you in the environment. What you value is comprised of what you aim your attention at most and move toward. This defines who you are (what you repeatedly do) to a substantial degree. If you study your attention, you’ll discover where you dedicate most of your energy and focus. You can take an audit of your attention to assess your values, priorities, and behaviors. How you spend your time, and what you spend your time doing, starts with what you are paying attention to. It’s worth spending some time checking if your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
  3. ATTENTION & GOAL-DIRECTED BEHAVIOR. Finally, it’s important to know how attention works and how it links to values for when you want to take action toward achieving goals (like losing weight or being a better parent or whatever wellness goals you might pursue). Goals ought to be linked to or in alignment with your values, and they are things you aim at and take action to achieve in the future. Humans are designed to be oriented toward development and growth– forward. Our brains are literally built for movement toward ensuring our survival into the future!  If your goals aren’t very important to you or they do not really matter or line up with your true values, you will be less likely to achieve them. Or if you have too many priorities and goals, you’ll be spread too thin to be successful. So, attention is a spotlight– it is something that can be voluntarily or involuntarily aimed in a direction–toward something of value, which inspire goals and your directed, deliberate action.
  4. ATTENTION & COMMUNITY. We humans cannot be entirely healthy without safe and loving social connection. We want to build a healthy community at Studio Y, with healthy individuals in it. So, training your attention for your own wellness and becoming more attentive in general will increase the likelihood of you becoming more attentive to others. And when you are more attentive to others, they become more healthy– and then you are surrounded by healthier people– see the positive loop here? Human beings all need to be seen and heard; they need to feel a sense of value, that they matter to another/others in order to be fully healthy and well. We get sick when we are lonely or not part of the group. Paying attention to others is a form of love. Simply paying attention, without changing or fixing or offering advice, is love. It’s offering your precious attention as a presence that validates the other person’s existence. And, since your environment shapes you, a powerful way of  improving your health is to surround yourself with healthy people. Being around people who are trying to be healthy will help you reach your individual wellness pursuits and goals. We are all in this together!
  5. PROBLEMS WITH ATTENTION. When you study your attention, do not be disturbed if you learn you are struggling! This is good to know! You want to get a baseline and understanding of your ability to pay attention, especially if it is weak, because then you can address the root cause within the nervous system. Dysregulation, simply put, is increased levels of chronic stress (which can manifest or present as symptoms of anxiety or depression, ADHD, OCD, and other mental health “disorders”– all of which are simply a spectrum of nervous system functioning) which impacts the brain-body systems ability to pay attention and sustain attention. If you can notice excessive impulsivity and distraction these are signs of dysregulation– awareness is the first step to empower yourself to improve and increase your wellness. You will have the opportunity to improve your attention through nervous system regulation and practicing mindfulness over time– in other words– by showing up and practicing Bikram’s yoga as much as possible and engaging in all the wellness challenges and workshops in 2023! There are no quick fixes– training takes time and committed action– “just try the right way and don’t give up. struggle today and come back and take class tomorrow!” as Bikram would say.
  6. ATTENTION AS COMMODITY. The best defense is a good offense! Knowing about your own attention and how to control / manage it so others cannot, is your best defense against manipulation by Big Brother who is now Big Data companies and algorithms (read fun quotes about this here). If you are a modern human, you have got to harness your attention and direct it mindfully before someone else steals it! The studies are all in– skyrocketing anxiety and depression among people most immersed in social media and focus their attention to life online (rather than in person) are unwell. Perhaps your attention has been sabotaged by media? Time to take it back!


%d bloggers like this: