i can sit for hours without a camera just watching things unfold and i dont get distracted - thinking about camera things would be a distraction - different zens for different folks i guess ...
would you consider using white noise / or noise cancellation headphones to sharpen your visaul experiences up - it should work.
photo zen - capturing with one hand.
We probably need some noise to stay sane! If one is suspending in a chamber in water at body temperature exactly and shielded from all vibrations and sound, one would be very stressed. The problem with alert artists is that we are constantly scanning our surroundings for subjects. It becomes even painful to walk by a tree without stopping or to not to speak to a fascinating person one would like to photograph. Je souffre! Makes me think of the French singer, Marlene Farmer, "Je T'aime Mélancolie". She observes her life as if from the outside commenting on her own sadness.
So back to the idea of a special deep visual experience, I believe it, since when I have my camera this is my pleasure and my suffering. I get distracted by trees, flowers, architecture and other beauty, even just a fallen leaf, and get seduced! So for me, Michael is right. A camera, allows this intense directed focus, even for folk who normally can pass by beauty and not suffer!